More schools are using tablets and laptops in classrooms than ever before, and, in the U.S., Google is leading the charge.
Last year, more 12.6 million mobile devices were shipped to schools around the United States. Google Chromebooks accounted for more than half of those, while Microsoft and Apple fell behind, according to a new report by Futuresource Consulting. Google’s growth in the U.S. education technology sector has been quick as well – in 2013, Chromebooks only made up 38 percent of the market.
Google’s grip on the education market can be largely attributed to price. Chromebooks remain the most affordable option for schools, with devices costing as low as $120 in some cases. This price point makes them more appealing for schools that have to worry about devices getting lost or broken.
Other technology companies now have to lower their price to remain competitive. In January, Microsoft announced Windows 10-powered partner devices that will cost as little as $189. These devices will include the recently launched Microsoft Classroom and the central Microsoft management platform Intune for Education.
A cloud-based device management system has been Google’s edge in the sector. It allows schools to easily set up students’ devices remotely and means students can store documents in the cloud and access them from whichever device is nearby. Chromebooks also feature the G Suite productivity tools and Google Classroom.
Mike Fisher, Futuresource’s associate director of education, said that, while Microsoft is improving its education tools, schools continue to prefer Google’s platform because of its simplicity.
“Microsoft has made huge strides in developing its education ecosystem offering in the past year, with major announcements on both the devices and platform side,” Fisher said in a news release. “To date however, these developments have not stopped Google’s momentum within the US K-12 market. Microsoft continues to face challenges to win back end-user mindshare.”
In classrooms abroad, however, it’s a different story. Microsoft dominates the international education sector, accounting for 65 percent of all mobile device sales abroad last year.
Overall device sales to schools outside of the U.S. fell 26 percent last year, with only 13.6 million units sold. This likely is due to a variety of factors, Futuresource said, including fewer national projects focused on deploying mobile devices. Microsoft led the market in international mobile device sales to schools, with Google coming in at less than 30 percent.
Much of Google’s and Microsoft’s growth has come at the expense of Apple, which has seen a significant decrease in its grip on the education market. In the last three years, sales of iPads to classrooms have steadily fallen. Apple devices accounted for only 14 percent sales in the U.S. in 2016.
While iPads have long appealed to classrooms with younger children, older students need keyboards to do work. Apple doesn’t offer an affordable option in that area. Microsoft and Google, however, are creating 2-in-1 products that feature a keyboard and stylus for under $300.
Overall, Futuresource notes in the report, this competition between companies has made mobile devices more accessible to schools.
“PC provider’s laser focus on the education sector is good news for schools and students,” Fisher said. “2017 will see wide ranges of computing devices, designed specifically for education and at competitive price points, entering the market and vying to be the device of choice for learning.”