Historically, Apple has been the market leader in K-12 education technology, with Microsoft coming in second primarily due to its Windows operating system. However, over the past few years Google has been making major inroads into the U.S. education market with highly competitive hardware and service offerings. In 2012, Apple held 50% of the education market, with Google comprising only 1%. One year later Google’s market share climbed to an impressive 25%, with much of those gains coming at the expense traditional market leaders Apple and Microsoft. In 2015, that market share rose to over 50%. A combination of economic and technological factors can be attributed to Google’s meteoric rise in the ed tech market.
One factor is that Google is uniquely positioned to target the education market due its well-developed ecosystem of affordable hardware and cloud service offerings. G Suite for Education which includes applications such as Gmail, Docs, and Classroom is already in use by an estimated 60 million teachers, students, administrators worldwide. This week Google announcement that all new Chromebooks will start shipping with Google Play Store and Android Apps, adding even more functionality for both teachers and students. This decision has been anticipated by many analysts for a while, and now that decision has been cemented by Google with an actual timeline.
In addition, Google’s Chromebook cost around $200, making it much more affordable than Microsoft (until this week) and Apple devices. With this low-cost, easy-to-use hardware and cloud-based applications, Google makes infrastructure and device management simple for school IT departments. These efficiencies also offer a substantial reduction in operating costs. For many school districts that typically operate on razor-thin budgets, these can often be deciding factors in purchasing decisions.
However, Microsoft has also began releasing some low-cost devices in the $200 price range designed to directly compete with Google Chromebooks. Running full versions of Windows 10 and the cloud-based Office 365, users can reap all of the “benefits” from the Microsoft ecosystem on tablets and PCs. This is unlike Chrome OS and Google Apps, which are still limited in their functionality and entirely web-based. Also, many school IT departments report that Microsoft devices integrate better into their overall systems (think Active Directory), making them easier to administer.
It will be interesting see how the landscape changes for ed tech in 2017, with Google and Microsoft apparently unrelenting in their goal to become the education market leader. Regardless, one thing is clear – the pressure is on for Apple, both here and in their consumer markets.
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