Making The Grade is a weekly series from Bradley Chambers covering Apple in education. Bradley has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 100s of Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for students.

I’ve talked a lot of ways that Apple needs to improve its education offering in recent weeks. One of the significant ways is with identity management. I even wrote about my disappointment with Apple’s most recent education event as well. While Apple has a lot of ways to improve to match Google’s K–12 offering, they do dominate in a big way in one area: the app ecosystem.

Apple’s education story primarily comes down to the iPad. While their laptop and desktop products are used in K–12, the iPad remains its dominant product regarding volume.

While the lower price (compared to a MacBook) indeed is part of it, I would also add that the App Store is a huge part of the reason iPads have sold so well in K–12. The iPad relies on apps, and Chromebooks rely on the open web when it comes to education curriculum.

As an example, let’s say that a teacher wants to reinforce “place value” to their students. When I search place value on Apple’s Volume Purchase App Store, I get a lot of options to purchase and install.

How do I find this for Chromebooks? I guess I would start on the Chrome Web Store first. Here is what I see:

What about just searching Google in general?

I found one web app that might work and a few random websites offering some other content.

Do you see my point here? While Chromebooks have access to everything on the web, they do lack the rich resources that the iPad App Store offers. Why is this? I’d argue it’s two reasons:

  1. It’s easier to make money selling apps in K–12 than selling access to a website.
  2. The input method of the iPad, while not as useful for report writing, serves students well with interactive apps.

The iPad was reliant on apps from day one, where the Chromebook has been reliant on having a full web browser. There are use cases where input methods of these devices excel, and the future of K–12 device market share will be won by which use case ends up “winning.”

When teachers need a targeted app to work with their lesson plans, the iPad will likely win out in most situations. If they need students to do research on a given topic and put together a report or presentation, Chromebooks are going to be easier to use.

Will Android apps on Chromebooks bridge the gap for Google, or will Apple expand out iPad to work more like a traditional desktop machine when the use case calls for it? Whichever device that can expand their use case will likely be the dominate force in K-12 for the next decade.

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About the Author

Bradley Chambers

Bradley lives in Chattanooga, TN.

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