We were surprised last year when Microsoft started launching an anti-Chromebook ad campaign because, quite frankly, we’d never see anyone really use a Chromebook in the wild before and Chromebooks were nowhere to be found on usage statistics published by NetMarketShare. A few weeks later, however, we started hearing stories about Chromebook usage surging in schools although we didn’t have any real data to back up such claims. Now, however, The Wall Street Journal directs our attention to new research from Futuresource Consulting showing that Chromebooks’ share of the K-12 market for tablets and laptops exploded from just 1% in 2012 to 19% in 2013. What’s more, Windows’s share of the same market declined from 47.5% to 28% over the same period.
What’s more, it looks like Chromebooks are invading higher education as well. The Journal notes that “data from IDC analyst Rajani Singh that includes purchases by U.S. colleges and universities as well as K-12 schools shows a similar pattern, as well as signs of stagnation for Apple’s iPad in the education market.”
The appeal of Chromebooks for many schools is easy to understand: They’re very inexpensive alternatives to Windows-based laptops that require comparatively little maintenance. Granted, they’re basically browsers with keyboards but in many cases students really only need a machine with connection to the web to access all the applications they need.
The rise of Chromebooks in schools also makes Apple’s rumored upcoming “iPad Pro” much more intriguing. If Apple is indeed releasing a larger, keyboard-equipped version of the iPad that will be targeted toward education markets later this year then it suggests that it too sees Chromebooks as a potential threat to its sales to schools.