Google success in US schools forces Microsoft, Apple to scramble

03 May, 2017 8:42 pm
SAN FRANCISCO – Microsoft Corp’s announcement of a suite of new education products on Tuesday shows the company’s determination to reverse a major shift that has taken place in U.S. classrooms in recent years: for most educators and school districts, Google’s Chromebook is now the computer of choice.

 

The Chromebook has gone from a standing start in 2011 to wild popularity in the market for education technology, which tech companies have traditionally viewed as a critical way to win over the next generation of users.

In 2016, mobile devices running Alphabet Inc’s Google’s Chrome operating system accounted for 58 percent of the U.S. market for primary and secondary schools, according to Futuresource Consulting.

The Microsoft products introduced Tuesday, including a new version of its Windows operating system, software to boost collaboration among students and a new Surface laptop, clearly show the influence of the Chromebook, industry watchers say.

“The success of the Chromebook has awakened sleeping giants,” said Tyler Bosmeny, CEO of Clever, an education technology company. “There’s so much investment into the space – it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

For years after the release of the Chromebook in 2011, Apple Inc and Microsoft stuck to their strategies of offering slightly modified and discounted versions of their products for educators.

But the Chromebook’s low price–it starts at $149– and easy management proved irresistible to many schools. Google also saw a key chance to expand its market share several years ago with the approach of an online testing mandate in the United States.

To capitalize on the opportunity, the company created a “test mode,” which restricts access to the rest of the web while students complete assessments, said Rajen Sheth, a senior director of product management at Google.


The preparations paid off: Sales of the Chromebook jumped tenfold between 2012 and 2013, Sheth said.

While Google manufactures some Chromebooks, the devices aimed at the education market are supplied by partners such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Acer Inc. The operating system is free for educators and hardware manufacturers, and Google sells schools an education package including device management and support for a $30 fee.

For Microsoft, Tuesday’s event was the culmination of a campaign to emulate key aspects of the Chromebook strategy, said Mike Fisher, associate director for the education division at Futuresource Consulting.

Microsoft’s hardware partners are now selling hybrid tablet-laptop devices based on the Surface design starting at $189. Microsoft executives boasted that the operating system announced Tuesday boots up rapidly, a hallmark of the Chromebook.

The company also introduced a new code-builder addition to its Minecraft education edition to help students learn coding skills through the popular game.

For Microsoft, the test will be how easily it can explain its offering to educators, Fisher said. –Reuters




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