What it is: At one time, Apple dominated the education market. Then they lost their lead when Windows PCs and Chromebooks took over.
During the days of the Apple II, schools quickly spent thousands of dollars filling classrooms with computers and most of those computers were Apple II machines. When MS-DOS PCs became the norm, many schools still stuck with Apple computers but many more simply went with the standard and decided that if PCs were being used in the corporate world, then students better learn to use PCs in the classroom.
When the macintosh came out, the world of PCs dominated the corporate world so many schools opted for PCs as well. Then Apple introduced the iPad.
Initially, schools bought iPads instead of PCs because the iPad was cheaper and easier to maintain. Even better, it was harder to mess up an iPad because an iPad made it harder for someone to delete files or infect the device with a virus. In comparison, PCs required plenty of support to not only keep them running but to constantly fix and repair their software problems.
For a while, it looked like iPads would take over the schools but then lower cost and even simpler to maintain Chromebooks started to appear. Given a choice between an expensive iPad or a much cheaper Chromebook with the same advantages, most schools chose Chromebooks. Since Crhomebooks were so cheap to buy, schools didn’t need to guard them as carefully from students if they were abused or stolen.
Windows PCs even made a comeback in the education market with their minimal cost (compared to an iPad) and their versatility. Windows is still the dominate operating system in the corporate world so many schools prefer to teach kids how to use PCs to prepare them for the working world.
That leaves the iPad in third place in the education market. An iPad is more expensive than a Windows PC or Chromebook, has less of a corporate presence than Windows PCs, and is far more fragile and valuable than a Chromebook, which makes it a tempting target for theft. So it’s not surprising the iPad has faded to third place in the education market and could possibly disappear altogether.
For Apple to regain the education market, they need to make the iPad a far more compelling tool than a Windows PC or a Chromebook. One way to do this is to lower the cost of an iPad, but that’s probably not going to happen since the cheapest iPad is the iPad mini. Rather than getting into a price war, which Apple rarely does, Apple needs to make the iPad more attractive to schools so the education market can see the clear advantages and be willing to shoulder the higher upfront cost. That means the iPad still won’t conquer the education market, but it could conquer the high-end education market which is the type of market Apple pursues anyway.
Back in 2016, Apple acquired a company called LearnSprout, which developed tools to analyze a student’s performance. This will allow the iPad to help teachers determine which students need help on which particular topics. Knowing this, teachers can tailor lessons for certain students and know exactly how to help everyone.
Right now, education is a one-size-fits-all mess that often leaves talented students bored and struggling students lost and confused with little hope of ever catching up. By offering customized education through an iPad, Apple will never sell iPads to schools focused solely on initial costs, but they can make a far more compelling case for why iPads are superior to Windows PCs and Chromebooks. Individualized education is the key to returning the iPad to the forefront of education once more. Instead of turning the iPad into just another device for accessing content over the Internet (which Chromebooks can do just as well at far less cost), Apple needs to make tailored education the one advantage the iPad can offer to schools.
The iPad will never be as cheap and disposable as Chromebooks or low-cost Windows PCs so individualized education through LearnSprout is their best hope. If Apple can do that, they can recapture part of the educational market once more. If not, say good-bye to Apple products in the classroom.