This is a no-brainer. Despite an Apple executive who said “education is in Apple’s DNA” the company has been losing market share in educational institutions for years.
It’s just that simple. The PC market has been flooded with very inexpensive notebooks the past few years, some are standard and underpowered, of course, and newer ones are merely cheap notebooks with a detachable touchscreen, and they run Microsoft’s Windows and Google’s Chrome (arguably easier to setup and use, but does not do as much, but also does not require much maintenance and support).
How does Apple compete with a $200-$400 notebook that also doubles as a mobile tablet, and, in the case of the Chromebooks, very secure and easy to maintain?
Apple cannot compete at those price levels. Even an iPad from last year is priced about the same as a new Windows touchscreen notebook or a Chromebook. What the iPad has going for it is durability, ease of use, and a vast library of applications that dwarf Windows and Chrome, but that’s not enough for educational institutions to bite the bullet and shell out enormous sums to Apple for products that schools cannot afford.
Price also plays a part in the economics of education. Most schools are begging for money which means computers must last longer or cost less. Again, it’s arguable that Macs last longer, but the price differential cannot compete with Chromebooks or Windows touchscreen notebooks at one third the price.
With Windows and Chrome, a dollar just goes farther than it does with a Mac.
What can Apple do to reverse the situation?
Unfortunately, not much. Apple is ceding education to the competition. A Mac is overkill and overly expensive. Sure, a Mac can run Windows, OS X, Linux and various flavors of Unix, and it may cost less to maintain and support than a Windows notebook, but all that is lost on the early grades who just don’t need all that power to learn how to use a basic computer.
There’s probably a good reason why you don’t see a BMW used as a driver’s education car. All that extra quality and engineering goes to waste on a student who has trouble getting out of park or figuring out which one of the pedals is the brake.
Likewise, most students, even if they have experience at home with an iPad, do not have much keyboard experience, little navigation and file management training, and apps vary dramatically between devices so every new device is a new learning experience.
All the options that schools and students require in the 21st century are options which, if they’re available at all on an Apple product, are vastly more expensive than either a Windows PC or a Chromebook.
Price is just one component of the overall cost of using a computer in a school, but Apple has been losing market share for a reason, and it all goes back to schools which are required to cut costs, and Apple’s pricing, which remains at the high end of the spectrum.
Education might be in Apple’s DNA, but in an era when costs matter, Apple isn’t in a school’s DNA.
What can Apple do about the downward trend? Two things. First, an inexpensive Mac notebook just for the education market. Second, an inexpensive iPad with a keyboard, again, just for the education market. That combo might not stop the Windows Chromebook juggernaut, but at least it exposes students to Apple products at an early age.