Popularity is a fickle thing, and while Apple's iPad was once the top dog at schools, Chromebooks have replaced them as the cool kids that everyone wants to hang around with. That's according to the latest data from International Data Corporation (IDC), which pegged Google's Chromebook shipments to U.S. schools in the third quarter at 715,500 units.
That's enough to edge out the iPad, which saw 702,000 unit shipments to schools during the same quarter. It's the first time Google has trumped Apple in schools with its Chromebook platform, giving the company a 25 percent share of the educational market. That figure is pretty remarkable considering Google didn't even have a stake in education hardware sales just two years ago.
It's not hard to figure out the shift. At a time when schools are tightening up their belts and cutting back on budgets, the allure of a $199 or less laptop that's plugged into Google's many online services is an easy sell over a discounted (for education) $379 iPad Air that's comparatively limited in productivity chores.
It will be interesting to see how things play out from here, though not because of the iPad. Microsoft and Intel have been working together to bring low-cost Windows laptops into the fold, resulting in machines like the $199 HP Stream. Essentially a modern day netbook, these price-friendly notebooks run 'Windows 8.1 with Bing' and come preloaded with Office 365 Personal. The value proposition is just as good and arguably better than a Chromebook, especially since they're less reliant on Internet connectivity to be productive.
As for the iPad and tablets in general, growth has been slowing down significantly. Part of the reason is market saturation, though recent reports suggest that tablet owners are holding onto their existing models longer these days, giving tablets a life cycle that's more in line with a traditional PC than a smartphone, the latter of which are typically replaced every two years.