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Google Throws Down the Gauntlet in the K-12 Education Market

At Google I/O, Google outlined plans to bring its Android Apps to Chromebooks. Whilst this news has been expected for some time, the formal announcement adds another intriguing layer of context to the ongoing OS 'Battle Royale' for the global education market.

Chromebooks are the number one selling device in the US K-12 market, reaching over 50% share in 2015 (a dramatic increase from 2% in 2012). However, Windows continues to dominate globally with 43% share as 90% of all Chromebook sales to K-12 are in the US. Microsoft and Apple have sought to fight back against the Chromebook onslaught with a slew of new additions to their education offerings (Microsoft Classroom, School Data Sync, Apple iOS 9.3 new management features and the Classroom App) but this new announcement will add another important capability to Chromebooks, the touch based app ecosystem.

The Android operating system currently has a negligible position, 2% of shipments in 2015. Most of its existing installed base is in emerging markets globally where Chromebooks do not sell in scale. This announcement is unlikely to change the competitive OS environment significantly in the short term. However, in the mid-long term it provides Chromebooks with an important competitive angle.

Google's announcement follows the slow build-up of the '2 in 1' form factor from 'The Wintel' alliance who have been promoting it as the ideal long term solution for education. Combining the processing capabilities of a notebook with the tactile touch capabilities of a tablet it is ideal for education. Pricing of '2 in 1's' has been coming down rapidly with devices now regularly in the sub $400 USD range. This trend is expected to continue and the next 12 months will see a large number of device launches (for both Windows and Chromebooks), with price points sub $300 USD expected. '2 in 1s' accounted for 4% of global K-12 device demand in 2015, and are expected to rise to 15% by 2017. Whilst Microsoft and Google will compete hard in the '2 in 1' category, Apple currently has a less compelling offering. The iPad Pro is currently priced out of range for 'mainstream' K-12 usage with 73% of market demand in 2015 coming from devices sub $400 USD. Of course this could change over time as new versions are launched, and the older iPad prices are reduced. In addition, feedback suggests that convertible devices (those with 360° hinges) are more likely to gain traction than detachable devices, as schools don't like the management complexity of separate parts and the likelihood of loss/theft and damage.

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Mike Fisher

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Here at Futuresource Consulting we deliver specialist research and consulting services, providing market forecasts and intelligence reports. Since the 1980s we have supported a range of industry sectors, which has grown to include: CE, Broadcast, Entertainment Content, EdTech and many more.