According to a new IDC report, Google has managed to overtake Apple's iPads in the classroom as the device category of choice for education. Google and its partners shipped 715,000 Chromebooks, while Apple shipped 702,000 iPads to schools. Chromebooks also accounted for a quarter of the educational market in the third quarter of this year.
IDC said that schools tend to prefer Chromebooks over iPads for two main reasons: lower costs -- which is usually half that of the iPads -- and the fact that they have keyboards. Some schools get their iPads with keyboards as well, but that only adds to the already-higher total cost for the tablets.
The schools' IT departments also like Chromebooks more because they are simpler to manage than iPads.
"Chromebooks are really gaining traction," said Rajani Singh, analyst with IDC. "The growth of Chromebook is a major concern for Apple's iPad."
Ms. Singh also said that as the average student age grows, the need for a keyboard increases as well, so it's not just teachers and IT managers who prefer Chromebooks, but most students, too.
Apple still owns a larger share of the educational market right now when combining its iPads and Macs. The company also has a big head start with 13 million iPads and 75,000 educational apps already sold to the education market. However, the difference between iPads and Chromebook userbases in schools seems to be shrinking because of the fast growth of Chromebooks.
Google also launched its Google Play for Education last year, which is a customized version of the Play Store that makes it easier for teachers, students and IT managers to find apps and manage Chromebooks.
Windows still seems to own the biggest share of the educational market, although long-time Windows PC makers such as HP, Dell, Samsung and Acer are heavily promoting their Chromebooks to schools right now, which could end up stealing more market share from both iPads and Windows devices down the road.
When Google built Chrome OS, the company didn't know where exactly it would take them, and right now Chromebooks are still a minor portion of the PC or computing devices market. However, in certain markets, such as education, Chromebooks seem to have found their niche.
The education market is also an important one over the long term because many children will grow up using Chromebooks. Even if Chromebooks don't become successful overnight in the mainstream market, they could still see a steady and healthy growth over the next decade.