Keeping up with the latest mobile industry news and views.

Chromebook Popularity in Schools Makes Perfect Sense

Chromebooks cost less than Apple iPads and are packed with features. It's no surprise recent numbers show them pulling ahead of iPads in sales to U.S. schools.

Chromebooks for schools

When I read the recent report that Google Chromebooks have now begun to outsell Apple iPads in the nation's schools, I immediately started thinking about how much sense such a shift actually makes.

The new sales figures from IDC show that vendors selling Chromebooks shipped 715,000 units to U.S. schools in the third quarter of 2014, compared with 702,000 iPads sold by Apple in the same period, according to a Dec. 1 eWEEK story. That shift highlights the growing popularity of Chromebooks among schools since late 2012, IDC analyst Rajani Singh told eWEEK.

Well, as a Chromebook user and admitted fan, I think that more schools using Chromebooks can be a benefit for students, teachers, school districts and the taxpayers everywhere who have to pay for it all.

It's well-known that school districts in many places across the nation continue to be saddled with massive budgetary problems as expenses rise and tax revenues fail to keep up. Right here in Pennsylvania where I live, incumbent first-term Republican Gov. Tom Corbett lost a re-election bid to Democrat Tom Wolf, in large part due to concerns about inadequate school funding by the state. In Philadelphia, the state's largest city, huge budget shortfalls mean that many schools are severely hampered by shortages of paper, printer ink, books, teaching materials and technology hardware and software, all of which hurt students, grades, achievement test scores and add to a sense of hopelessness.

Read that again. Schools in the U.S. don't have the money to buy paper, books and other needed teaching materials for their students. That's ridiculous.

That's where the ability to save money by using lower-cost devices like Chromebooks, rather than iPads, is a good first step. The price difference can be significant. A full-size 9.7-inch WiFi-equipped iPad Air retails for $399, while a Chromebook can be purchased starting at about $150 less.

And even with a lower price, users don't lose anything. Chromebooks have a full arsenal of needed applications, allowing users to get their work done anywhere. And they have real keyboards that iPads don't have out of the box.

I've been using an HP Chromebook for over a year as one of my many devices, which also includes an Apple MacBook Pro, a Lenovo laptop, a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tablet and a Windows 7 PC. When I just want to do something quickly, I reach for my Chromebook. It's instantly on, it does what I need it to do, and it is reliable and tough.

It will be interesting to see if the growing popularity of Chromebooks for schools is a new trend or an aberration. My bet is that other school districts are watching and that this is not a one-shot trend. Chromebooks can do everything a user needs to do, while saving money. That's welcome news for budget-strapped school officials across the nation.