Apple’s K-12 market share hits a new low (is it time for a “MacPad”?)

Apple’s share of the U.S. K-12 market has fallen to new lows, according to data released by researcher Futuresource Consulting. iPads accounted for only 17% of institutional educational purchases in the first quarter of 2016, while Mac laptops accounted for only 4%. In 2013, iPads accounted for nearly 40% of K-12 institutional purchases. 

"Apple's numbers are down. Sales to education are declining," Mike Fisher, Futuresource analyst, told Business Insider ( "As the market has matured, I think Apple's approach to the educational market probably needs to change a little bit." 

In terms of market share, Chromebooks maintained their momentum during the first quarter, accounting for more than 50% of education sales in the U.S. during the first quarter, while Windows saw its share of the market decrease year-over-year within the U.S. to less than a quarter of all shipments. The second and third quarters are normally the peak buying periods.

Globally Windows maintained its position as the dominant number one operating system during the first quarter, gaining more than 6% share year-over-year to reach 46.1% of education shipments. Windows has been gaining share against Android, especially in emerging markets. Chrome continues to sell predominantly in the U.S. market; 90% of Chromebook sales remain in the U.S.

Google announced at its annual Google I/O conference that it’s bringing Android apps to the Chromebook platform. This will see a wealth of previously unavailable applications available on Chromebooks which will also add to its offline capabilities, according to Futuresource Consulting. The apps will be able to be downloaded directly to the device and ran offline. 

Futuresource Consulting says Google has been working to improve as more of its OEM [original equipment manufacturer] partners begin to release touch based Chromebooks using new form factors such as the convertible 2-in-1 form factor. This functionality is expected to be widely available towards the end of 2016. 

Apple has made significant changes to the iOS platform with its announcement of iOS 9.3 which bought several education specific features such as allowing for the sharing of devices across several students, a classroom application which will provide in class control of devices, and managed Apple IDs which can be created in bulk and managed by the school district. 

Apple also announced the acquisition of LearnSprout, a San Francisco based education analytics start-up. The LearnSprout platform collects real time information from student information systems (SIS) and creates dashboards which can show a variety of statistics on student performance.

Futuresource Consulting thinks these moves could add Apple. However, part of the problem may be that Apple only sells to schools through its salesforce, as opposed to Chrome, which is supplied by a variety of different hardware makers and resellers.

"Apple doesn't allow resellers to school districts, you have to buy directly from Apple,” Hal Friedlander, co-founder of the Technology for Education Consortium and former CTO for New York City schools, told Business Insider. “In other words a district would have to state that Apple products are unique in the world and no other manufacturer or seller sells anything comparable, so we must buy these products directly from Apple."

Business Insider adds that there’s growing concern that the iPad might not be suited for a school environment. The article says that, for instance, it doesn't come with a keyboard, which is still essential — and legally required —  for taking standardized tests. It ignores the fact that you can get the Apple Pencil for use with the iPad Pro. 

Of course, I still think a great solution would be my proposed “MacPad”, an iPad Pro-like device that runs a version of OS X with touch screen support. If such a device were released, perhaps some sort of emulation environment could allow iOS apps to run on the MacPad. I’m no developer, so I don’t know how feasible that would be, but it’s an intriguing idea.