Chromebooks still beat the iPad in one critical way

As much as Apple tries to convince us that the iPad is a better tool for schools that the Chromebook, the iPad has a key weakness that Apple hasn't addressed.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer
​Specs for Apple's new iPad

Specs for Apple's new iPad

Earlier this week we saw Apple CEO Tim Cook take the stage with a sales pitch designed to convince schools to end their love affair with Google's Chromebook and make a switch to the iPad.

But the Chromebook still beats the iPad in one critical way.

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I'm talking about the keyboard.

Yes, as simple a distinction as that seems, this is one key way that the Chromebook as the iPad totally beat. Whether we are talking about the on-screen keyboard, Apple's physical keyboard for the iPad, or the myriad of third-party keyboards out there that are available for the tablet, they all come a very distant second to the built-in physical keyboard found on the Chromebook.

Yes, sure, you can make do with an iPad, and you might be able to do things with the iPad that you can't do with a Chromebook - such as record video or have access to AR - but as soon as you have more than a few hundred words to type, that keyboard problem is ready to bite you at a moment's notice.

Oh, and bear in mind that if you do decide to kit out an iPad with a keyboard, that's going to add to the bottom line.

And sure, Apple's tried to skirt around that keyboard problem by adding support for the Apple Pencil to the iPad (yet another accessory that costs money, and needs charging), but as awesome as that is for certain use cases, it's still doesn't make up for the lack of a keyboard.

If the iPad really were the true laptop killer that Apple claims it is, Cook would have pulled the plug on the lower-end MacBooks.

He hasn't done that.

Oh, and if the lack of a built-in keyboard isn't a deal-breaker for you, then what about security?

While the security of the iPad and the iOS platform is good, the simple, streamlined, no-brainer security model that Google has built around the Chromebook is better, especially when it comes to automatic patching.

Patching iOS is nowhere near as simple and painless as keeping a Chromebook patched. And to be honest I'm not sure why Apple hasn't addressed this. Updating iOS devices feels far clumsier and needlessly messier than I'd expect from a 2018 product.

But no matter what I think about the keyboard or the security model, Apple has made a reinvigorated bid to get schools to hand over their cash for iPads instead of Chromebooks. Google's Chromebook has nearly 60 percent market share in education now, according to FutureSource Consulting, so it's clear that the iPad is facing quite an uphill battle.

Only time - and keeping an eye on Apple's quarterly financials - will tell is this bid has been successful.

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