How Apple, Google, and Microsoft stack up in education technology: Hardware, software, and deployment

With Apple re-emphasizing its push for the education market with its new iPad and software updates, it's worth examining how the company stacks up with Google and Microsoft. Here's a look at the core pitches as well as the moving parts.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Video: Apple tries to school Google with new low-cost iPad for education

The education market is a little more interesting, as Apple has stepped up its software and app game to manage the student and teacher experience, and it launched a new $299 iPad for schools with Apple Pencil support. (See more on what was announced at Apple's event from here.)

The big question is whether Apple is too late to close in on Google's lead in the education market that is pushing 60 percent market share.

Simply put, the stakes are high. Frost & Sullivan said the educational market generated $17.7 billion in revenue for technology vendors. Of that sum, Google, Microsoft, and Apple accounted for nearly 83 percent of the revenue pie. Frost & Sullivan, however, noted the market is shifting, and the battleground is moving toward augmented reality and virtual reality content and tools, AI and robotics, and analytics.


And here's a look at the key players in the education market and their core strengths.


Given the education market dominance of Apple, Google, and Microsoft, it's worth examining strategy and assets from the big three tech players.


The company's efforts in education boil down to inspiring creativity, giving students a cool device with the iPad, an ecosystem of apps, and Apple Pencil. At its Apple Education Event, the company closed the education management gap by updating its iWork suite with Apple Pencil support and rolling out Classroom, Schoolwork, and other applications for the iPad that will enable assignments, annotations, and new learning tools.

Hardware: Apple's primary hardware vehicle in the education space is its 9.7-inch iPad, which will be available to consumers for $329. That price may mean that students will bring their own devices to school, too. At $299, the new iPad can be on par with Chromebooks and an army of cheaper Windows PCs. Toss in a pencil, case, and keyboard, and Apple's iPad is barely holding court with alternatives from Google and Microsoft.

Specs include:

  • Capacity: 32GB, 128GB
  • Networking: Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi + cellular
  • Weight: 1.03 pounds
  • Connector: Lightning
  • Screen: 9.7-inch Retina
  • Apple Pencil support
  • A10 processor
  • 8-megapixel camera
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • Sensors: Touch ID, Three-axis gyro, Accelerometer, Barometer, Ambient light sensor.

Software: Apple's approach, outlined at the March 27 education event, is to emphasize creativity for students and match management tools and IT support. Apple School Manager connects to multiple mobile device management platforms.

  • Classroom, a teacher assistant app to manage lessons and iPads.
  • 200GB of free iCloud storage for teachers and students.
  • Schoolwork, an app to create assignments and monitor progress. It features Handouts to create and send assignments.
  • ClassKit, an education framework to connect apps to Schoolwork.
  • Everyone Can Create, a teaching guide and free learning system focused on drawing, music, film, and photography.
  • Apple School Manager to manage accounts in school.
  • Updates to iWork to support Apple Pencil.

Read also: New iPad with Apple Pencil support rolls out | Apple education event: First pictures of the iPad field trip | Apple event: See the new iPad (pictures) | Apple's education event has elephant in the room named Google | CNET: Apple's new $329 iPad with Pencil support takes on Chromebooks

Apple event: See the new iPad (pictures)


Google has raced to market share pushing 60 percent in education, according to FutureSource Consulting. Google's G Suite and Classroom have complemented inexpensive, easy-to-manage Chromebooks to capture market and mind share in education. Google's core pitch is lower device management and support costs, security, and less time to deploy.

Hardware: Chromebooks are made by multiple vendors and start at $149. Tablets are also an option, but the Chromebook is what school districts typically buy. These arrangements can include an annual management fee of $30 and replacements if needed. The upgrade cycle is often built in at three years. A Chrome Education license allows for deployment and management from anywhere to 100 to 100,000 Chromebooks.

Read also: World's first Chrome OS tablet arrives but can it steal Apple's iPad thunder?

Specs vary based on the manufacturer, but, generally speaking, Chromebooks (see best ones for 2020) have the following:

  • Chrome OS;
  • CPU of Intel Celeron in 1.6GHZ range (AMD, Rockchip also used);
  • RAM: 4GB to start;
  • Hard drive of 16GB;
  • Screens of 11 inches;
  • Webcam;
  • USB, HDMI, headphone ports;
  • Wi-Fi;
  • Battery life: 10 to 11 hours.

Software: G Suite and ease of management touted as well as the price (free). Google's deployment model largely revolves around deploying G Suite.

  • G Suite for Education
  • Classroom to manage assignments, feedback and storage
  • Mobile app support
  • Expeditions AR application;
  • IT management tools for Chromebooks, G Suite, Google Classroom
  • Web and Android apps

TechRepublic: How to set up a Google Classroom to train students, employees, or anyone who wants to learn | Google unveils Chrome OS tablet for students, goes to war with iPad in education market


Microsoft's core pitch to education is that Office is needed for job skills as well as higher ed. Microsoft's core pitch revolves around enterprise scale deployment, Windows devices on par with Chromebook prices and Office 365 with goodies such as Minecraft for education thrown in.

Hardware: Windows laptops and 2-in-1 devices starting at $159. Microsoft and manufacturing partners have moved to roughly match Chromebook pricing. Microsoft also has touch- and pen-compatible tablets, but, generally speaking, laptops are the workhorses.

Specs vary by device and manufacturer, but a Lenovo N22 starts at $169 and has the following:

  • Windows 10
  • Intel Celeron at 1.6Ghz
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB of storage with SSD
  • 11.6-inch screen
  • Microsoft's featured devices in the $100 to $300 band are all Lenovo and Acer laptops.

Read also: Microsoft touts new Windows 10 PCs, management tools aimed at Chromebooks in education | Microsoft touts Office dictation, new Windows 10 devices starting at $189 aimed at Chromebooks in education

Software: Office 365 is the primary asset with Minecraft for Education a bonus. Moving parts include:

  • Office 365
  • Skype
  • Sway, an application for interactive class materials and sharing.
  • OneNote, for note taking
  • Minecraft, which is used for collaboration and creating new worlds
  • Imagine Academy for technology skills and courses
  • Set up School PCs app for deployment, Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, as well as Intune

Overall, Microsoft's education deployment approach rhymes the most with what an enterprise would experience. Here's a typical Microsoft education deployment.


Related and Previous Coverage:

World's first Chrome OS tablet arrives but can it steal Apple's iPad thunder?

Acer jumps the gun on Apple's rumored iPad launch with the first Chrome OS tablet for the education market.

Apple Education Event: Can Apple cut into Google's education tech lead?

Chromebooks are taking over the education world, bolstered by Google Apps and Google Classroom. Larry Dignan and Bill Detwiler debate what Apple needs to do to compete with Google's ecosystem.

Google aims to build diversity in AI with new educational tools

The site "Learn with Google AI" features a free course on machine learning that's available to anyone.

Lenovo introduces new Windows, Chromebook education laptops to classrooms

The 100e notebook starts at just $219, while the latest 11e Yoga and ThinkPad 11e are built to meet MIL-SPEC rugged standards.

Microsoft touts Office dictation, new Windows 10 devices starting at $189 aimed at Chromebooks in education

Microsoft is continuing to push new Windows 10 PCs, plus its various Learning Tools as key differentiators in its quest for more share in the education space.

Windows is gaining on iOS in the education market

Sales of Windows notebooks and tablets is growing in the US and international education markets, but Chromebook shipments are still strong and growing in the US.

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