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Google Chromebooks get Schooled, quite popular in US Education Market

Google and its manufacturing partners are trying to shed the Chromebook's perception as underperforming budget devices

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A Google Chromebook displays Candy Crush Saga in New York, Feb. 8, 2017.

The Google Chromebook, a type of stripped-down laptop, isn’t a practical mobile device for many people – mostly because it basically turns into an expensive paperweight whenever it can’t find a Wi-Fi connection.

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Yet Chromebooks have defied expectations and made major inroads in an unexpected environment – U.S. schools.

In retrospect, that shouldn’t be too surprising. Chromebooks are cheap and easy to manage, making them popular with budget-constrained schools with limited tech-support staff. And Wi-Fi is now common enough in U.S. schools and homes to make an internet-dependent device practical for students.

Google doesn’t want to stop there. It’s releasing new models in partnership with Samsung that are designed to appeal to a broader range of consumers. They have several tablet-like features, including a stylus, touch controls and a 360-degree hinge that allows you to turn the screen faceup. One starts selling Sunday for $449; a more powerful version comes out in April for $100 more.

Google and its manufacturing partners are trying to shed the Chromebook’s perception as underperforming budget devices. But even with premium models, expanding beyond U.S. schools won’t be easy.

Chromebooks get schooled

For personal computers and tablets, Chromebook’s share of the U.S. education market was 49 percent last year, up from 40 percent in 2015 and 9 percent in 2013, according to IDC figures released this week.

But education accounts for just 14 percent of the 110 million devices shipped in the U.S. last year – and Chromebooks make up just 9 percent of that broader total. Their numbers are also low abroad, even in schools.

The Chromebook’s popularity in U.S. education is also largely limited to grades K-12, analysts say. Macs and Windows laptops are still dominant on college campuses.

Rough start

Chromebooks use a lightweight operating system designed to get people online faster, without having to wait around for the computer to start up. Much of the heavy lifting on Chromebooks gets done on Google’s remote servers, so Chromebooks themselves don’t need fast chips or lots of storage.

Early on, though, that made Chromebooks seem cheap and underpowered, which “soured consumer expectations right off the bat,” IDC analyst Linn Huang said.

Online storage for photos and documents online was much less common in 2011 when Chromebooks launched, so their limited local storage was initially unappealing. And the few apps available for Chromebooks didn’t work offline, at least at the time.

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Differing needs

But what constrains consumers can actually be liberating in education. Most kids don’t need laptops on the bus or other locations where they can’t connect to Wi-Fi. And they don’t miss business software like Microsoft Office; Google’s online apps for documents and spreadsheets do just fine for homework.

“What surprised us was how quickly it took off in education,” said Kan Liu, who oversees Chromebooks at Google.

Apple’s iPad was hot at the time, but Google sold the Chromebook on convenience. They’re easier for classrooms to share; just sign in with a Google account, and a student’s apps and documents instantly appear. Teachers also have online tools to lock down what apps and sites students can use.

And with models available for less than $200, schools can get a few Chromebooks for the price of an iPad or a rival laptop.

“It allows us to put more devices in students’ hands,” said Aaron Slutsky, chief technology officer for McDowell County Schools in North Carolina.

Far from universal

But Chromebook’s success story in schools is largely an American one, and it’s likely to stay that way. Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa notes that Chromebooks are useless in China because the device depends on Google services that aren’t available there. And in emerging countries, where a budget laptop would be ideal, she said internet access isn’t reliable enough.

Even in the U.S., the iPad is better for many creative tasks such as recording and editing movies. Students studying engineering, robotics and graphics won’t be able to use Chromebooks to run the kind of specialized software that’s available for Macs and Windows laptops.

“But that’s not needed for 98 percent of our students,” said Tracy Dabbs, coordinator of technology and innovation at the Burlington-Edison School District near Seattle.

Many school districts limit Apple and Windows computers for the students who specifically need them, then provide Chromebooks for the rest. McDowell County, for instance, has 5,500 Chromebooks, 1,200 iPads – and only 100 Macs and 200 Windows PCs.

Rivals stage comeback

Last year, Apple gave iPads in schools some Chromebook-like features unavailable to the general public. That includes ways to let multiple people use a single tablet and management tools for tech-support staff. A new Classroom app lets teachers control what apps students run and track their progress.

Apple also provides classroom tools for teachers and students. Free e-books offer teachers step-by-step guides on using iPad apps and curriculum suggestions for everyday subjects. A separate app lets kids learn programming using the same language developers use to build iPad apps.

Meanwhile, Microsoft announced last month new online apps and management tools for schools, along with Windows PCs priced similarly to Chromebooks.

Beyond schools

Huang said some businesses are giving Chromebooks a second look, especially in retail, banking and other settings where people share computers.

But in many offices, the lack of business software such as Office is a major hurdle. Google’s alternative lacks many advanced capabilities found in Office, and habits are hard to change.

Google is trying to make Chromebooks more palatable by letting them run Android apps designed for phones and tablets. It’s testing this capability on a handful of Chromebook models, including the new ones from Samsung. That makes it possible to install Office, Adobe Photoshop and many apps on a Chromebook, though these tablet versions have limited features compared with versions for Macs or Windows laptops. (VOA)

  • YY

    There simply isn’t a serious alternative for Chromebook in Education.
    Google should buy Adobe and make all their software Cloudable. And GNU/Linux of course 😉

Next Story

Samsung to Foster Growth by Investing in AI and 5G

To get ahead in the fast-changing tech industry, Samsung said it will expand investment in burgeoning tech segments to propel growth

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To get ahead in the fast-changing tech industry, Samsung said it will expand investment in burgeoning tech segments to propel growth. Wikimedia

Samsung Electronics Co on Wednesday said it will propel technology innovations to tackle the unfavourable business environment and foster new growth drivers such as artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G.

Samsung vowed to step up its innovations to overcome business challenges amid falling prices of memory chips and flattening global demand for new smartphones.

“The company plans to push for profound innovations across the divisions as the unfavourable business environment is expected to continue this year,” Kim Ki-nam, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, said at a meeting at the company headquarters attended by about 1,000 investors.

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“We will focus on new, promising businesses, such as AI and 5G, to bring meaningful changes and will actively respond to new business opportunities,” Kim said. Pixabay

To get ahead in the fast-changing tech industry, Samsung said it will expand investment in burgeoning tech segments to propel growth.

“We will focus on new, promising businesses, such as AI and 5G, to bring meaningful changes and will actively respond to new business opportunities,” Kim said.

Announcing business plans during the shareholders meeting, the first since a 50:1 stock split in May which was aimed at making it easier for retail investors to purchase stakes in the firm, Kim said: “We will continue to release innovative products in our home appliance and IT and mobile communication divisions to expand our market-leading position.”

The world’s largest handset and memory chip maker said it posted $215.8 billion in sales and $52 billion in operating profits last year on a consolidated basis, posting record high profits driven by the boom in memory chips, Yonhap news agency reported.

 

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Its bid to propel its 5G business comes as Huawei, the world’s largest telecom equipment maker, faces growing pressure from the US over security protection issues. Pixabay

ALSO READ: Xiaomi to Expand its Offline Presence in India

Its bid to propel its 5G business comes as Huawei, the world’s largest telecom equipment maker, faces growing pressure from the US over security protection issues.

The Korean tech firm currently has a mere 3 per cent share in the 5G equipment sector, lagging far behind Huawei’s 28 per cent and Ericsson’s 27 per cent, according to market researcher IHS Markit.

The company has set a goal of capturing a 20 per cent share in the 5G equipment market by 2022. (IANS)