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Chromebook Sales to K-12 Schools Reach New Heights

More than one million Chromebooks flooded the U.S. K-12 education market in the third quarter of this year, accounting for 35 percent of all personal computing devices sold to schools during that period.

That marks a new high-water mark for the inexpensive, cloud-based laptop computers—and the second consecutive quarter that Chromebooks have outpaced iPad sales to schools, according to Futuresource Consulting, a United Kingdom-based research and forecasting firm that released the sales figures Wednesday.

"The Chromebook commotion in U.S. K-12 education goes beyond the question of lower cost," said Phil Maddocks, a market analyst with the group, in a statement. "Manageability is a key consideration for school districts in the U.S." 


While Chromebook sales have surged, tablets sales have slipped. Devices such as the iPad accounted for 43 percent of the market during the third quarter of last year, but just 33 percent of the market during the same span this year, according to Futuresource. Apple continued to be the "brand leader" in the U.S. K-12 market, however, thanks to the combined popularity of its iPad and MacBook laptop. 

The most popular Chromebook providers are now Acer and Dell, according to Futuresource.

Last month, Education Week took a comprehensive look at the rise of Chromebooks in K-12, focusing on the nation's largest deployment, in the 151,000-student Montgomery County, Md., public school system. 

Leaders and educators there tout the devices' cost (typically under $300) and ease of deployment, as well as the ways in which they support student and teacher collaboration. Chromebooks run on Google's Chrome operating system and offer little internal storage, instead relying on web-based applications, especially Google's Apps for Education tool suite.

Skeptics worry that successful deployment of the devices is dependent on robust Internet connectivity, both inside and outside of school, and concerns remain about how student data is handled within the Apps for Education tool suite.

In another sign of Chromebooks' popularity, the country's largest school district, the 1.2 million-student New York City system, recently gave its official stamp of approval to the devices. 

The second-largest school system in the country, the 641,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District, has started introducing Chromebooks to some schools, a change of course in the wake of continued fallout from former superintendent John Deasy's troubled attempt to outfit all students with iPads. 

Photo: Chromebook screens glow in a 6th grade English class at Ridgeview Middle School in Gaithersburg, Md.
--T.J. Kirkpatrick for Education Week

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