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A snapshot of Google’s uphill battle getting Android into schools

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In May at its annual developer conference, Google (s GOOG) announced plans to launch a new Android app store, called Google Play for Education, for teachers this fall. But there’s some new evidence that it’s in for a tough battle with Apple (s AAPL).

According to a new survey, iPads are far and away the most desired mobile device among educators. When asked which devices their districts had adopted or planned to adopt in the next one or two years, 81 percent of educators said the iPad, compared with just 31 percent for a Google Chromebook (and 20 percent for an iPod Touch).

That’s not surprising given Apple’s aggressive push in education – last year, it sold 4.5 million iPads to schools and reported one billion downloads for iTunes U. But it gives an indication of just how big a gap Google may have to close. The survey involved 558 educators and was sponsored by News Corp.’s education arm Amplify. It was conducted by Interactive Education Systems Design.

Amplify, which sells schools an Android tablet packaged with content for K-12 classrooms, has been a vocal proponent of Google’s platform. The company has argued that Android’s open nature enables more school-specific customization, that it’s easier to securely deploy and manage a large number of Android tablets over the air, and that it’s a better value for budget-constrained schools.

According to the report:

  • About 60 percent of educators said mobile technology had been adopted in 25 percent or more of the schools in their district
  • 35 percent said mobile tech had been adopted in 75 percent or more of their schools
  • 21 percent said mobile technology had not been adopted in any of the schools in their district

Respondents from districts with low-levels of adoption or no adoption said cost remains the biggest challenge, while the lack of technology infrastructure is another huge hurdle . Other issues include the difficulty of device management and concerns about security and theft.

Also, even though educators say they want to be able to match each student with a device, only 12 percent of respondents say they can do that now, while 51 percent report that they share class carts of mobile devices.

Over the next one or two years, Amplify reports that mobile technology adoption is more likely to come from districts that have already begun adoption rather than from districts that have not introduced the technology into any of their schools.

That will likely only exacerbate the digital divide that already exists in schools.

7 Responses to “A snapshot of Google’s uphill battle getting Android into schools”

  1. perhaps the previous experience with desktops and notebooks could indicate a likely future.

    Apple created the school computing movement with the apple][
    IBM a cheaper machine quickly established dominance, then overtaken by INTEL processors.

    the issue of suitable software ON the screen is far more important than the brand below the screen.

    OS upgrades and compatibility with Android are a nightmare, so unless you have the latest do not expect to run the Apps. iOS has so far avoided that problem apart from ipad-1 false start.

    the bigger issue is what are students doing with the device.
    More (albeit cheaper) worksheets and passive reading from the large(st) publisher is not necessarily an improvement.

    an assumption is students can read large texts from a screen…they do not!
    attention drifts very quickly and many conversions of text to screen just do not work.

    the different viewer options are locking schools into a publisher to simplify login access by students…cost considerations are determining access to curriculum…again!

    surely we are close to eliminating the (paper) textbook by now?!

    the power of the ipad are the soon as there is the move to web apps..ipad has no advantage..developers for android are choosing webapps because android is so hard to program

    if that is the case, and avoid 30% to apple store!!..just go for chrome book and the race to the bottom will be complete
    ..and a repeat of notebook/desktop wars over ten years ago..

  2. Gary Doan

    The article is right, Google is way late to this game. The iPad has already won the K-12 market, worldwide. Leading education publishers like Pearson, the largest, have been providing schoolbooks on the iPad for 3 years.

  3. The next year will tell us a lot about the gains Android will make. Apple has a huge lead but I predict as tools available and awareness increases, at least a dent will be made. Android 4.2.2 will allow users to sign in and out making the platform more condusive to multiple students using shared devices. This something Apple won’t be entertaining anytime soon. Chromebooks are a good bet to increase sales as well.

    Android makers like Samsung and Sony know they have a big hill to climb but educators are starting to seriously consider them as viable tools.

  4. Jarrett Volzer

    Karen, yes, it’s true that iPad is still much preferred, but keep in mind that Google’s new initiative with Google Play for Education has not even started yet! Google started out behind in the phone market and look how quickly they overtook Apple there…by a large margin too.

    Here’s what’s most impressive though: Google started out behind in the tablet market too, but according to IDC, as of 1st quarter 2013, Android tablet outsold iPad by a margin of almost 2-to-1. That’s a complete reversal from just 12-months prior where iPad sales were 2-to-1 against Android tablets. That’s amazing for just 12 months! Now that’s mostly the consumer market, but we know that the school market eventually mirrors the consumer market after a certain delay. The question is just how long that delay will be.

    Android tablet hardware now easily outperforms iPad (higher screen resolution than iPad 3 Retina, faster processors, etc.) and the devices are definitely less expensive…a big issues for schools trying to buy by the thousand. But one of the big hurdles has been with finding, purchasing, and distributing apps. Well, that’s exactly what Google Play for Education will address. Now schools can use purchase orders, spending accounts, and school/district level management for this. And apps will be easier to find in the education-specific market.

    The iPad is a terribly expensive device for schools to purchase in large quantities and with a high quality, lower priced option available with a great app store behind it, I think that next year’s survey of educator plans for mobile device purchasing will look drastically different than this year’s survey, taken before Google Play for Education was even available.

  5. Prasad Tiruvalluri

    I think nothing is surmountable for Android. When it started, it was so far behind on so many metrics w.r.t iOS that it seemed impossible. Now it is beating iOS in most of those metrics easily and handsomely. Since google has just now turned its interest in this sector, I think it will just be a matter of time before this is surpassed.