The week has seen numerous keyboard wars unfold. Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, stepped forward this week to deliver another verbal shot at the Chromebooks of choice for many UK schools, telling educators to “preserve the integrity of the learning experience” by limiting access to the platform.

“There is no substitute for those products,” Schiller told the Belfast Telegraph. “They are every bit as good as an iPad – in fact, they’re better for some instances.” The real issue, it seems, is that Chromebooks are impossibly easy to navigate and the user interface is completely understudied. This lack of regard for Google’s own software is of course a massive problem for educators and schools. Google is naturally a bit incensed by this, for whom the educational use of Chromebooks is fundamental.

The speed at which internet has developed over the past decade, and Chromebooks in particular, has been breathtaking. Most teachers would not have the desire to design a bespoke learning platform for their own school, so could well just stick with a product that works, irrespective of the owners’ attitude to other aspects of it.

Being able to quickly move files around, for example, on ChromeOS feels so much quicker that it’s just fundamentally the way the average user interacts. No significant research was done by Google (or any company for that matter, really) into Chromebooks. So why aren’t their competitor products more like them?

“There’s a bias towards things that are easy to do and easy to figure out for people with little technical expertise,” Schiller insists. “[Chromebooks] were designed to do everything you’d find on a lot of Windows or Macbooks, but they’re not incredibly [uncomplicated] and don’t interact in that way.”

Sell or don’t sell

Just how much of the Chromebook is a problem for the rest of the world, and particularly the UK? Over the course of the last five years, Chromebook sales in the United States grew by a factor of four. In the first half of 2018, the Chromebooks of choice in American classrooms were sold in excess of 40,000 units per day – 10 times that of the iPad in the same time period.

(Image Credit: Edgeonmountain / Shutterstock.com)

I say ‘available’ because, according to online marketplace Lenovo, which holds around one third of the Chromebook market share, the biggest selling device in the category is the Chromebook 2-in-1. One possible reason for this spike is that the Google Store, made available late last year, has loosened the restrictions on Mac and Windows compatible devices, allowing them to be purchased with Google Play instead of a separate app store.

Google is clearly making an effort to make Chromebooks more attractive in the United States, and perhaps other markets. Only recently has the Chromebook Store been able to support dual OS systems in the form of the Google Chromebook Pixel. However, despite its apparently limited release to the US, the phone-sized 10.1-inch Pixelbook has been top of many buyers’ wish lists in the country, and is quickly becoming as essential as an Amazon Echo Dot.

US tech giants are now aggressively turning to other countries, all in order to shrug off the rising popularity of Apple and Google’s hardware. Apple is particularly big in China and India, which are both set to become the world’s largest mobile markets.

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