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Microsoft’s anti-Chromebook “Scroogled” campaign has a lot of people wondering why the company is so concerned about Google’s unlaptop. But recent figures show Microsoft is right to be worried.

Microsoft’s recent US “Scroogled” smear ads which took aim at the Chromebook have raised much controversy in the technology sector. Commentators have been questioning why Microsoft would feel the need to target Google’s “fake laptop” in the face of its apparent failure in the business market.

While I don’t think the Scroogled ads are doing Microsoft any favours, Microsoft’s concern is correctly placed. The company is completely right to be worried about the Chromebook, and this quarter’s sales prove that it’s not just the education market finding the advantages of Google’s laptop. That’s not to say that in twelve months time all Windows PCs will be gone from schools, clearly Microsoft still has a majority share of education desktops, but with the speed we’re seeing schools transition to new technologies old habits are quickly changing. Schools now have options when purchasing new hardware.

Chromebook in Business and Education

There’s much division over Google’s Chromebook initiative in both business and education. Converts claim that Chrome OS meets 80% of their user’s needs while management is simple and streamlined, detractors claim that Chromebook isn’t a “real laptop” and simply cannot replace a fully featured operating system. Whatever your thoughts on the subject, the Chromebook is making a significant dent in school budgets taking away sales from Windows, and some would argue, iPad.

With Chrome OS Google has taken a risky leap over Microsoft’s traditional networking model, and it seems to be paying off. That’s not to say that there aren’t significant disadvantages with Chromebooks, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been asked to install Publisher, but Chromebook builds in the advantages of an iPad — instant on, quick access to apps, long battery life — and adds to it simple management and a form factor designed for productivity.

But the thing that should most concern Microsoft isn’t that Chrome OS will outsell Windows, it almost certainly won’t, it’s that Google’s new operating system doesn’t require or run any of Microsoft’s cash cows, Office and Windows Server, which could easily lead to a slow bleed or marketshare away from Microsoft.

During 2012 Chromebook sales to business were 0.2%, but in 2013 this rocketed to 20% of the entire commercial laptop market. It’s worth restating that — in 2013 20% of laptop sales to businesses were Chromebooks. That’s 20% fewer Windows licenses, 20% fewer Microsoft Office installs, and 20% fewer people who are reliant on Microsoft’s back end server infrastructure.

It appears Microsoft’s concern was rightly placed.

NPD Chromebook Sales

The shift in business purchasing doesn’t necessarily translate to the educational environment, but we can look at the trends of the past to predict what 2014 will look like for schools. If businesses continue to support Google Apps and Chromebooks in the next twelve months we’ll see an increase in related skills being demanded from employers. Where business goes education must follow.

Chrome OS on the Desktop

ChromebaseThis year will also see Google and LG’s first significant push into the desktop market in the form of the Chromebase desktop. While I don’t think it will be significant this year, if schools find their Chromebook trials a success we could also see pressure to replace Windows on the desktop with Google’s alternative.

Google’s Chromebook model has been hugely successful, and the company appears to be attempting to replicate that success with their Google Play for Education initiative. Can Google use Google Apps as a backdoor into education for its Android tablets? We’ll see in 2014.

A Stronger Showing From Android

iPad and tablet sales in general will continue to boom, but we should see a more robust offering from Google tablets. Despite Apple’s stranglehold on the school tablet market, I still believe that everything that long term Apple’s iPad management and purchasing model will hold the company back. In 2014 expect to see more schools starting to use Android based tablets as their prefered choice in large projects.

We’ll see cheaper but higher quality devices being released that will further put pressure on the iPad. As operating system market share continues to fluctuate and fragment, this year will continue to see a greater focus on services rather than operating systems. If you’re buying in to new services in 2014, make sure they’re platform agnostic, or in a couple of years you may find you’ve painted yourself and your data into a corner.

What edtech trends do you predict in 2014? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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About Author

Profile photo of Karl Rivers

Karl is an award winning Director of IT for the Royal Grammar School Guildford, based near London, England. He has been working in education for more than ten years and founded ClassThink in 2013 to share technology best practice with other schools. In 2014 he won the NAACE Impact Award for support services in schools, and writes edtech articles for Education Executive Magazine.

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