Apple Inc on Tuesday kicked off an event in Chicago where it was widely expected to announce a lower-priced iPad aimed at helping it grab more of the U.S. education market.
Tech companies are battling for dominance in U.S. schools with inexpensive devices and laptops that are geared toward classroom use and seen as a way to hook young consumers.
In March 2017 Apple cut the price of its 9.7-inch tablet to $329, the lowest starting price ever for one of its full-sized tablets. But laptops running operating systems by Alphabet Inc’s Google or Microsoft Corp can be had for less than $200.
Apple hit hard on the education theme on Tuesday, with school bells and announcements over a public address system directing press and teachers into an auditorium at Lane Tech College Prep High School. Apple board member and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore mingled with the crowd.
The Chicago event comes during a spring buying season when many schools are making purchasing decisions for the upcoming school year.
Apple made up just 17 percent of the K-12 U.S. educational market in the third quarter, according to data from Futuresource Consulting. Meanwhile 60 percent of mobile computing shipments to schools ran Google’s Chrome operating system, and 22 percent had Windows.
Chromebooks sold by Dell Technologies Inc can be had for as little as $189. Microsoft last year introduced an education-focused laptop from partner Lenovo Group Ltd running Window 10 S.
Apple in recent years made changes to its operating system so that more than one student can log into an iPad, and to its software to let teachers better manage groups of students.
But it faces a tough battle in the educational market given the popularity of Google and Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity suites, said Carolina Milanesi of Creative Strategies. Google’s G Suite fueled Chromebook sales because it was seen as easy to use to manage assignments.
“Most teachers don’t look past G Suite for education,” she said. Apple has iWork, which added features in recent years but remains less familiar to teachers than Google’s productivity suite or Microsoft’s Office.
Education sales for iPads rose 32 percent to more than 1 million units in Apple’s fiscal third quarter. Sales of iPads made up just 8.3 percent of Apple’s $229.2 billion total revenue last year, however, compared with the nearly 62 percent of sales generated by iPhones.
Apple needs to keep working to regain market share in schools to get children interested in its devices later on, said TECHnalysis Research founder Bob O’Donnell.
“It’s more about the psychology of driving long-term preference for the (Apple) platform. It’s more strategic than financial,” he said.