A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry.
When I worked for Apple in the ’90s, there was a constant push to put Apple computers in schools so students would be more likely to become Apple customers for life. Now, nearly 30 years later, we read how Apple is falling behind in the use of their products in schools.
According to an article in the New York Times:
Over the last three years, Apple’s iPads and Mac notebooks — which accounted for about half of the mobile devices shipped to schools in the United States in 2013 — have steadily lost ground to Chromebooks, inexpensive laptops that run on Google’s Chrome operating system and are produced by Samsung, Acer and other computer makers.
Mobile devices that run on Apple’s iOS and MacOS operating systems have now reached a new low, falling to third place behind both Google-powered laptops and Microsoft Windows devices, according to a report released on Thursday by Futuresource Consulting, a research company.
Futuresource notes that Chromebooks accounted for 58 percent of the 12.6 million mobile computing devices shipped to primary and secondary schools in the U.S. in 2016, up from 50 percent in 2015. During the same period, iPads and Mac laptops fell to 19 percent from about 25 percent. Microsoft Windows laptops and tablets remained relatively stable at about 22 percent.
These statistics confirm what I’ve experienced firsthand. I initially became aware of Chromebooks in schools when my 12-year-old grandson told me last year how many of his classrooms in his Bay Area school were equipped with Chromebooks. He then showed me how he used it to do work at school, go online from his home computer to the school’s portal to check and finish his work, submit his homework assignments, get scores of his tests and use Google Docs to write his essays.
When I asked about how iPads — a product he uses at home — are used in school, I got rolled eyes, as if I were in the Stone Age. He explained how less useful and how more expensive iPads are for the things he does at school. He said their Chromebooks cost $200, while iPads are more than twice that amount and have no keyboard.
But it wasn’t until I spoke with his 8-year-old brother and my other grandson that I realized how much more aware they are of technology products at such a young age — younger than any generation before.
While his parents waited for their older son to graduate from fifth grade before getting him an activated phone (an iPhone 5c), the younger one uses an inactivated Samsung Galaxy 6 with a home Wi-Fi connection, primarily as a game player. He figured out how to make calls, send messages over Wi-Fi using WhatsApp and, when he wants to use it away from home for playing Pokémon Go, he makes sure his brother or mother is with him so he can connect to their hotspot.
When I asked each brother which phone they prefer, iPhone or the Android, both spoke up in unison and unequivocally said Android. They each reeled off a list of comparisons between the two operating systems that would make a reviewer proud. They both prefer Android because they like Google Voice more than Siri, and criticized the iPhone for its shorter battery life and no headphone jack. When I asked the 8-year-old which phone he liked the best, he said the Galaxy 7 because it was waterproof and had a curved display.
Now, anecdotal stories from 8- and 12-year-olds are just that, but taken with these new findings, it should be a concern to Apple. While we adults complain about the slow pace and limited innovation at Apple, it’s something apparent even to youngsters who take technology for granted, are more adept with devices, and have a technical proficiency that may negate Apple’s easier-to-use interface — the primary advantage Apple could offer to earlier generations.
Phil Baker is a product development expert, author and journalist covering consumer technology. He has developed scores of products for companies, including Apple, Seiko, Polaroid, Barnes & Noble, Polycom, Proxima, ThinkOutside and Pono Music. Baker is the author of "From Concept to Consumer," a former columnist for the San Diego Transcript and founder of Techsperts Inc. Follow him at Baker on Tech and reach him @pbaker.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.