Apple's marketing SVP Phil Schiller slammed Google's Chromebooks in an interview with CNET published on Wednesday, saying that students who use them are not going to succeed.
The remarks are an escalation of Apple's rhetoric about the competitive K-12 market in the United States where it is losing to Google and Microsoft.
"Chromebooks have gotten to the classroom because, frankly, they're cheap testing tools for required testing," Schiller said during an interview to promote a new $2,400 MacBook Pro. "If all you want to do is test kids, well, maybe a cheap notebook will do that. But they're not going to succeed."
In a tweet sent after this story published, Schiller said that "every child has the ability to succeed."
Right now, there are far more Chromebooks being sold to schools than other kinds of computers. In 2018, 60% of all laptops and tablets purchased for U.S. K-12 classrooms were Chromebooks, with Microsoft Windows-powered computers coming in at second at 22%. Apple's iOS and macOS had 18% of the market, according to stats from Futuresource Consulting.
"At the point where U.S. districts needed to purchase devices for online assessment on mass scale, Chromebooks were clearly significantly cheaper than competitive offerings," Futuresource analyst Michael Boreham said in an email.
Schiller's argument against Chromebooks goes like this: According to a study done "many many years ago" internally at Apple, kids learn the best when they're engaged. To maximize engagement, schools need to buy "cutting-edge learning tools" like Apple's iPad.
He also returned to an argument that Apple CEO Tim Cook has made previously: Google's Chromebooks are "test machines." That's because Chromebooks are better suited for government-mandated "Common Core" tests, which require or heavily recommend keyboards. Apple's iPad, which Schiller calls the "ultimate tool for a child to learn on," doesn't have a built-in keyboard and requires an additional accessory to add one.
The U.S. education market is expected to hit $43 billion in sales in 2019, according to an estimate from Technavio earlier this year. Students who get comfortable with a given company's software in school may remain a customer when they grow up and buy their own computers.
The education market is important to Apple, which held a press event at a school in Chicago in early 2018 discussing its education strategy and the "Everyone Can Code" program in which Apple creates computer science curricula it distributes to schools for free. Last year, Apple announced that it would build a new course for Advanced Placement high school students focusing on Apple's programming language, Swift.
Apple also announced an update to its entry-level iPad at the event and said it would sell it to schools for $300 after an educational discount.
Aside from cost, Google enjoys a competitive advantage over Apple with its Google Classroom software, according to Boreham. Google Classroom lets students log on to any Chromebook to pull up their profile and saved work. Google's device management software is also better suited for IT administrators, he added.
"Both Microsoft and Apple have added and extended their solutions with upgraded and cheaper hardware, IT deployment tools and a wider range of apps and tools, but to date there are limited signs of a significant OS market share change," Boreham said.