Chromebooks as a Low End and New Market Disruption

I wanted to write another post on Chromebooks, which are now outselling iPads in schools. See earlier post titled Should Apple Make a Low End Laptop for Children? First, some advantages of Chromebooks relative to iPads: (1) they're cheaper;

(2) they have an integrated keyboard for buyers who want one;

(3) they're easier for one person or department to maintain, monitor, and keep secure;

(4) they're arguably simpler and easier to use (this is probably a tie, especially now that iPads automatically download app updates; iPads still don't automatically download iOS updates).

When you look at this list, it's easy to see why school administrators and parents of multiple children might like Chromebooks. They're cheap, they have the keyboard needed for lots of schoolwork, and they can be easily managed by just one school administrator or one parent.

I think the Chromebook is both a low end and new market disruption. It's a low end disruption for parents and school administrators who have previously purchased multiple PCs, MacBooks, or iPads for children, but really only need cheap, simple, good enough Chromebooks for these children. It's a new market disruption for parents and school administrators who have never been able to afford multiple PCs, MacBooks, or iPads for children. See Concepts page and discussion of Clayton Christensen.

Apple's opportunity in the parent and school administrator market lies in the Chromebook's disadvantages relative to iPads:

(1) Chromebooks don't run native apps or run offline as well, so they don't perform as many computing jobs-to-be-done.

(2) The Chromebook's integrated keyboard can't be removed, making it a less flexible tool for schoolwork that involves creativity, art, music, etc.

Apple currently seems to be addressing the school market by giving away or subsidizing iPads. For school administrators I don't think this is an adequate solution, given the Chromebook advantages detailed above. I think Apple can address this problem by making an affordable, colorful iPad or MacBook clamshell with an integrated or versatile/removable Apple keyboard, and by targeting this product at parents and school administrators.

I know this will probably never happen, but as a fan of disruption theory I'd sleep better if it did. I think Apple can make the best products, and preserve its reputation for making the best, while making a "public service" computer that targets schools and parents of multiple children. I think that kind of effort would enhance Apple's brand rather than detract from it. It would also help create future Apple users and a whole lot of grateful/loyal parent customers.

The author owns stock shares of Apple.