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Google Chromebooks overtake Apple iPads in education sales for first time, report says

After years of holding a commanding lead in the U.S. education market, Apple's iPad was dethroned by Google's Chromebook over the third quarter of 2014, recent statistics show.

Citing fresh findings from market research firm IDC, the Financial Times reports Chromebook shipments reached 715,500 units in the quarter ending September, outpacing Apple's 702,000 iPads. Apple still leads educational tablet sales by a wide margin.

"Chromebooks are really gaining traction," said IDC analyst Rajani Singh. "The growth of Chromebook is a major concern for Apple's iPad."

According to IDC, Chromebooks now account for more than a quarter of America's lucrative education market, quite the achievement for a platform first launched in 2012. Aside Google's own high-end Chromebook Pixel offering, third-party manufacturers Samsung, HP, Dell and Acer take care of hardware, allowing for cost-effective machines starting at only $199, lower than even a last-generation iPad Air with educational discount.

Signs of a shift toward cheap, cloud-based Chromebooks were first reported in August when notable educational institutions voiced concern with iPad implementations. Among teachers' critiques of Apple's slate was its non-traditional form factor, specifically a lack of physical keyboard that made it more of a "fun" device than a productivity tool.

"As the average age of the student grows the need for a keyboard becomes very important," Singh said.

In June, the Los Angeles United School District, which previously sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into an iPad-powered curriculum, announced a shift away from Apple and towards devices running Microsoft Windows or Google's Chrome OS.

LAUSD teachers also cited the iPad's keyboard-less form factor as a hinderance to learning, as well as issues regarding content control and general device provisioning.

While Chromebooks trumped iPad in quarter three, Apple still holds the lead in education when counting OS X devices, IDC said.