Apple Exec Disparages Schools That Can Only Afford Chromebooks

Posted on November 13, 2019 by Mehedi Hassan in Apple, Hardware, Chromebook, iPadOS with 65 Comments

Apple’s main competition in the education market is, of course, Google’s Chromebooks. In a recent interview with CNET, Apple’s SVP and Chief of Marketing Phil Schiller talked a little bit about Chromebooks, and it is not pretty.

When asked about Chromebooks popularity in the education market as compared to Apple’s MacBooks, Schiller claimed that the iPad is the “ultimate tool” for a child to learn on. He then went on to say how the students who are more engaged in school tend to get better results than those who aren’t engaged in classrooms.

“You need to have these cutting-edge learning tools to help kids really achieve their best results,” said Schiller.

Schiller then went on to claim that Chromebooks don’t offer cutting-edge learning tools, and the only reason they have gotten into the classroom is because they are “cheap testing tools”. He then made a really bold claim, stating that kids with Chromebooks aren’t going to succeed, and they are only optimal for testing kids.

And frankly, that is incredibly absurd. Schiller is essentially saying that schools who can’t afford to buy iPads are going to have less engaged kids, and thus, poorer results. That is obviously not the case and considering the fact that most schools can barely afford to purchase supplies for kids, it’s insensitive to for a senior Apple executive to make such a claim.

Following his interview with CNET, there’s been a lot of criticism about Schiller’s claims. Schiller then took to Twitter to clarify his statements, and it doesn’t really make his original statements any better:

Considering that today was supposed to be about Apple’s brand new MacBook Pro, Schiller has directed a significant amount of attention away from that product announcement.

Tagged with ,

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (65)

65 responses to “Apple Exec Disparages Schools That Can Only Afford Chromebooks”

  1. dano

    Phil Schiller should resign he is an embarrassment. I know many children that have thrived and done great with chromebooks.

  2. skborders

    Success is more often the result of self motivation to learn and parental engagement than the tools you have to learn with.

  3. hellcatm

    Of course they did. They even said macs don't get viruses. apple lying, what a shock. Now Microsoft should say they're better for education than apple which would be true.

    • Jeffsters

      In reply to HellcatM:

      Umm...unless something has changed recently there has never been an in the wild virus in the history of Mac OS X. Perhaps you mean a Trojan or other non-virus malware?

  4. kjb434

    Looking up of the definition of "smug bastard" or "jerk" would show a picture of Phil Schiller.

  5. anoldamigauser

    In reply to BlackForestHam:

    Ummm, actually, he did.

  6. sandy

    In reply to BlackForestHam:

    Care to back up your defamatory smear with some proof of your outlandish claim that he didn't say that?


  7. dontbeevil

    Lol not only they said that, but also they promote the use of an iPad and not a pc

  8. John Craig

    The guy is always doing this sort of thing. I think it's part of his overall marketing strategy. He's a deeply unpleasant character.

    Maybe Google should pull a few of it's core services from Apple....see how Schiller responds to a world where iPhone users can't access Google maps, Gmail and YouTube

  9. wright_is

    And a recent study has shown that pupils learn more and retain more when learning from books and not from a screen...

    But buying cheap Chromebooks, as opposed to iPads or Macs, means that they have more funding to spend where it really matters.

  10. codymesh

    imagine if Microsoft ever said such a thing lol.

  11. Vladimir Carli

    somebody should ask him what is their profit margin on each iPad sold to a school and why they don't reduce it to make them affordable.

  12. doon

    As someone who was an Apple fanboy for 20 years (before I'd finally had enough) Mr. Schiller's remarks seem just a teeny bit desperate. What it hides IMHO is the real concern, and the deep insecurity, that Apple has over Google and its' products.

    The eco-system of Google's software and hardware is simple, clean, economical and can be secured end-to-end. It has tons of easily available storage (at a pittance), email, an office suite that can share access, and a world of content through YouTube and it's browser, which many (67% market share) already use. And it's all made to work together in a way that is the envy of the segment. They share their API with devs; e.g.-how many businesses have mashed up their work successfully with Google Maps?

    This is all accessible to anyone with a chomebook. A reasonably priced Chromebook. Some years ago, I bought an iMac and was charged $600 for two sticks of 2G Ram. Today I saw what they are charging for a laptop. *sigh* Does Apple do some things better? You bet, but it will cost you, and in some cases more than most can afford. (Remember when Steve Jobs put Macintoshs in schools?) No one can dismiss Apple's history or their ability to innovate but their window for selling high-priced hardware is closing.

    And Phil sees it.

    • wright_is

      In reply to doon:

      The only thing that Apple can offer is privacy. But for a cash-strapped school, that is probably less of a concern - and Google says that it doesn't do as much data mining on pupil and student accounts as it does on normal accounts...

      That said, over here most schools still use pen and paper for most classes, judging by what I saw when travelling by train to work every day last year. The pupils had folders with paper and text books and were actually, you know, writing!

  13. melinau

    In UK most schools are currently unable to distribute either gadget very widely owing to budgetary constraints. Poor parents can't generally afford any kind of Gadget.

    This renders this debate mostly moot in UK, however in general terms the arrogance of Mr Schiller is pretty staggering, and indicates the extent to which the rot has set-in at Apple.

    There's no such thing as a free lunch, be it a curled-up sandwich, or a generous banquet. Consequently I try to avoid Google's ecosystem where possible, as I know they are constantly spying on me. Therefore I'm not happy about their access to young people's data as I don't believe a word of their claims about not collectingusing it. Recent scandals regarding Health Data in both UK & USA merely confirm these suspicions. While Apple is making a big 'Privacy' play, I'm not that convinced that they are any less inquisitive and acquisitive, they merely get caught less frequently!

    If I were a Headteacher or Principal I should have seriously to consider using Chromebooks over iPads simply on the basis of costs to benefit. I fully understand that you can't put the Genie back in the bottle, and that 'Privacy' in the old sense is gone forever. Nonetheless, what is really needed is for there to be proper regulation of Tech companies like Google, Apple & MS (and all the others) to control their invasive activities. This should be a high priority in Health & Education where Google uses its 'cheapness' and Apple its 'Privacy' as bait..

  14. jamJAR

    If a Chromebook is a cheap testing tool, then an iPad is an expensive testing tool?

  15. Daekar

    I don't really care if it was insensitive, I think whether or not the facts hurt someone's feelings is completely irrelevant. People really need to get over that crap.

    What bothers me is that the claim is not logical. While you might not be able to run industry-standard applications on a Chromebook, you can certainly tap out a report or do research. Is Google Sheets as good as Excel? Well no, not even close... but most folks barely know how to use any spreadsheet program so they rarely notice.

    What I find very funny is that he's comparing Chromebooks to iPads and claiming they're lesser, as if iPads were somehow magically running a full-function OS now with meaningful multitasking.

  16. rm

    He comes across as someone that only knows his product and knows nothing about selling his product to his target demographic; public schools that are scraping to get by with no funding for supplies, teachers that more and more are barely qualified to teach, and substitute teachers that are not qualified to teach and are just baby sitters for the day while the class watches a movie. But, yea, bring on those expensive iPads, that will give the kids what they need to be successful!

    He came across as insensitive, but what he really is someone desperate to sell a product that is a hard sell. And actually probably should not be sold to most schools that are being financially responsible and doing what they can for the kids.

  17. jwpear

    This definitely comes across as an act of desperation from Apple.

    We're in a fairly middle class area in our neck of the woods. Our school district uses iPads and Chromebooks. They first started with iPads, giving them to the high and middle school students. That experiment came to an end within a couple of years. Students and teachers hated them and had pretty much stopped using them shortly after getting them . They were too small (this was before the larger iPad Pro), tiny keyboards were not productive or easy to use, and the apps didn't suit their needs. The iPads got pushed down to the elementary schools. I think they work better in the elementary schools because the touch interface works better for the target user. The district transitioned to distributing Chromebooks to the high school students followed by the middle schools a year or two later.

    Judging from my very limited sampling--my kids and some of their friends--the Chromebooks aren't loved by students or teachers, but they're more useful to them than the iPads were. They have bigger screens and bigger keyboards which better suit what they use them for--research on the web, writing papers, creating presentations, collaborating on projects with Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides (sometimes Prezi). They're big time users of the collaboration capabilities. And they do take some tests on the Chromebooks.

    My non-technical daughter prefers a Chromebook over a PC because, in her words "it just works." She had a Yoga in middle school and quickly grew frustrated with Windows slowness and reliability issues. By the way, while Google is winning in schools, I don't think many kids come away with the desire to buy their own Chromebook. They see it purely as a very limited tool for school. My daughter wants a MacBook when she heads off for college next year. My son wants a Windows laptop (mostly for gaming).

    In our district, Google classroom is used heavily. This is how assignments and other information about class activities are distributed. Google has done a good job with this. It makes Chromebook a complete solution for their needs.

    Apple clearly can't compete with the Chromebooks at the hardware level and they're trying to take shots at Chromebooks. MacBooks or the larger iPad Pros are what most kids need from middle school onward, but Apple can't price them competitively. And they refuse to add mouse support to iOS, which would increase the usefulness of iPad as a laptop replacement. My perception is that they have also failed to build the software that schools and students can use for day to day work.

    • Vladimir Carli

      In reply to jwpear:

      I share your point of view. Kids don’t like chromebooks because they can’t do much more than studying with them. However they are actually useful and not only for tests. Every kid I know wants to have a MacBook or a Windows computer for gaming

  18. ahuli

    Is this guy is so out of touch with reality that he doesn't realize a lot of schools can't afford iPads and MacBooks?

  19. BlackForestHam

    That’s not what he said. That’s how you choose to spin what he said, Mehedi. Because your widdle feelings were hurt! “This is so insensitive... Having a $49/year drawing app doesn't make iPads special.“


    And I’ll keep posting this every time you delete it. #fakenews

  20. Awhispersecho

    This guy must have been taught on a Chromebook. Seriously, what a POS. Seems to be a pattern with those within Apple. And frankly, whether it's a Chromebook or an iPad, it's not nearly enough to fix how horrible public schools are.

  21. LocalPCGuy

    The school districts near me switched to Chromebooks for the ease of support and excellent tracking of when homework is uploaded. When a Chromebook is dropped, someone is out $150. The It person pulls one off the shelf, the student logs into it and all their stuff reappears on the new device with in minutes, since it's stored in Google's cloud. Apple trying to disparage such an efficient system is silly.

  22. Greg Green

    In reply to dontbeevil:

    But kids aren’t in the real world doing real stuff. That’s why it’s so easy for them to get buy with chrome books. And the IT management is so much easier than Windows or iOS.

  23. Greg Green

    We’re only 6 years past the LA Schools iPad US$1.3Billion debacle. From an old wired article:

    ”...the district sent a letter to Apple seeking a refund, citing crippling technical issues with the Pearson platform and incomplete curriculum that made it nearly impossible for teachers to teach....

    If one of the country’s largest school districts, one of the world’s largest tech companies, and one of the most established brands in education can’t make it work, can anyone?“

    And the students hacked through the iOS security in the first week.

    The LA Schools Superintendent’s use of apple products made that school district poorer. Maybe Schill forgot about this.

  24. jimchamplin

    This isn’t the first time Schiller has said something stupid and then had to try to walk it back.

    May I remind you of, “Can’t innovate, my ass!” After which they were stuck with a white elephant Mac Pro for the better part of a decade?

  25. Andi

    Besides being a low blow he is actually wrong. The ipad is viewed as a toy and its main use is content consumption. A chromebook is miles better for the purpose of distraction-less work and light years ahead in multi-device management. Also just as sandboxed and secure as ios, plus all chromebooks come with great keyboards and you don't need flaky and expensive ipad accessories.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to Andi:

      Learning is content consumption.

    • Stooks

      In reply to Andi:


      The iPad has hundreds of educational apps, really good educational apps. My daughters university gives out iPad Pro's for their nursing program she is in, because of all of the medical education apps written specifically for the iPad. She was just showing me this app that shows all of the muscles in the body and you touch them and there is animation and such for each muscle. Another one for all of the bones in the body.

      It can run all the G-Suite or Office 365 apps. There are over a million apps for the iPad. It can be a tablet, with a great pen, or a like a laptop with the keyboard, has great battery life, massive 3rd party support (cases, accessories, etc) and yes it makes for a great consumption device as well. Apple provides free management tools and every MDM software maker supports them as well. We use InTune to manage our corporate iOS devices.

      If Apple every comes out with real mouse support, the iPad is going to kill off laptop sales for quite a few people.

      Chromebooks, the ones I have used are junk. They are cheap and super easy to maintain since they are a basically a web browser, and that is why public schools in the US buy them. Using Chromebooks they can basically ditch their IT staff, or reduce the head count and pick some un-lucky teacher and give them Chromebook management as an additional task.

      • anoldamigauser

        In reply to Stooks:

        They use iPads in medicine for two reasons. They are not cost constrained, and they need mobile devices.

        That is not the case in K12. Are you going to ask the local school board to increase your taxes so they can provide the students with iPads, Apple Pencils, keyboards, and Otterbox cases (since kids are kind of tough on gear) rather than Chromebooks? FWIW, public school districts do not usually have much in the way of IT staff; again, because they typically do not have the budget.

      • ghostrider

        In reply to Stooks:

        Disagree totally. The iPad is a toy - fragile and easily broken. Apple are trying to re-position it as a laptop alternative, but it's not. Chromebooks are way more suited to schools, and there are some very, very good ones (look at the new Samsung Chromebook 4/4+!). A proper clamshell for protection, proper keyboard, full device management and cost effective. For most things these days, you also don't need much more than a browser.

      • Jeffsters

        In reply to Stooks:

        You gotta love the anti-Apple Cabal downvoting you for just providing some an actual use case than opinion.

  26. ronh

    Another reason I don't purchase product from Apple

  27. Skolvikings

    I use an iPhone. I'm like some Apple products and am willing to pay a premium for the experience. That said, my kids' school district uses Chromebooks. It's so helpful that I purchased one for home for them to do homework at night on. They seem to be doing very well, thank you very much.

  28. lvthunder

    Sounds like cherry picked statements to me. I would like to see the full context these statements were made in. I do agree though that schools these days are all about the test and that's not the best thing for the students.

    • anoldamigauser

      In reply to lvthunder:

      • lvthunder

        In reply to AnOldAmigaUser:

        Well at least the appleinsider article actually linked to the article with his complete statement. Like I suspected there are two ways you can read the comment. The first is the way it is presented here in that he says you won't succeed if you use a Chromebook. The other way to read it is you won't succeed if all you want to do is test kids. Here is what he actually said in context.

        You talked about MacBook as popular with college students. But Chromebooks have grown in the education market. What's your perspective on that?

        In the K-12 market, particularly for the lower grades -- K through six to nine -- iPad is doing really well. We think it is the ultimate tool for a child to learn on.

        We're really investing a lot into continuing to grow, both from the enterprise side with manageability and tools to helping schools from a learning experience. Everything from our Everyone Can Code curriculum that has our Swift Playgrounds app to help children at a very young age learn how to understand software and create opportunities for kids to become developers, all the way to augmented reality.

        We did a study, many many years ago in education, about the importance and the role of technology in the classroom, how can it help with the education process. The result of this education research we did was that the students who succeed are the ones who are most engaged, which is really simple. 

        Kids who are really into learning and want to learn will have better success. It's not hard to understand why kids aren't engaged in a classroom without applying technology in a way that inspires them. You need to have these cutting-edge learning tools to help kids really achieve their best results.

        Yet Chromebooks don't do that. Chromebooks have gotten to the classroom because, frankly, they're cheap testing tools for required testing. If all you want to do is test kids, well, maybe a cheap notebook will do that. But they're not going to succeed.

        • Vladimir Carli

          In reply to lvthunder:

          you are completely missing the point. The problem of the statements is not related to technology. The problem is that he is talking about his own financial interest and he wants to make people believe that he has kids in his mind. He is exclusively concerned about the price of apple stocks. That's fine of course but the hypocrisy is almost unbelievable.

          Going back to the technology, the problem is not only the hardware but services that go with it. The google suite of apps (docs, sheets, slides) is amazing for education and collaboration. The apple equivalent products suck and that makes iPads a waste, even if technologically superior

          • lvthunder

            In reply to Vladimir:

            I think you are misreading his statement that everyone is upset about. The way I read it is kids are not going to succeed if all the schools care about is how they score on the test.

            He is Apple's head of marketing. Of course he's going to say his products are the best. He probably believes it too. That's his job.

            Which is better for learning is a different issue and I would say it depends on what you are learning as to which is best.

  29. sno_wacko

    I was reading pro/con comments about this in another forum and I think Schiller and a lot of anti-Chromebook people miss a significant point of iOS vs Chrome OS: Easy multi-user access. You can't do it on an iPad. At all. A Chromebook is an excellent tool to let kids use for all their schoolwork and keep it separated. I don't see Apple offering Macbooks in bulk to schools at $200 each.

  30. glenn8878

    Funny since both Chromebooks and iPads are less open than Windows.

  31. Winner

    Sounds like Apple is butt hurt that they are losing their expensive sales to Chromebooks.

  32. F4IL

    Schiller than shill.

  33. Travis

    Teachers are the ones who will help a child to succeed by teaching in an engaging way. It has nothing to do with what device is used.

  34. Sykeward

    As a parent of four kids in elementary school and as someone who actually prefers to use Apple products, I find Mr. Schiller's comments to be offensive and deeply out of touch.

    I can also say first-hand, from running ChromiumOS on one of those ancient 2GB RAM/32GB MMC HP Stream laptops, that ChromeOS is an excellent educational platform and that my own children have been *very* successful learning on it. I guess when your exposure to the public school system consists solely of driving through wealthy school districts where most young families were priced out long ago, you can be a little...detached.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to Sykeward:

      Did you read his actual comment or the snippets of it that is being reported?

      • Sykeward

        In reply to lvthunder:

        I was careful to read the entire interview. The actual quote:

        Chromebooks have gotten to the classroom because, frankly, they’re cheap testing tools for required testing. If all you want to do is test kids, well, maybe a cheap notebook will do that. But they’re not going to succeed.”

        That statement seems pretty self-explanatory to me.

        • lvthunder

          In reply to Sykeward:

          So what's offensive and out of touch of saying that if all the school wants to do is test kids then they are not going to succeed? I happen to agree with him.

          • Sykeward

            In reply to lvthunder:

            The implication is that all that Chromebooks are good for is "testing kids", so a school system that opts for them over iPads/Macbooks is setting kids up to fail. I happen to agree with you any school that teaches to the tests is failing its students. I just don't agree that Chromebooks/iPads are the dividing line between success and failure, which was the point of Mr. Schiller's comments.

  35. nbplopes

    There is. a serious mental health problem in Apple dome.

  36. bob_shutts

    Microsoft apparently agrees with Schiller. Chromebook kids banned from Minecraft Hour of Code. Not considered a "quality computer."