Tablets: Cheaper isn’t Less Expensive

Scott Francis
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Fred Wilson of AVC posits:

But clearly most folks like me use the iPad. The people who are buying the cheap Androids are using it for something very different.

But how long will that last? I was at a school the other day. The school had laptop carts full of macbooks and the Principal was talking about getting iPad Minis for the kids. I suggested laptop carts of Chromebooks and Nexus tablets instead. It will save the school hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Education, Healthcare, etc, etc. These industries need commodity mobile devices but in volume price matters a lot. I think cheap Android tablets have a lot of room to grow and the use cases will widen and this chart will change. At least that’s my bet.

How long can it last?  Pretty much forever.  Look at Linux versus Macbooks.  People use Linux differently.  From day one, and still today, 20+ years later (for our purposes, I think 20 years qualifies as “pretty much forever”).  I expect the same will be true between Android tablets and iPads.

Being close to the decision process for buying school equipment for a local school in Austin, I have to say that Fred is making a classic mistake.  He is assuming that the lower price of Chromebooks and Nexus tablets, compared to the equivalent Apple devices, will be money saved by the schools. And he assumes that the value they provide to children is either equal or better for Chromebooks and Nexus tablets.

There’s very good historical data for how long Apple devices last.  My 2007 Macbook Pro is still getting heavy use at our house, for example.  Our original iPad, an iPad 2, and an iPad3 are all surviving heavy daily use from the parents and the kids.  But don’t take my word for it. Or any other Mac users. Just look at hard facts: resale value.  Macs and iPads and iPhones have much higher residual values (as a percentage of original price) – because they last longer, and the market recognizes that.

Certain things are just trivial with Apple devices that users of other operating systems forget.  Printer drivers.  Most Mac users don’t even know what a hassle printer drivers are on Windows machines.  The level of technical expertise required to manage Macs and iPads is manageable and low.  Finding experts in Chromebooks?  Android tablets?  Harder to come by.  And the level of technical expertise needs to be higher. So when you factor in the extra cost of IT support, your savings go away… and the savings are “one-time” savings, not recurring savings, but the expenses are recurring.

When you look at the kind of content creation kids are going to engage in with laptops and iPads, how can you not pick the devices that:

  • have the earliest access to new artistic apps (and arguably, access to more artistic apps, like Paper)
  • are the easiest for students to write and deploy their own apps to

The depth and quality of educational apps for Macs and iPads is astonishing.  The savings in IT management costs are equally astonishing.  I don’t want second best for my kids, or other people’s kids. And cheaper isn’t always less expensive.

 

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