The biggest knock on the Chromebook for solution providers also is one of the biggest draws for education customers: price. At an average selling price of around $300, the margins on the devices are quite low. But solution providers say Chromebooks open up more lucrative opportunities around managed services and network infrastructure. For example, Keizer said BCT is on-site at the White Pine County school district twice a week to not only manage the fleet of Chromebooks, but also to help deliver customized educational content for individual classrooms.
"There's a lot more opportunity around Chromebooks than just the device delivery. That's just a small part of it," Keizer said.
Google is adding to the Chrome ecosystem for K-12, too; Synnex announced last week that it's now offering Google Play for Education, a specialized version of the Google Play store for Android tablets with thousands of teacher-approved apps, digital textbooks and video content.
Ken Bowers, senior account manager at Sunnytech, a Woburn, Mass.-based solution provider, attended the Chromebook training session at Synnex's Red, White & You conference and said Sunnytech, which predominantly focuses on the commercial market, is moving into the K-12 space. "We're starting to get into the education market, and we're beginning to see demand for Chromebooks," Bowers said. "The key is the wireless infrastructure for these schools. If the Internet backbone isn't up to par, then Chromebooks aren't going to work. But that's an opportunity too because VARs can go in and make money off new wireless solutions."
To that end, Synnex introduced last week "Chrome Kits" for its reseller customers, which feature not only several different Chromebook models but also wireless products from Ruckus Wireless. In addition, Google's Sheth said improving wireless and Internet connectivity in schools is a major focus for Google's Chromebook Initiative, and that the company hopes to drive more network infrastructure improvements through reseller partners.
Synnex, meanwhile, also is emphasizing the rising investments in K-12 education. Franklin said the market is flourishing right now, thanks to a number of factors. "State budgets are healthy right now," he said. "They're the best they've been since before the recession, and that's driving a lot of IT spending on education. Franklin also said Common Core adoption is also helping to drive Chromebook sales; the Common Core standards have strict requirements for systems and devices and Chromebooks fit those requirements. But the biggest factor, Franklin said, is a new sense of urgency to improvement the quality of public education. "We're falling behind in education," he said, "and that's got everyone focused on fixing the problem."
Gary Bellanti, president of Memphis-based solution provider Open Road Technologies, said his company is currently working with Synnex to become authorized for the Chrome Management Console and sees major potential in the education market. "I think Synnex and Google have put together a pretty good program to get VARs authorized and up to speed on the opportunity around Chromebooks," Bellanti said. "We're seeing a lot of money at the state and local government levels being invested in education right now, and we're very interested in moving further into that space."
PUBLISHED APRIL 25, 2014