From a great piece by Natasha Singer in the New York Times:
In 2016, Chromebooks accounted for 58 percent of mobile devices shipped to primary and secondary schools in the United States, up from less than 1 percent in 2012, according to Futuresource Consulting, the research firm. Google does not make money directly from Chromebooks — which are manufactured by Samsung, Acer and other companies — but it does charge school districts a management service fee of $30 per device. Chicago Public Schools has spent about $33.5 million on 134,000 Chromebooks.
This kind of growth in any market is staggering, but what Google is doing here seems brilliant on multiple levels. By dominating the education market Google is getting their core apps: email, docs, and search, into the hands of millions of potential users. For a lot children, Google is the portal in which they learn and work.
This isn't a play by Google to sell Chromebooks, which tend to be low quality laptops with incredibly slim margins. This is a hearts and minds initiative to get millions of people using Google services when they move on to their own laptops, cellphones and other devices. Microsoft and Apple are much more reliant on selling hardware and the attached first part software for their bottom line, the Chromebook is just a trojan horse to get their services into kids homes, and its working:
Today, about 15 million primary- and secondary-school students in the United States use Classroom, Google said.