Azaleas bloom in front of CF Taylor Alternative School, site of Tim Cook's old high school in Robertsdale, Alabama. (Photo by Jeff Haller for The Washington Post)

For years, every student at Robertsdale High in tiny Robertsdale, Ala., was given their own Apple MacBook to use at school and at home.

It seemed like a fitting nod to Robertsdale High's most famous graduate, Apple chief executive Tim Cook, Class of '78. His journey from small-town Alabama to the helm of the world's most-valuable company was chronicled in a story in today's Post.

[The roots of Tim Cook’s activism lie in rural Alabama]

In fact, Apple MacBooks were given to every student from third through 12th grade in Robertsdale and surrounding Baldwin County. Teachers, too.  Younger students used Apple iPads.

That added up to more than 20,000 Apple devices. It was part of a three-year, $24 million plan that school officials called the "Digital Renaissance."

But school officials decided to stop using Apple devices last month.

Instead, students will be given Lenovo Chromebooks.

The reason was simple: Cost.

Each Chromebooks costs about $200, 75 percent less than a MacBook, according to school board documents.

The school system plans to spend $6.6 million to buy 23,500 N21 Chromebooks to give to students before the start of classes this fall.  That will be paid for by selling the used MacBooks.

In arguing for moving away from Apple products, Homer Coffman, chief technology officer for Baldwin County schools, told the school board that not only are Chromebooks cheaper, but that they are "simpler to maintain and simpler to use." And they're more secure than MacBooks. And teachers and students already use Google education applications, which are compatible with the Google-run Chromebooks.

Coffman also -- perhaps somewhat harshly -- wrote that by moving away from Apple products "Baldwin County will not be using bleeding edge technology with this implementation. It will be using proven technologies."

Apple and Cook had nothing to do with Baldwin County's decision to start or end using Apple products. In recent years, Google has seized a dominant slice of the educational technology market with cheaper prices.


A display featuring the insides of an Apple computer sits on display at Robertsdale High School in Robertsdale, Alabama. Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, grew up in the town. (Photo by Jeff Haller for The Washington Post)