Google Play for Education is the result of over 5 months of beta testing. It's designed to make it easier for teachers to manage the Android tablets used by students. It offers teacher-approved apps for students, educational videos, and ebooks for those in grades K-12. Educators can search for content by category or by age/grade level, and then buy the content in bulk via credit card or with a purchase order.
This app store is going to come bundled with a special Nexus 7 model. The tablet costs $229, and there is an additional $30 for device management software and the Google Play for Education store. Google also plans to add the 10" Asus Transformer Pad and the HP Slate 8 Pro to this program sometime next year.
According to Google, Google Play for Education has been in beta testing across 50 schools for the past five months. Over 30 million people are already using it, and Google has used their feedback to refine the user experience.
As I reported at the beginning of the post, Google has been renting Chromebooks to schools since 2011. I'm not aware of a similar program for that system, though I have found mentions of device and app management features.
Do you know who does have a program similar to Google Play for Education? Amazon. In October 2012 Amazon unveiled Whispercast, a tool for managing content, Kindles, and Kindle Fires. There are also some similarities between GP4E and Amplify, the tablet-based educational platform that Newscorp launched earlier this year, though that is more of a package solution than simply a platform. And as a reader just reminded me, B&N has a similar program.