Window 10 S and Surface Laptop Look to Take on Chromebooks in Education

As of Tuesday morning, May 2nd, there's a new kid in town in the world of devices and operating systems geared at the K-12 education market - Windows 10 S and the Microsoft Surface Laptop. Although the details are still emerging, it looks like Microsoft is taking a two-pronged approach to the education market (both in the U.S. as well as internationally):

  1. The Surface Laptop is a high-end device with long battery life and a powerful processor to compete against higher-end devices like Apple's MacBook Air; and,
  2. Windows 10 S is modified version of Windows 10 that only runs apps installed from the Windows Store.

Presumably, the Surface Laptop will be of interest to schools with larger budgets as well as a device that school leaders - from teachers, to principals, to administrators - will be interested in. It will also be interesting to see if other device manufacturers treat the Surface Laptop as a sort of "reference device" to develop their own offerings. For instance the Lenovo Ideapad Miix is their interpretation of the Surface Pro 2-in-1. Aside from these sorts of clones, the Surface Laptop will undoubtedly provide inspiration to some lower-cost Windows devices that will be able to compete more directly with sub-$400 Chromebooks.

More interesting will be the release of the Windows 10 S operating system. Long-time readers of the K-12 Blueprint will recall Microsoft's less-than-stellar release of Windows RT a few years ago that never managed to catch on with users. Windows 10 S, in brief, is a full version of Windows that "locks down" available apps to just those available on the Windows Store. So, for most users, they'll be able to use the majority of their apps - and Microsoft has promised in-store versions of Office along with Office365 already available online. Moreover, if users can't find what they need in the store, they can upgrade to a full version of Windows 10 for around $50.

The more interesting question will be how other device manufacturers make use of Windows 10 S and whether it really will work for students. Microsoft has made a lot of announcements this year around InTune for Education as well as cloud integration with Azure-based services (like Azure Active Directory) so it remains to be seem how well all of these elements will play together. The announcement from Microsoft emphasized how designed the Surface Laptop (and all the Surface-branded products) is in terms of things like the dial integration. But, ultimately, for this operating system to really compete with Chrome OS it will need to solve the device and user management issues that the Google Management Console already has. 

So, on the surface (sorry, couldn't resist), this looks like an impressive announcement from Microsoft but the devil will be in the details: cost of Chromebook competitive devices, manageability, and access to software. 

Time will tell.

* Image courtesy of Windows Central

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