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Microsoft Is Counting on Windows 10 S to Make It Number One in the Classroom

Since their introduction in 2011, Google’s Chromebooks have been the teacher’s pet among the tech world in the classroom, being used in nearly half of K-12 schools. It looks like Microsoft is aiming to change that through a new education-focused operating system.

Microsoft chief executive, Satya Nadella, presented what the company has been working on to a group of tech journalists this week and the presentation leaned more towards students than office workers. The star of the presentation was Windows 10 S, Microsoft’s educational competitor to Chrome OS, the operating system that powers Google's Chromebooks.

A school-focused and stripped-down version of Windows 10, Windows 10 S users will only be able to install programs from the Windows store and its Office suite to prevent students or staff from downloading potentially harmful files. (Something that’s an almost constant fear for IT workers who must handle school laptops.)

That’s only one aspect of Windows 10 S’ flashy appeal for educators. Log-on and boot-up time have been slimmed down and 10 S will allow an extended battery life that outdoes most laptops in its price range. Its aggressive app management system helps to allow this while at the same time extending its use among the potentially hundreds of kids who could be using it.

Microsoft is most certainly hoping this will help give them some edge to compete with Chromebook’s closed-off browser-based operating system and quick login capabilities. It never hurts to jump on the popularity bandwagon when trying to ramp up excitement for a new product and Microsoft is doing just that with a free one-year subscription to Minecraft: Education Edition. Only time will tell if the game is destined to become the Oregon Trail for a new generation of students, but it’s sure to at least initially perk kids’ interest.

Additional Microsoft learning tools aimed at helping children with dyslexia and other reading difficulties round out the package with a starting price of $189. For a company that only makes up around 22 percent of the mobile device market in K-12 schools -- Apple's iOS and MacOS make up 19 percent -- it won’t be an easy task of knocking Google’s Chrome OS out of the top spot.

While Mac and Windows laptops are dominant on college campuses, the low cost and easy to manage aspect of the Chromebook has helped make it a hit in K-12 schools. They don’t require fast chips or lots of storage because most of that is taken care of by Google’s remote servers -- provided there’s a decent wifi signal.

That limited storage capability and low number of available apps might not have made the Chromebook popular for a lot of people, but worked well for elementary and middle school students. Many schools were able to get the Chromebooks for $200 or less, cutting out the need to spend money on pricer iPads. “It allows us to put more devices in students’ hands,” Aaron Slutsky, chief technology officer for McDowell County Schools in North Carolina told the Associated Press.

As New York Magazine writer, Jake Swearingen pointed out, it’s almost crucial that Microsoft elevates its presence in the classroom if it hopes to continue to stay afloat and be a serious competitor in the market. The last thing it wants is an entire crop of future office workers who spent 12 years of their life working with Chrome OS saying “Windows whaa??”


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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