Microsoft Windows 10 versus Google Chromebooks in the classroom

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lenovo 300e
A
student tries out the Lenovo 300e, a $299 PC for the classroom
that folds into a tablet.

Microsoft

  • While Microsoft dominates the global market for
    classroom PCs, Google Chrome OS rules the roost in the United
    States. 
  • Microsoft is teaming up with partners including Lenovo
    to bring a new line of cheap, sub-$300 PCs to market, to take
    on Google’s low-cost Chromebooks. 
  • Microsoft says that a Windows PC is more capable than a
    Chromebook — Windows 10 lets you run software like Minecraft or
    the full version of Microsoft Office. 
  • Minecraft is getting a new chemistry module for
    students. 

Google has all but captured the market for American
classrooms —
analyst firm Futuresource estimates
that in the third quarter
of 2017, Google’s
low-cost Chromebooks
accounted for 59.8% of the laptop market
for K-12 education, compared to Microsoft Windows devices’ 22.3%
share.

But Microsoft would be quick to remind you that this doesn’t tell
the whole story: That 22.3% share is up from 18.4% the quarter
before, and Microsoft says, up 4% from the same period in 2016.
And, worldwide, Windows still reigns supreme: In that same third
quarter of 2017, Windows accounted for 66.5% of global K-12
classroom PC shipments.

Now, Microsoft is striking back against Google’s domestic
dominance, with a series of announcements designed to make
Windows PCs, Microsoft Office 365, and even the
Minecraft video game sensation
more appealing for education
customers at home and abroad.

Chief among those announcements: New laptops for the classroom,
priced between $189 and $299, manufactured by partners Lenovo and
JP. These laptops will run
Windows 10 S
, a version of the operating system streamlined
for better battery life and performance — at the big
tradeoff of only being able to install apps from the Microsoft
Store.

Microsoft Corporate VP Yusuf Mehdi tells Business Insider that
Microsoft is trying to undercut the price advantage of
Chromebooks, which often sell for under $299. But because these
PCs can run the full versions of Windows software, including
Microsoft Office and Minecraft, they offer “none of the
compromises of a Chromebook.”

Mehdi gives Google credit where he believes credit is due: He
says that Chromebooks didn’t actually steal any marketshare away
from Microsoft, per se; Google just discovered a previously-unmet
demand for low-priced laptops and “made it affordable to have a
computer in the classroom.” And although Apple has had a strong
business in schools, but its products are much more expensive.


minecraft education edition
A
new Chemistry Module for Minecraft: Education Edition will let
students play around with both atoms and chemical compounds, in
the safety of the virtual world.

Microsoft

Now, says Mehdi, the burden is on Microsoft to go out and prove
that a Windows machine is more capable than a Chromebook of the
same price. Many of the low-cost Windows devices announced on
Monday will boast touchscreens and stylus support. Some, will
even be compatible with certain virtual reality headsets, a
feature schools love, Mehdi adds.

Beyond the hardware, Mehdi highlights updates to the software in
the Office 365 for Education suite. For instance, the Microsoft
Teams chat tool is getting an iOS and Android app for education
users. And
Minecraft: Education Edition
, which is already widely used to
teach programming, is getting a chemistry module for students to
perform science experiments in the safety of the virtual
world. 

According to
Futuresource
, the time could be right for Microsoft, too:
Many schools bought their Chromebooks for students in 2014 and
2015, meaning that they could be looking to do a wide-scale
replacement in 2018. That’s an opportunity for Microsoft to
convince them to switch to Windows — an opportunity he says the
company doesn’t intend to squander.

“We finally feel like we have a strong value proposition,” says
Mehdi.

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