Earlier this month, at the company’s EDU event, Microsoft revealed they are returning to the world of education in a big way. Introducing new equipment, apps and pedagogical innovation that could give Google a run for the top spot, competing on all levels — including cost.
Currently, Google is dominating classroom technology with 30 million students in the US using their education apps. Furthermore, Chromebooks are the most used device in American schools. Google’s rise to the top was swift, but not without speed bumps. Often forgoing traditional advertising methods, Google focused on winning teachers directly rather than going through the school districts, which has caused some problems. There have also been questions raised about how Google will use information about the students: will they use the collected data to better market to students as they become consumers? Despite the hiccups along the way, Google has remained a steadfast education partner for the past decade, bringing technological advancements into the classroom that other companies weren’t offering.
Google has competition.
Microsoft introduced its new Surface Laptop that competes head-to-head with the MacBook Air. The Surface Laptop offers a longer battery life, touchscreen technology, fast load time and weighs less than the MacBook Air. The price at more than $900 is comparable to the MacBook Air — which far exceeds that of the Chromebook. However, Microsoft’s partner devices, such as HP or Acer, provide schools more affordable options for the same technology. With the cost of those devices ranging from $189-$299, Microsoft takes direct aim at Google’s large market.
Devices will come with Windows 10 S, which was designed specifically for teachers and students. Focusing on educational needs, Microsoft developed an operating system that offers advanced security, safety and speed. Applications in Windows 10 S must be downloaded through the Windows Store. ensuring only verified products are installed, adding a level of protection to the devices. Windows 10 S can be switched to Windows 10 Pro for an additional fee, allowing for open installation, but devices cannot return to 10 S once the change has been made. Without the use of outside apps, malware and PC slowdowns will be avoided.
What’s on the Surface Laptop?
Google Chrome is not an available app in the Windows Store. Instead, Microsoft’s browser of choice is Edge. With the new Tab Preview Bar in Edge, students can use Windows Ink to write and save notes directly on a website. Windows Ink is a program that sets out to make the digital pen as easy to use as a regular pen and paper.
“We built Windows Ink with two key principles in mind: (1) to make all ink experiences incredibly easy to access so our customers feel confident when they pick up their pens, and (2) give people a reason to pick up a digital pen in the first place AND deliver powerful experiences that make our customers continue to want to use that pen in Windows every day,” wrote Li-Chen Miller, group program manager for the Windows Ink team.
In addition to Microsoft Edge and Windows Ink, the Surface Laptop offers:
- Microsoft’s Intune for Education — a cloud-based application and device management service in a shared learning environment, which has been simplified.
- 365—Classroom Experience in Microsoft Teams — a one-stop classroom hub for teachers. They can: manage their workflow; create classes and automatically populate them with student rosters; share files and teaching materials; make class announcements; divide the class into groups for projects and monitor progress; distribute, grade and collect tests and assignments; and more.
- Minecraft: Code Builder — a fun learn-to-code program designed to get students interested in developing the skill
All of this coupled with their advancements in virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and 3D art places Microsoft on the cutting edge of bringing the latest technology into the classroom.
Surface Laptop vs. Chromebook
- Connectivity — Chromebook usage is internet dependent. The Surface Laptop has more memory and like a traditional PC operating system downloads apps directly onto the device rather than an internet based cloud
- Options — Both systems limit browser options to one
- Apps — The devices are comparable, but Chromebooks have slowly been adopting the ability to run Android apps which might give them the competitive advantage in the number of available applications
Which product will end up being better? Microsoft has come out of the gate with a solid product that addresses some of the issues with the current devices used in classrooms, but whether or not it proves to be the best, only time will tell.