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MICROSOFT’S RE-ENTRY INTO ACADEMIA

By Michael Castelluccio
June 2, 2017
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06_2017_tech_forum

I remember the first Microsoft invasion of the American classroom. I was managing two computer labs in a secondary school. The computers were all Apple IIs, and the peripherals were all Apple products. Then, in a little more than a year, Wintel took over. IBM PCs running free Windows had replaced almost all the Apples in our labs and throughout the district.

 

And now almost three decades later, Microsoft is readying a second assault, only this time, Google’s Chromebooks and Apple tablets are the entrenched targets. The PCs are still there, but many are now running Google’s Chrome operating system.

 

At the #MicrosoftEDU press event in early May 2017 in New York City, it was clear that Microsoft is making an all-out effort to recapture what it had lost, including hardware and software. Once again at the very center of the operations is a new operating system: Windows 10 S.

 

WINDOWS 10 S

 

Microsoft designed its Windows 10 operating system to work on everything digital, including PCs, tablets, smartphones, gaming rigs, and even IoT (Internet of Things) devices like security cameras and smart speaker assistants. That desire to cover the universe has now engendered a classroom Windows 10. There’s no explanation what the “S” stands for. Perhaps it’s “School,” but others say it might as well be “Store” as in Windows Store, the only place where you can get applications for the OS.

 

Microsoft 10 S is streamlined to make it easier to manage and less susceptible to security and performance problems. That’s ideal for the classroom, but it comes at a price. Essentially, 10 S is Windows 10 Pro with locked-down configurations. It will only run the apps that are preloaded on it or those that are available through the Windows Store. Your box versions of Photoshop or Dreamweaver won’t work on it. Third-party developers can convert their programs to the Universal Windows Platform and make them available at the Windows Store. So far, Slack and Evernote are there, but essentials like Office 365 or Spotify are absent (both are expected later this summer). Also, you’re locked into Microsoft’s Edge browser, which is set as the default, and Bing is triggered for address bar and taskbar searches. You can still go to Google.com or Yahoo.com for their search engines or browsers, but that will add keystrokes. To use the rest of your software library, you must upgrade 10 S to an unlocked Windows 10 Pro, which will cost you $49.

 

WINDOWS 10 S PCs

 

A second on-ramp for Microsoft’s re-entry is a new line of inexpensive laptops designed for 10 S and the challenges of the knock-around school environment. Microsoft has partnered with seven manufacturers for notebooks that will compete with the Google Chromebooks. Toshiba, Samsung, HP, Fujitsu, Asus, Acer, and Dell all have laptops or 2-in-1s that are available now or soon will be, starting at $189.

 

One of the more notable announcements at #MicrosoftEDU was a new Microsoft Surface laptop. Aimed at college students, the base price for this impressive convertible is $999, with a top-end around $2,000. It also will be powered by Windows 10 S. (See Tools of the Trade on p. 57 for specs.)

 

Microsoft has additional incentives for teachers and students at no cost:

 

  1. Free Windows 10 S for all schools on their current Windows Pro PCs.
  2. Free Microsoft Office 365 for Education with Microsoft Teams.
  3. A free one-year subscription to Minecraft: Education Edition for Windows 10.
  4. A free trial of Microsoft Intune for Education.

 

Intune is a desktop and mobile device tool for providing access to cloud-based applications and data. The Code Builder for Minecraft program teaches writing code using Tynker, ScratchX, or Microsoft’s own MakeCode.

 

And then there are the educational programs that are part of the MicrosoftEDU ecosystem. Office 365 Teams is one of the “digital hubs for teachers and students.”

 

A Windows Mixed Reality program planned for Windows 10 this fall was also announced. Called View Mixed Reality, the feature will let you see 3D content through your screen using an ordinary RGB camera. By the opening of the 2018 school year, Microsoft’s partnership with Pearson Publishing will have curricula in health, commerce, history, and STEM on all Windows Mixed Reality devices.

 

So there it is, the second coming of Microsoft is headed toward a school near you. If it’s half as successful as the first, both the kids and the shareholders will likely benefit.

 

Michael Castelluccio has been the Technology Editor for Strategic Finance for 21 years. His SF TECHNOTES blog is in its 19th year. You can contact Mike at mcastelluccio@imanet.org.


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