Microsoft announced classroom-centric software and hardware at its education event today. The stars of the show? The Windows 10 S operating system and the all-new Surface Laptop.
Windows 10 S is Microsoft's answer to Chrome OS designed for classroom use. Windows 10 S has built-in tools to make teachers and administrators easily able to centrally set up, configure and adjust each machine's settings for students.
Windows 10 S only runs apps downloaded from the Windows Store. According to Microsoft, this helps maintain the integrity of the machines, for a more robust computing experience on even the lowest cost entry-level devices. It's likely part of Microsoft's strategy for keeping its own costs lower as well – Microsoft gets a cut of Windows Store sales.
Microsoft says the Office 365 suite will be coming to the Windows Store in the near future, but the company also has other Windows 10 S education-centric experiences up its sleeve. Teams, Microsoft's answer to Slack, is adding a digital hub for teachers and students to the Windows Store, where they can engage with one another – and outside experts – consistently and dynamically, in and out of the classroom.
Other software offerings include Minecraft: Educational Edition which gamifies code writing for students. Microsoft also highlighted ways that Lenovo's affordable Windows VR headset and HoloLens AR glasses can create 3D, 360-degree and mixed reality educational experiences.
Through partnerships with makers like Acer, Asus, Toshiba and others, Windows 10 S devices will start at US$189 each and include a one-year subscription to Minecraft: Educational Edition. Office 365 for Education is free to all teachers and students.
Microsoft Surface Laptop
While many were hoping for an upgrade to the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, what Microsoft unveiled instead is the Windows 10 S-running Microsoft Surface Laptop.
The 13.5-inch Surface Laptop has a 3:2 aspect ratio, a 2,256 x 1,504 touch (non-detachable) display that supports Surface Pen input and either an Intel core i5 or i7 processor. RAM options are 4 GB, 8 GB or 16 GB; built-in storage tiers are 128 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB. At 2.76 lbs (1.25 kg) and under 14.5 mm thick at its widest point, it's also rather light and thin. According to Microsoft, the device gets up to 14.5 hours of battery life per charge, which is impressive if the estimate holds true.
Expansion ports are one full-size USB 3.0, mini DisplayPort, headset jack and the Surface Connect charging port. Neither the Surface Pen or any other accessory are bundled in the box, but the Surface Laptop is compatible with other peripherals in the Surface family like the Surface Dial.
There are also other aesthetic and tactile advantages like a backlit fabric-covered keyboard, metal unibody and seamless-looking form factor in multiple color variants: burgundy, gold, blue and platinum.
If Windows Store content is insufficient, Windows 10 Pro can also be downloaded and installed on the Surface Laptop, which will be free throughout 2017. There's no word yet on how much it will cost after that.
The entry-level Intel core i5 version starts at $999. That's a high price point for a device with a limited OS, so it's clearly aimed more at the higher education and professional crowd rather than younger kids' classroom learning (affordable Windows 10 S devices will come from other makers). It goes up for pre-order today to start shipping and arriving in stores on June 15.
Product page: Microsoft