Microsoft gears up to retake the classroom – CNET
Pop quiz: Which tech company is the most popular in schools?
The software giant is planning to hold an event in New York on Tuesday during which it’s expected to discuss new software for schools, and even a new low-cost PC designed to compete with other computer makers on price and Apple‘s iPads on functionality.
What makes this move all that much more interesting is what Microsoft is going up against. Its key competitor isn’t the latest trendy Apple i-device. It’s fighting the Chromebook: a cheap, stripped-down PC that runs Google’s Chrome OS software for surfing the web and often has a lower sticker price than many other computers.
To go up against these machines, Microsoft’s new software to power these school-PCs will be a revamped version of the Windows that typically powers PCs, but it will only run secure apps from Microsoft’s app store, according to our sister site ZDNet’s sources.
This may help to make using Windows easier for teachers and students by cutting down on the complexity and time administrators typically face when managing large fleets of computers.
Those typical frustrations are what helped Google break what had been decades of Microsoft’s popularity in schools, said Patrick Moorhead, head of Moor Insights & Strategy.
Most people would assume that, being a school, cost would be the primary reason. But it wasn’t.
“It was about the simplicity of it,” Moorhead said. Setting up and managing a bunch of computers that basically just use the web is much easier than trying to corral PCs that require separate software like the Office suite and virus protection.
It’s probably no surprise then that Chromebooks have become a go-to device for schools in the US. More than half the devices purchased last year were Chromebooks, according to market researcher Futuresource Consulting, up from about a third in 2014.
Back to school
Lower cost hardware and specialty software aren’t exactly a recipe for making a bunch of profit. So why would Microsoft bother with it?
For the software giant, resetting its toehold in the education market represents both a point of pride and, even more importantly, a sort of investment in the future.
If kids get comfortable with Microsoft products now, they’ll demand them as they’re growing up and — here’s where the money comes in — when they join the workforce. After all, business and productivity software and services are where much of Microsoft’s growth comes from these days.
To be sure, Microsoft’s devices are more popular with schools outside the US. The company’s also offered Word, Excel and PowerPoint software for pretty much all tablets and phones for the past couple years. And its Xbox video game console has a devoted following of millions of gamers.
Now it’ll be up to Microsoft to show it can make the grade with schools again.