A little over a week from now Microsoft will be holding an event focused on education and it is expected the company will announce some new initiatives targeting Google’s Chromebook market and in particular, Google’s growing presence in the education market. The keys to the move by Microsoft to mount a challenge to Google is going to be the launch of Windows 10 Cloud that will run on hardware similar to a typical Chromebook. That latter point is important as it helps keep the cost down for school systems that may be interested in Microsoft’s solution.
In looking over the specs for hardware intended for the Windows 10 Cloud platform, which may hit the market as Windows 10 S, Microsoft is clearly focusing on simple, low cost hardware like a Celeron processor, only 4GB of RAM and 32 or 64GB of storage on board. A pen and or touchscreen may be optional. One area where Microsoft may not skimp is in the battery. That is because Microsoft wants to ensure a typical device can last through a day without being plugged in which means at least 10 hours of use.
From a user standpoint, Microsoft is also hoping to replicate some qualities found in the ChromeOS system like very fast cold boot speeds of under 20 seconds and being able to resume to the login screen when turned on in only a couple seconds.
If Microsoft wants to succeed, they will have to convince education market system administrators and IT pros that the new devices and Windows 10 Cloud system can provide the ease of administration, security and lockdown capabilities that they enjoy in the Google ecosystem now. Another big question that will exist will be the ability of typical Microsoft apps to run on a cloud-based machine. Microsoft will also have to develop their on-line store for other third-party apps, which lags behind the Google Play Store and entice developers to put out applications targeting the education market.
Microsoft is reportedly also working on a much cheaper version of the Surface Pad, possibly one without a detachable keyboard, that would be more attractive for parents. Part of Google’s success in education likely comes from being able to get devices on shelves that parents can afford to buy for their kids so they can use them for homework without worrying about compatibility with what they use at school.
In the last three years, ChromeOS has exploded in the U.S. education market, rising from a single digit market share to somewhere around 50-58 percent depending on who is measuring. The biggest loser in the market has been Apple with Microsoft dropping from 25 to 22 percent. Microsoft clearly thinks there is some potential to grab market share away from Apple and perhaps even make some headway directly against Google. They could be justified in that view considering they dominate in education markets outside the U.S.