At the BETT education-focused conference in London, Microsoft is announcing a whole suite of updates for its Education products. Microsoft’s competition with Google’s Chromebooks for the education market steamed up last year when the software giant launched Windows 10 S. As Microsoft continues to push forward with its education-focused offerings, the company’s latest Education announcements are quite simply about advancing what started last year.
Windows 10 Devices
Windows 10 devices are at the core of Microsoft’s education-focused offerings. The company introduced a range of different, affordable Windows 10 S laptops last year, and it’s introducing four new Windows 10 laptops from Lenovo and JP today to further expand the lineup. Microsoft’s CVP Yusuf Mehdi says the new devices are for those who “don’t want to compromise on Chromebooks.”
The cheapest all of the devices announced today is the new Lenovo 100e, powered by the Intel Celeron Apollo Lake, starting at only $189. Lenovo is also announcing a $279 2-in-1 device with a stylus and a touch display. JP, on the other hand, is coming out with the new Classmate Leap T303 for $199, and the Trigono V401 2-in-1 for $299.
HoloLens and Mixed Reality
Microsoft is partnering with the world’s largest education company, Pearson, to bring a new range of VR and AR educational experiences to the HoloLens and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Pearson will be releasing 6 new applications for the HoloLens and Windows Mixed Reality in March that will provide schools with new immersive educational experiences for students. Redmond is teaming up with PBS and NASA to bring new science-focused immersive VR experiences to the HoloLens and Windows Mixed Reality as well.
In addition to this, Microsoft wants to expand the use of Hololens to classrooms by offering the HoloLens Commercial ($5,000) or Developer ($3,000) editions for 10% off in select markets until the 31st of May this year to educational institutions. 10% off the HoloLens still doesn’t make the device affordable at all for most schools, though. And that’s exactly why all the new AR and VR educational experiences from Pearson, PBS, and NASA are available on the Windows Mixed Reality headsets — which, by the way, are incredibly cheap right now
Last year, we saw the launch of Microsoft Teams for Education and a lot of education-focused updates for the entire Office suite. This year, Microsoft will continue expanding the tools on Office for its education customers.
Starting in February, the company is adding new dictation capabilities to Office apps across all devices to make it possible for students of all abilities write easily with their voice. The new Immersive Reader feature is coming to more Office apps and devices, including Word for Mac and iPhone, Outlook Desktop, OneNote for iPad and Mac.
Microsoft has also been quietly updating Microsoft Teams’ mobile apps recently in order to provide a better experience for its Education customers. Users of Microsoft Teams for Education will now have access to their classroom on Team from their iOS or Android device and be able to keep track of all the conversations, assignments, shared files, and more from their smartphones. Teachers using PowerPoint can now record their lessons and slides, which can later be shared with their digital Teams classroom using Microsoft Stream.
A big part of today’s Office updates is the new update to OneNote Class Notebook. Microsoft is introducing integrations for two of the most widely used information systems in schools, including SIMS in the UK, and PowerSchool in the United States. The integration will make it possible for teachers to automatically sync the grades of their students on OneNote Class Notebook with the entire school’s information system, removing the need for manually adding the grades on the school’s system.
Microsoft’s Minecraft game is hugely popular with kids and students. The company even built a different version of the game specifically for use in classrooms, with interactive features like real-time classroom collaboration, progress tracking abilities for each student, and more. Microsoft is announcing a new update for Minecraft: Education Edition today which will start rolling out this Spring.
The new Chemistry Update, as the name implies, can be used by teachers to teach chemistry with interactive experiences and experiments in Minecraft. The idea definitely sounds like it will be quite engaging for students, as they get to play while learning new things about chemistry. The Chemistry Update is meant to be for students of all ages, so it includes different levels that will be suitable for a kid just discovering chemistry or a teenager.
Microsoft Education’s new updates today are going to be critical for the company’s competition with Google, especially in the United States. While Windows dominates ChromeOS worldwide, it’s falling behind ChromeOS in the United States. The new updates to Office, Minecraft, and new Mixed Reality content are more of a long-term play from Redmond which could pay off in a few years time.