Report: Microsoft Soars with Teams, Struggles with Chromebooks in Education

Posted on January 29, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Chrome OS, Chromebook, Cloud, Google, Microsoft, Microsoft 365, Windows 10, Windows 10X with 17 Comments

A report describes a company-wide all-hands meeting at Microsoft in which executives touted the success of Teams in education while bemoaning the success of Chromebooks powered by Google’s Chrome OS.

According to the report, Microsoft corporate vice president of Education Eran Megiddo told employees at a companywide all-hands meeting last week that usage of Teams in education has soared to over 100 million students, up from 30 million at the beginning of the school year in September and just 7 million the year before.

But Megiddo also had a warning about Chromebooks, which have outgrown Windows PCs, Macs, and iPads by a wide margin in education for several years. Chromebooks owned about 60 percent share of the K-12 education market in the U.S. at the start of the pandemic, and their share has likely grown again since then. But it’s not just the U.S.: As one employee noted in the meeting, Chromebook owns “major market share” in Japan, Indonesia, and other Asian markets. Overall, over 1 out of every 10 personal computers sold in 2020 was a Chromebook.

“In many cases, when schools are buying Chromebooks or Windows PCs, Chromebooks are still faster and cheaper, [and] they are easier to deploy and manage,” Megiddo told employees, stating the obvious. “We have our work cut out for us.”

Put more accurately, Microsoft still has its work cut out for it despite several years of improvements to Windows and other products aimed at education. The firm is now prepping a Chrome OS knock-off called Windows 10X that should give Microsoft’s hardware partners a more compelling alternative to Chromebooks.

“The reality is schools around the world are still closed due to the pandemic in many countries, and states and governments are scrambling to buy devices and find remote learning solutions,” Megiddo reportedly said in the meeting in response to how Microsoft planned to thwart Chromebook dominance in education. “It is a big opportunity for us. Google sees it as well, as does Apple.”

Megiddo also noted that Microsoft had scored some education wins in Kenya, Senegal, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, while admitting that it struggles in countries in which Google has strong relationships.

Megiddo never mentioned Windows 10X explicitly, despite it being the biggest open secret in the company right now. But he did say that Microsoft has a “clear roadmap” for taking on Chromebooks in education. “We’re making progress relative to the competition,” he added.

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Comments (18)

18 responses to “Report: Microsoft Soars with Teams, Struggles with Chromebooks in Education”

  1. jchampeau

    If I recall correctly, Paul mentioned he thinks 10X should be named something other than "Windows," and the more I read things like this, the more I agree. IT admins who are familiar with the complicated nature of administering large Windows environments need to understand this is something entirely different. Or if it isn't entirely different, and if administering 10X machines isn't as easy as Chromebooks/ChromeOS, then Microsoft should keep working on it until it is. EdgeFolio / EdgeOS for the win.

  2. bats

    Here, I go again.....


    SEE, I TOLD YA SO.

  3. saint4eva

    I cannot wait to use Windows 10X

  4. hrlngrv

    For anyone wondering why school children may prefer Google Sheets to Excel, see this. In the example worksheet, explain how Excel could populate columns B, F, K and O by formula. Someday, perhaps. After all, it only took MSFT 8 years to implement colored worksheet tabs beginning with Excel 2002 in 2001 when Borland had implemented them no later than Quattro Pro 5 in 1993 (and may have done so in Quattro Pro 4 earlier, but I never used that version).

  5. bluvg

    "Chromebooks are still faster"


    And Teams is still much slower. It may be gaining traction for a variety of reasons, but the performance is abysmal, especially with video and screen sharing, which is almost unusably slow on even otherwise fast hardware.


    I hesitate to attribute this negatively, but they recently broke out the "General Teams Performance Issues" UserVoice request--18,163 votes, previously #7 on the list--into separate requests for CPU, RAM, etc. So... that effectively removes it from the top of the list, since the new requests are in the ~1000 votes range. They've been "working on it" since 2017, but I think they may be painting themselves in a corner in their rush to implement more and more stuff. It will be harder and harder to undo the Electron foundation that seems to be the heart of the issue.

  6. hrlngrv

    [Chromebooks] are easier to deploy and manage

    That's likely to be the key point. And that may, likely does, imply that part of the problem Windows faces is that MSFT has meant it to be more or less the same for EVERYONE. Sure, there are Home, Pro, Enterprise and Education variants, soon to be an X variant as well. However, they're ALL more similar to each other than Chrome OS is to Linux. Maybe there's a chance for 10X to be different, but perhaps only if it could NEVER run Win32 software, not even in containers. Why not? Because unless the containers would effectively be VMs, with all the additional storage that'd require, the core Windows 10X would need to have everything Win32 software would need, so it's difficult to see how it could them be simpler (rather than just more compartmentalized) than all the other Windows 10 variants.

    Also have to say that Chrome OS upgrades using multiple partitions with the final upgrade step being switching booting from one partition to another partition is likely to remain much simpler than Windows Update. That, and an OS which can fit less than 2GB disk space with all application software stored in a different partition (called stateful in Chrome OS) gives Chrome OS a huge advantage over Windows. In brutal terms, everything on C: is so 1980s. MSFT has fiddled in terms Windows disk layout while Chrome OS has burned a wide swathe through the education computer market.

    Would MSFT be willing to design Windows 10X fundamentally differently than other Windows 10 variants in order to increase their chances for success in the education market? I have my doubts. I figure MSFT senior management still believes One Windows for everything is a strength rather than vulnerability.

  7. djr1984

    It's all about price, but sadly that is short sighted.


    My wife is on the PTA for our local primary school. In 2019 fundraising took place to purchase new computers for our primary school and it was decided to invest in 15 Chromebooks. It seemed a good idea to my wife and the headmistress at the time, although I councilled against it.


    Ultimately their decision came down to buy the Chromebooks over the iPads or Windows computers. The decision was largely based on the number of Chromebooks that they could get for the money they had and the relatively small needs that they have at primary school education.


    This decision to cheap out and buy bottom range chromebooks has come back to bite them. Only three out of the 15 still work, all have failed for various reasons and now they are preparing to fundraise once again for technology for the kids. The iPad Airs they bought back in 2014 all still work (although one of them has an issue with sound and the battery is shot on another) and the five Dell Desktops they have from 2011 still work well too.


    I'm sure that the more expensive Chromebooks are probably just as reliable as your average PC, but cheap computers or tablets are always just that, cheap. You're not getting any type of quality at £200-250 a pop.


    Had they bought iPads or perhaps the MS Surface Go then the chances are they'd still have perfectly functioning tech at this point.


    Hopefully they will raise a reasonable amount of money again this year and will buy decent technology that they don't need to bin within 18-24 months.

  8. angusmatheson

    My kid hates his school issued chromebook. He says it is a piece of junk. He knows how to use it, sure, but he could use any piece of technology you give him. The question is would he ever buy a chromebook over a Windows PC or MacBook in the future? He wants a gaming laoptop. But I don’t know what he would be if he had only $300 to spend on a “computer.” But if you can only spent $300 you shouldn’t buy a Windows PC anyway. I don’t think In the future he wants to buy a $1000 chrome book. Maybe ruling the education market will allow businesses to buy chrome books for their employees instead of Windows computers. But the ability to easily run legacy remains a sticking point for lots of businesses (for enterprise adoption of chromebook but also iPads, Macs, and Linux). At least in my household the forced use of a crappy chromebook for school had lead to hatred if limited chromeOS computing.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Angusmatheson:

      Schools have an interest in leveling playing fields. That is, PREVENTING some students adding software to school-issued PCs which could give those students an UNFAIR advantage over other students. Chrome OS in standard rather than developer mode is locked down to a degree it's quite difficult to lock down Windows PCs. EVERY removable drive connected to a Chromebook/Chromebox is mounted noexec, meanng no way to run anything on them. Users have direct access only to their Downloads folder on their internal drive, and that's also noexec. It's much more difficult to lock down a Windows PC, especially preventing running software from removable media, though Windows 10X may change that AS LONG AS it doesn't run Win32 software.

      However, there you may have a problem. If Windows 10X doesn't run Win32 software, would it have any advantage over Chrome OS? Well, other than overheated fears of Google data mining.

  9. anoldamigauser

    I am working with a local non-profit to help them with their technology needs. For their needs and user level, it is impossible to recommend Windows devices. Even iPads with keyboard cases would be a better fit.

    Seriously, they need to get 10X out the door and it should not have Windows in the name unless it will run Win32 apps which would only make it too complicated. They could call devices running it something like Officebook.

  10. ringofvoid

    I'm really hoping to see something from that "clear roadmap" that indicates how Windows 10X will make itself more compelling than Chromebooks besides swapping from a Google login to a Microsoft login.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to ringofvoid:

      Big risk to MSFT is that if they match Chrome OS in terms of deployment and management, their enterprise business world customers may ask why the @#$% Windows is such a PITA for them to deploy and manage. And if they do make Windows much easier for everyone to manage, what value would remain for all those MSFT-certified whatevers working in all those enterprises?

      In some ways, MSFT has repeated many of the mistakes IBM made through the early 1990s, not least creating a fan base among IT staff working for their customers who can only justify their compensation because it does take undue sophistication to administer Windows.

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