Microsoft Cannot Afford to Lose the Education Market

Posted on April 30, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Microsoft Surface, Android, Windows 10 with 121 Comments

Microsoft Cannot Afford to Lose the Education Market

On Tuesday, Microsoft will host a press conference at which it is expected to announce new products and services aimed at education. This is arguably the most important Microsoft event of the year. Assuming, that is, that you care at all about the future of this company.

Let’s examine why that is so.

My daughter attends a typical public high school here in the United States. After a disastrous experiment with iPads, the school system switched over entirely to Chromebooks, which are inexpensive to acquire, inexpensive to manage and support, and easy to use.

Chromebooks make a lot more sense in education than any Apple product, so this move is at least logical. But the question is whether using Chromebooks is better than using Windows-based PCs. And that question is a lot more nuanced because we would need to explore the surrounding ecosystem of apps and services—Google Docs and so on—as well.

But the impact of this change, which is being repeated in schools all over the United States, is clear: Microsoft is losing its grip on the education market. And in doing so, it is ceding something that is much bigger and more important than that audience: An entire generation of kids is growing up with no exposure to PCs, or to Windows, Office, or other Microsoft products and services.

And that, folks, is a disaster.

Those kids will leave the education system expecting to use Google products and services, not PCs, Windows, and Office. They will have no notion of whether Microsoft’s offerings are better, worse, or indifferent, and will in fact never consider Microsoft at all. They will start new jobs, and they will expect to use the technologies with which they are familiar. And that, in turn, will shift usage in businesses, Microsoft’s biggest customer base.

If that still sounds like science fiction to you, consider the following: It’s already happening. In the first quarter of 2017, growth in business PC sales in the United States was “mostly backed by growth of Chromebooks,” IDC reported recently. That’s right. Chromebook usage is strong enough in business that it’s having a material impact on the broader market.

Are you going to argue that Chromebooks are still a US-only phenomenon? There, you have a point. But like so many other things in the tech industry, what happens first in the United States often spreads to the rest of the world too. And if Chromebooks can make headway in both education and business in the United States, come on. These things can be successful anywhere.

Reversing this trend is the task that Microsoft will address at Tuesday’s EDU event in New York. The firm is expected to formally announce Windows 10 Cloud (not the final name) and Microsoft- and third-party PCs based on this new system. And it will almost certainly talk up all the education-related products and services you can think of—Intune for Education, Office (especially OneNote), and so on—plus maybe a few new ones.

I’ll cover the details of this plan when they are revealed. For now, know this: Microsoft cannot afford to be defeated in education. And this event is thus much more important than your standard Windows 10 or Surface press conference as a result.

See you in New York.

Tagged with

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (121)

121 responses to “Microsoft Cannot Afford to Lose the Education Market”

  1. Ron Diaz

    Sorry Microsoft, this ship has already sailed. MS is as good as dead in education and between the Windows 8 total disaster and Windows 10 failure to launch MS is in deep s**t

    I guess they could always go back to selling phones.... lol

    • Jack Smith

      In reply to Ron Diaz:

      Weird this is being downvoted? Maybe it is people outside the US downvoting? The ship has sailed for MS in US schools. It is NOT simply the Chromebooks but the entire K-12 ecosystem is Google.

      MS should be focusing on something different where they can get out in front of Google and win. MS chasing Google is not going to get them anywhere.

  2. Dan1986ist

    As we all know, not every school district has the same budget, and hopefully Microsoft and their OEM partners will come out with affordable in all areas Windows 10 Cloud devices for the education market. Then comes how does Microsoft and their OEM partners make these devices affordable to education while profitting off those sales?

  3. Waethorn

    I suspect that Microsoft will discontinue Windows 10 Home for the ULCPC (ultra-low cost PC) market, which includes the Cloudbook spec (budget processor or SoC, low RAM, small SSD), and release the cloud SKU for that market, so as to get OEM's paying full price for Windows 10 Home again.

    They've been trying to get OEM's to build more premium PC's that don't qualify for the ULCPC discount licensing, but OEM's haven't seen any growth there. Microsoft even raised the minimum unit sales requirements for ULCPC licensing, which is why smaller OEM's just aren't bundling Windows anymore (think Zotac and Kangaroo). So the bone that Microsoft is throwing out is this gimped SKU, which for Microsoft, could inflate Windows Store download numbers.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Waethorn:

      I'm a happy Zotac owner, and I bought my mini PC precisely because it didn't come with an OS. These days, buy a whitebox, put the latest Windows Insider build on it, wait for the next major release, convert your Windows setup to the standard release, and you have an up-to-date Windows PC with $0 spent on the Windows license.

    • skane2600

      In reply to Waethorn:

      If that's MS's strategy it will likely lead to a slow down in the adoption of Windows 10 since PCs running it will rise in price. If the only Windows devices that compete with the Chromebook on price just run UWP apps that's an excellent argument for buying a Chromebook if you have the tightest budget.

  4. nbplopes

    Personally I believe that there is still no good solution on the market that can fully replace pen and paper in education as well as augmenting learning processes for the better.

    My eldest son, 10 years old, yes it plays stuff in the iPad, he does his homework the Surface Pro 2 and reads books on paper more than I ever did when I was his age. He reads 3 to 4 books a month, finished the entire collection of Harry Potter so on and so forth, loves to play Pokemon on his Nintendo 3DS (does not care for shift at all), sometimes Minecraft ... and he loves Youtube. My younger 6, is in love Youtube, Reading Eggs and Doodle Maths, uses the iPad for that, and uses the my old 2009 MacBook Pro when he feels like it, quite often. Both of them submit works using Google tools.

    The problem I see often with all the tech they use is so that quite often are too much in the way of learning, one way or another. For instance, quite often I see my older one spending too much time in beautifying the presentation on Powerpoint or Google Slides (whatever it is called) rather than actually focusing on providing interesting thoughts on the content. Yes he talk about the content and give interesting thoughts over it when talking, but those are not in the presentation as he wastes his time exploring the cosmetic appeal offered by these apps. Than there is the question of charging, the quirkiness of the OS (more so on Windows than others) ....

    Things get even worst when it comes to OneNote IMHO!!!! I will be teaching my older son Markdown!!!! 5 mins and that is it, focus on the content you want to present.

    The entire Windows 10 OS is a ADHD paradise!!!!! And you, complain how simple and boring is the iPad or iPhone spring board, pushing for a city of promotional tiles ....

    Paul, I understand your passion over MS. But I think you are making the wrong observations. I cannot get rid of the feeling that according to you MS cannot afford to loose anything at some point ... and than if it looses, that's OK after all!.

    I think the real question is, what can MS (or whatever) solve to improve education. Onenote? Give me a break. To much clicks, drag here and thee and resize to get anything done. Of course I can just scribble way, but people do not need a bloated app as OneNote for that at all.

    Sometimes I think if we, tech nerds, our love for tech, may be doing more harm than good to the ways of our children.

    • Jeff Jones

      In reply to nbplopes:

      Regarding your first sentence, I think the word processor is infinitely better than writing a one page essay by hand using pen and paper. And the longer the essay gets the better the word processor becomes.

      I agree that the computer in the education environment does often get used more than it needs to, just because it can. Teachers just need to learn when it's important or when just wasting the students time.

      I remember doing my first class presentation when I was in the 4th grade after creating a poster to help illustrate my report. The poster was a full blown arts and craft project in itself and was fun. At that age, I don't think "doing it in PowerPoint" would have been nearly as effective or fun.

      Using PowerPoint in high school or maybe middle school is and should be part of the learning experience, as long as teachers learn to use it sparingly. Unless the class is literally about building PowerPoint presentations then don't require a 5+ slide presentation if a student can get the point across with two.

      • nbplopes

        In reply to Jeff Jones:

        I fully agree with your first sentence.

        But you counter argument seams to be in the lines of "you are holding it wrong". I wonder who used that kind of argumentation too :)

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to Jeff Jones:

        Picky, pedantic and curmudgeonly: the ability to write an essay with just pen[cil] and paper demonstrates one can think and construct an argument entirely in one's head. Not a bad skill to develop.

    • Waethorn

      In reply to nbplopes:

      *Computers* are an ADHD paradise ever since they conceived of the idea to create a multitasking operating system.

    • Bats

      In reply to nbplopes:

      I like that comment, "ADHD Paradise." So true.

  5. Luka Pribanić

    I have to agree with the logic, and is actually true. But you have to keep in mind that it's the same way that Apple tried to broaden its market share and - failed. Google is better positioned to succeed, but they too need to broaden the corporate portfolio of services to trully replace Microsoft in the workplace. As much as I know they still lack a key product like - Active Directory.

  6. SherlockHolmes

    Hasnt Microsoft already forgotten the consumer market? All they do these days is focusing on cloud and enterprise. Forcing an lockscreen on a desktop PC for an example. Granted, with the last patch tuesday, that problem is finally gone but it did show what MSFT thinks of private customers in general.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to SherlockHolmes:

      Microsoft has never really done well with consumers. It was just sort of a default when everyone needed a PC. But cloud, specifically enterprise cloud, is their future for sure. This isn't shortcoming. It's a great strategy.

      • SherlockHolmes

        In reply to Paul Thurrott:

        I have no complaints in where MSFT sees its future. What I do complain about is how MSFT acts in behalf of its private customers. Meaning with every Update of Win 10, MSFT did steal a little bit of choices for the user.

  7. jwpear

    Will be interesting to see how MS responds.  As far as my kids are concerned, Google is already THE go to for just about everything.  Chromebooks are issued to each student in middle school.  They use Google Chrome, Docs, Sheets, etc. and that carries into High School.  The Chromebooks are starting to make their way down into the elementary schools.  So the kids are getting conditioned for Google early.

    My daughter is in high school, and to their credit, they also require students to take a class on MS Office.  But that hasn't changed her preference for using the Google apps.

  8. mmcpher

    On a more personal note, my wife is a high school teacher at one of those schools that embarked on an ambitious and very expensive adoption of iPads The kids were happy to pull out their iPads (when they remembered to bring them and to charge them) and to leave behind their pens, paper and hardcovers. And it's been a disaster. Not just the inability to keep them functioning (maybe if we could open aiery Genius Bars right next to school cafeterias). There has been an alarming, nearly immediate and otherwise unexplained plummet in standardized test scores. Teachers make do, in that district that meant scrambling for work around involving good ol PC's for the teachers, who, in the absence of workable teaching/learning/testing capabilities, have largely been reduced to going back to older versions of textbooks (in hardcover and in conventional, non-Apple digital formats, and besieging the already over-burdend copiers to print out lesson plans, study guides and tests. Often at personal expense; always requiring extra time and effort.

    I sure could see how school districts could be enticed by Apple's promotional wizardry and sharp practices. Wouldn't it be pretty to think so, that every student could ultimately be featured in their own, insufferable "Think Different" ad. But it hasn't worked out that way yet.

    I always thought that a keyboard would be better for learning students. Something about the mechanical discipline and thought that comes from typing re-enforces learning, even if it would be more efficient to swipe and poke at a tablet. The point is that particularly given the Apple premium, this was an obvious opportunity, as schools finally began to retire their outdated PC's.

    The Surface line is a promising sign that Microsoft is being more proactive and more far-sighted. They have to also have the minerals to withstand some off-quarters in the long game.

  9. James Wilson

    Google is an advertising / analytics company. Everything they do is designed to suck up data about people (that is any and all data they are able to collect - ingest it all up first, then decide what to do with it later) , sell ads to them and sell analytics about people's behaviour to other companies (how did people react when this event happened for example).

    if they can get users on board early, seed future generations, as they say, then chromebooks are good. I suspect this was their initial strategy before Android took off.

    Both Apple and Google have realised that phones are a much better way of selling hardware(Apple) and gathering data/showing ads to someone (Android). As such, I don't think they are going to worry too much about the education market where in many countries they are not allowed to collect data/ sell ads to minors. Much easier to give phones to minors where they can collect data without restrictions (with parents unwittingly creating google accounts so Android can be useful - not realising this allows Google to collect data via phone use and app use).

    Now they already have dominance in data collection via phones and their advertising billboard (chrome) so why bother with a segment that had no financial benefit anymore. Both Apple and Android are very well known products to millennials so seeding Education now no longer needs to be a priority.

  10. johnh3

    Microsoft had Windows 8,1 with Bing. As I understand it was basicly free for OEM.s to use it.

    But it not solved the problem with long time updating process, kids could screw up the computer with viruses and trojans etc..

    Thats a big advantage with Cromebooks. A superwash that take 5 minutes and problem is solved. Not as easy in Windows.

    So it be interesting to see how Microsoft will takle that issues in this Windows 10 Clould thing.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to johnh3:

      Remains to be seen whether Windows Cloud really can't run any desktop/Win32 programs, not even Notepad, Charmap, REGEDIT, etc. If it only won't install desktop/Win32 EXEs, there's a lot of portable desktop software it can run, and some of that can absolutely fubar PCs.

  11. mmcpher

    Microsoft is playing catchup again, but they at least hold a strong opening hand in the game, when you compare the quality of the rival, critical apps. And from what I've seen of the Chromebooks themselves, it's hardly an insurmountable task to one-up them (price, of course, being the key, relative to the projected benefits of superior apps and hardware).

    I entirely agree that this is a contest can't afford to lose. Because the kids with Chromebooks in schools are already carrying Android phones in and out of school and are constantly being additionally corralled to all things Chrome in all there online interactions. Students graduate; some eventually find jobs. While Microsoft remains dominant in business and enterprise, when we encounter one of these Chromebook/google-sheets/google-drive upstarts, we can still get away with redirecting things to OneDrive, to Office 365 docs and spreadsheets. If you are enough of a geezer still in the harness, you are reminded of the old days when a similar push-pull struggle went on between WordPerfect and Word where Microsoft was able to overtake and reduce the formerly dominant WordPerfect to Windows Mobile like margins.

    But google today is no Corel of the '80's and '90's, as has limitless resources and many avenues of defense and attack. Microsoft should prepare to win or at least survive productively in a bloodbath. The alternative is surrender and marginalization no matter how unthinkable to however many.

    Microsoft has to break its own, sorry narrative of half-hearted and heavy-handed "promotion" (a neat trick to be both at the same time) that defined Windows Phone and Windows Mobile. No more shrugging about low market share, no more whining about externalities like developers and inelasticity in the segment. They have to put the whole enterprise's blood, sweat and treasure into it. No more vapor-promises of commitment and false-confidence, only to be later shelved and blamed on poor sales, slow adoption rates and difficulties getting people and organizations to change, and no more hiding behind their own abject failure as sound business rationale for bailing out and leaving everyone but their rivals in the lurch.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to mmcpher:

      Agreed on all points. This is a smart commentary.

    • skane2600

      In reply to mmcpher:

      WordPerfect was already well on its way to being toast long before Corel bought it. The industry was moving on from DOS to Windows and WordPerfect Corp wanted nothing to do with it. When they finally produced their first version of WordPerfect for Windows it was extremely buggy. I crashed it in the first 5 mins of use.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to skane2600:

        Also Lotus Development Corp. The two spent way too much time protecting their character mode UIs that they missed the first wave of Windows migrations, and they resisted the second wave. By the late 1990s, Office had become the only realistic option for Windows.

  12. RobertJasiek

    Suppose it was correct that Microsoft must not lose the education market. To meet its needs in all countries, the following are requirements:

    1) low price

    2) high reliability

    3) easy use

    4) easy maintenance

    5) easy backups

    6) easily configured restrictions

    7) all necessary, easy-to-use education software already available in all languages

    8) 100% data protection and law-conformity in all countries so 0% telemetry

    If Microsoft offers (1) to (7) perfectly but fails at (8), it does fail in the European education market. Everybody has personal human rights but schools have the additional responsibility of protecting the pupils' rights. European countries are very aware of this.

    • skane2600

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      Your list suggests MS has to compete against some imaginary perfect product. To compete against Chromebooks a MS product has to be roughly comparable. There are trade-offs that different people will see differently and not all benefits will be considered equal.

      • Jack Smith

        In reply to skane2600:

        MS would need to do something to exceed Chromebooks. Reason is CB have all the momentum today. I have my doubts anything from MS could slow them down. Windows declined in 2016 and CBs numbers are hard to get but some suggest 50% YoY growth. Still small numbers for CBs but a lot of momentum. In the US CBs have already surpassed Macs to take #2.

        I personally am a HUGE fan of CBs. Talking to teacher at conference they also seem pretty big fans of CBs and to listen to them they get very limited time in the classroom and CBs do a better job than other platforms to optimize the time.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      Amusing as Hell if MSFT has been regulated out of the European education market.

  13. chrisrut

    Interesting because I don't recall Microsoft actually having a particularly strong position in the Education market; It can be argued that fleets of Apple IIs and various Apple toys/tools deployed to classrooms may have set the stage for the rabidly loyal MAC culture and the explosive growth of the iPhone.

    But you are very right that MS cannot leave this current re-discovery of the kids-as-adults-in-training market to Google - or anyone else.

    Picture an arm-based pc, with self-updating and secure Windows Cloud, at the price point of the Chuwi, with zero-touch, zero-maintenance 4G connectivity, and - I could go on - but you get it. Some crazy-good packages at entry-level price points are possible - clearly predictable - at this point.

    As for apps and exposure - do remember that the parents of these kids, Apple and Android-centric though their app experience may be, continue to use PCs as the primary tool when there's work to be done.

    I might digress philosophically for a moment: I believe it critical that children learn that work is not synonymous with drudgery - It can be extraordinarily rewarding on many levels - in fact the greatest rewards in life result therefrom. Being a movie star or an astronaut or a physicist all require WORK - focused effort. So, while "it's all about the apps", a crucial sub question is "which apps?" and in this case "Which apps teach a kid how to work?" I'm sure my granddaughter would say "Minecraft!!"

  14. Bats

    Chromebooks, the computer that Paul mocked in his "Scroogle" campaign, showed us that people don't need a Windows PC and a Mac to get anything done. The real, real platform is the web. That's the REAL OPERATING SYSTEM.Even Apps that can be accessed using a smartphone contain information that is updated via the web and not directly from a Microsoft or an Apple product.

    Here is the most important lesson in regards to this: NO ONE WANTS TO PAY MONEY.

    If Microsoft can create an environment that can help people accomplish this, or pay far less than the Google offering, then more power to them.

    The fact is, computing is and will be better in a non-Microsoft computing environment. Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook....they are not the end game when it comes to anything. They are just the tools. They are the "hammer" and "nails" that help build the house. We awe at a beautifully built house and not the hammer and nails. Today, building that house can be done with comparable tools like Google Drive Suite of products. Like the very powerful and useful Chrome browser, Docs, Sheets, etc....are all extensible. Those extensions make Google's Office Suit very very comparable to Office. Microsoft knows clearly knows this. I am not sure if Paul knows this. He probably does, but refuses to believe this (or could be ignorance).

    Remember, when Paul mocked the idea of document creation on the web as doing "word processor" on a browser? This reminds of the time, when Paul stated on This Week in Tech, that not even him even uses 90% of the features Word offers.

    LOL...Paul just wants Microsoft domination. We all know what happens when Microsoft dominates a certain sector...nothing. No innovation, expensive prices, and total and utter complacency. 

    If you are not for Microsoft domination, then you are for competition. 

    Chromebooks are the best choice, not because of the hardware, but for the complete and total simplicity of managing the network. For one thing, you can do away with most, if not all, of the IT department to save costs. Not only do you save in cost, you also save....(wait for it)....TIME. Rather than manually updating every computer for updates or go thru some complex process to do so, you can just do it simply with a Chrome OS environment.

    • Waethorn

      In reply to Bats:

      The management takeaway is this: you don't need Active Directory to manage Chromebooks or the domain. Active Directory is great for big enterprises, but it totally sucks for people that don't have an MCSA cert, which is going to be the majority of teachers and lower-rung IT pro's. Newsflash: less people are getting MCSE and MCSA certs anymore. The job market is opening up to more people having generic and *nix certs instead.

      And if Microsoft thinks that Azure AD and Intune are going to work for education, they're in for a shock and they might as well just give up right now.

      • skane2600

        In reply to Waethorn:

        I suspect that most schools and many small business have never heard of Active Directory so it really isn't a problem for them.

        • komuso

          In reply to skane2600:

          I know that is not correct. Schools districts know about Active Directory and the big districts are expert level operators.

          • skane2600

            In reply to komuso:

            I don't doubt that some school districts know about it, the question is what percentage. You and I just guessing differently in the probable absence of non-anecdotal data.

            • komuso

              In reply to skane2600:

              Well, you probably shouldn't have been 'suspecting" then! :-) I support school district IT staff on a daily basis (I currently have 216 school district clients) and I can think of only the smallest handful that don't use Active Directory and all of those are on eDirectory--though we have done several eDir to AD migrations already this year.

              It would be a mistake to think that school districts are soft on technological knowledge--as in not having heard of AD. The people I work with at school districts are IT professionals. It takes a lot of smart staff to provide IT services to a district of 65,000 students and 85 schools! Even smaller districts of 5-8 schools use AD. Not trying to argue--just want to point out that I work with some really talented people in the districts and they definitely are aware of AD or using it actively.

              • skane2600

                In reply to komuso:

                Didn't mean to slam IT in school districts. I was thinking in terms of systems used by students, not administrators (although they could be managed together I suppose). Based on what you said, It sounds to me like the IT professionals in school districts are capable of using AD despite what Waethorn claims.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Bats:

      . . . Here is the most important lesson in regards to this: NO ONE WANTS TO PAY MONEY. . . .

      Pedantic: no one should have to pay more than marginal cost, which is vanishingly small for software. The era of software licensing revenues generating 90% profit margins may be coming to a close, none too soon.

      • skane2600

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        So you think software should just cost the pro-rated amount of money it takes to store it on a website and the cost of downloading it? Software is expensive to produce and maintain with a significant risk of failure in the market. One need look no further than the Google Play Store to see the quality of profitless software.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to skane2600:

          Software exists as a business due to intellectual property laws which allow software vendors to make profits through rent-seeking.

          I agree that much less worthwhile software would be written if developers couldn't earn a living through programming. OTOH, 90% software profit margins do indicate the market isn't just paying what it can bear; it's getting fleeced.

  15. Narg

    I can say that with a young one of my own deep in the education system, that Microsoft lost the education market a long time ago. Her grade school years have been pure Google, and her soon to enter college days seem Apple mitten. I should have shot that photo of a local major state college library I visited recently. 90% macbooks around the tables. A few Surfaces, the rest HP or Dell. I used to work in the education sector a decade or more ago. Then it was 90% Win/Tel. Times have changed. Considering that business is the next step for these young folks, I expect to see a large influx of Apple in the Business sector (how large? I don't know, but it might be noticeable.) So, that said I can say that being an IT professional today will get harder and harder, as multi platform support is very much and will always be a pain.

  16. Jack Smith

    Son shuts down his computer and it indicates "updating 1 of 3 do not shut off your computer".. He goes to sleep and gets up in the morning and the computer indicates "updating 1 of 3 do not shut off your computer". What does he do?

    This is just one example of Windows. Chromebooks have two boot images. While using the computer in the background the computer updates completely transparently. Next time you boot you get the new one without ever even knowing.

    Windows simply has a terrible user experience. Until MS changes they have little chance in education or slowing down the Chromebook locomotive.

    Full disclosure, I am a HUGE fan of Chromebooks! I am the house admin, never applied, and CBs make my life so much easier. MS has had decades to improve the situation and they simply have failed.

    BTW, our schools use to be Apple hardware and never were Windows. But they have replaced with Chromebooks and talking to teachers they are very happy with the CB. My kids have ZERO issue with the CB. Not sure what the discussion below is about teacher or students not liking CBs.

  17. ghibbins

    Lets get something straight! Chromebooks are low powered web based machines with very limited real world solutions, yes they work for spreadsheets, documents, research, some You Tube and online applications and extensions, but I see this more as a sign that we are failing students and that budgets and IT departments are being lazy to save some money and time as a quick fix, remember that the new wave of creators are starting to flow into the world and they will insist on utilising more powerful capabilities, Microsoft knows that the new next generation platform will be augmented reality and whole world computation, something which a Chromebook will not prepare children for, they will need more powerful applications for 3D development and graphics capabilities like that found in the Adobe suites or audio and video editing applications which are mostly useful on the desktop and will be for at least another three to five years, more people want to get into serious computer development too, you can't even install a decent IDE on one of those, so as soon as you get to college or university things change dramatically I believe, Microsoft are just starting to look at the issue yes, but there is no way that Google is going to win this in the long run, sorry Google maniacs but this really does not prepare children for the next level of world computer use and you are just suckers for Google's ego, lets be honest Office 365 is proven to be superior and they are working on far more interesting software applications then Google, not to mention the way Google handles data and privacy, it can all change quickly, Google is a young company, DO NOT EVER underestimate Microsoft, they can be quite patient but bold and powerful, something tells me they are working up some magic over at Redmond.

    • Tony Barrett

      In reply to ghibbins:

      You really are delusional aren't you. Well, you carry on believing what you want. MS are slowly but surely losing ground in their core markets. The future is web, not AR/VR, which will be nothing more than a short-lived fad. Schools want cheap, reliable, easy to manage devices that fill *all* their teaching needs, and as most of this is now web based, ChromeBooks fill that gap perfectly. Complicated Windows PC's that require extra support staff, and have a horrendous design/update model don't fit the bill anymore.

    • Jack Smith

      In reply to ghibbins:

      Windows is in decline and recently passed by Android as most popular OS. It is very, very rare once a platform starts declining that it turns around. Windows will be here for a very, very, very long time. But it will continue to decline for the foreseeable future, IMO.

      Only two platforms grew in 2016 which were Android and ChromeOS. Even iOS declined in 2016. iPad unit sales have now declined for 13 straight quarters.

      BTW, my kids have CB and they do what they would do on a Windows machine. Not sure where you heard they have "very limited real world solutions".

      My kids are real. They live in the world. They use CB everyday. So in my case the CBs are solving real world problems. Well their problems.

      Now with Android apps on CBs they have more native software than Windows but then also there systems are secure and provide excellent user experience.

      • ghibbins

        In reply to Jack Smith: No offence but Android is a mobile OS and ChromeOS is about as relevant as Linux, both are popular because they are free, or at least you pay with them by using the services which collects data about you.

  18. Steve Martin

    I couldn't agree more. In the mind 90's when Apple was teetering on the brink they decided to abandon the education market. Mistake that nearly put them out of business permanently. It took them over a decade to recover from that decision.

    The Education market is your base market for the next 10-20 years. Ignoring it in the Tech industry is tantamount to deciding you are no longer in business.

  19. hometoy

    You summed it up pretty well with "which are inexpensive to acquire, inexpensive to manage and support, and easy to use."

    Even if Google doesn't provide the Chromebook, any computer using Google Chrome will do (or any other browser for that matter, but Chrome is a little better with their apps, especially when you include extensions) including Libraries, schools, etc. And the experience is "consistent". No Windows 7 vs Windows 10 vs Mac vs Linux vs Android tablet comparisons once in the browser. Also consistent with the teachers and admins.

    It's no surprise Chromebooks and Google for Education is popular, and it goes well beyond just the price of their computers. And Microsoft is going to have to stay in the market to push their relevance just like the mobile and smartband markets .... oh, wait. Nevermind.

  20. Joseph Savage

    It's only a disaster if you are Microsoft or make money off of them.

    I am excited that Microsoft is doing this. The competition between Microsoft and Google will make both platforms better.

  21. normcf

    The business of schools is teaching math, science, communication skills, etc. When students graduate and get a job, they aren't paid to make documents, they are paid to fill documents with useful information. People who can create useful documents will get a job regardless of whether they can currently use MS word or not.

    The big threat is to business and enterprise. Businesses are already finding that certain roles do not need the expensive overhead of running a windows OS. Sure, there are some roles that need the whole function of local MS word or excel, but the vast majority do not. Companies already assign computer hardware according to role, and once the CIOs start to figure out the cost and security savings of ChromeOS, they will find the roles that fit and simplify their management. This is already starting and the education market is a great advertisement for it. If these devices can work cheaply and easily with a bunch of kids doing their utmost to break in, then business will have no problems reducing their IT overhead.

  22. Sarge

    I never thought of Microsoft as being strong on the education market, I always had Apple in that position.  My first job was in a computer retailer in the very early 80's and Apple's plan on getting Apple II's into schools was very strong & focused which was followed by many of their other platforms (Mac's) as time went on.  They clearly wanted to engage students at a young age (and teachers too) to get them into the Apple ecosystem.  I used to make the comparison to the tobacco market (hook'em young).  I noted in the 80's and 90's that schools were doing a disservice to the student population by not having them work on the main computing platform (Windows) in the business world to be prepared better for their entry into the job market.  I believe that's is why there is a generation of people who didn't mind paying 2x or more from Apple for the same computing power. I'm not bringing the iPhone into this which was another major game changer from Apple, but I certainly respect the marketing acumen of what they wanted to do back then in the educational space... 

  23. Mark from CO


    We'll see what Microsoft will do. 

    At the very least, this is another example of the company being late in responding to a strategic competitor.  How late, I guess one can debate, but like many below, the kids in my community's schools are being indoctrinated with Google products.  It may well be too late.  Microsoft will have to be willing to persevere and invest a great deal in this market to even try to right the ship.  These are competitive attributes the company has not shown in the wider consumer market. 

    Microsoft's approach to the education market is also emblematic of its confused consumer strategy.  Why is this submarket important, when the broader mobile market was deemed irrelevant?  Seems these two markets have quite a lot in common - similar customers.  Thinking that winning the education market will enable Microsoft to again become relevant in the broader consumer market, where it has no coherent strategy other than to build up the ecosystems of its competitors, is just wishful thinking.

    Thinking that Microsoft has it right because of its focus on the cloud, ignores the fact it has more nimble competitors that can offer consumer cloud solutions that are more integrated with the tech product and services consumers are using right now.  And this integration encompasses the whole range of a customers tech experience: school, mobile, and phone.  Microsoft is really positioned to compete in this market?  Really...

    Mark from CO  

  24. Bats


    I did not know this but Google's product for Education is: F R E E.

    You know what I was just thinking more about this topic, after I posted my reply, and was wondering what else does Microsoft have to offer AFTER (what I presume) will be Microsoft Office for education?

    Whereas with Google, there is much much more. We are talking about the complete ecosystem here. Google, right now, can not only offer the Google Drive suite along with a range of communication apps, but also music, videos, 360 videos, educational Youtube channels. All can be had for F R E E and all extremely easy to maintain. That is very very very hard to beat. 

    Do you know what I hope? When Paul blogs about this, I hope he'll do a comprehensive comparison between Microsoft's and Google's education offerings.

    LOL.....YEAH...RIGHT! (LOL)

    You know Paul, won't even study or look at Google's offerings for education. He'll just try to sell us that Microsoft's offering is better because it's Microsoft. A company that has continued to FAIL him.

    • Jack Smith

      In reply to Bats:

      Not sure if you realize but schools have a monthly fee for access to Google K12 platform. Our schools are heavy users and as a parent love the Google school platform.

      Love how it creates Google Sheets with all of our kids broken down. But the analytics is what is most exciting. They will use the data they are collecting to better match up kids and teachers. Nobody helped the schools at this level like Google is doing in the US.

    • komuso

      In reply to Bats:

      You make some good points here, but I would be remiss if I didn't take the time to point out a couple of things that your comment might lead some people to believe. The first thing is that Office 365 is also free for schools. They can 'purchase' 100 or 100,000 O365 licenses at no cost to the school district. I work with school districts around the country every day who have tens of thousands of licenses for Office 365 that they use for free.

      The second thing I'd like to say is that the Google Chrome Management License is not free. Rather, it costs anywhere from $24-$30 per Chromebook. Again, my experience with large school districts has shown me that all of them (at least all of them with which I am familiar) are purchasing that management license in addition to the Chromebook. Intune for Education is priced similarly, so there is no advantage to either platform in that regard, but it is a necessity in order to successfully manage a large deployment of Chromebooks into an education environment.

      I just wanted to provide that information because your comment(s) might lead others to believe that they can just buy a couple hundred Chromebooks and be off to the races. There are other things to consider.

    • skane2600

      In reply to Bats:

      There's a lot of stuff on the Internet that companies don't charge for including Office Online, but since you need a device and a Internet connection, it's not really free. The closest thing to free materials in education are the blackboard, pencil and paper.

      • Jeff Jones

        In reply to skane2600:

        Needing a device and internet connection isn't really a factor when you need it for both or all three potential platforms, (Google, Microsoft, or maybe Apple).

        The software to tie everything together and build a unified education platform and manage it is the only real difference. G-Suite for education is free, but then so is Office 365 for Education. So who knows that Bats is actually thinking.

        The big difference that is attracting schools right now is the idea of the hassle-free Chromebook while Windows still gives the impression of being a hassle to maintain and requiring more expensive hardware for a good experience.

        • skane2600

          In reply to Jeff Jones:

          I'm glad you used the word "impression" since at least some of the hassle is a matter of perception rather than reality. But backwards compatibility has its price no matter how much MS tries to minimize it which is why I think a clean slate for phones/tablets would have been a better path.

  25. Michael Rivers

    I guess I'm just really, really old, but the main way we used all those Apple II's when I was in school was learning to program them. How is that not even part of the discussion today? Windows, Mac and Linux can be used to program themselves; toys like iPads and Chromebooks can't (I don't think). I'm sure there are some online tools to learn to code, but is that really as good? Who is going to write all the social media apps that the next generation will waste all its time on?

  26. matsan

    If I had to choose between a locked down windows 10 cloud Windows-as-a-Service device only running UWP from a svelte App Store and a Chromebook - I'd go with the Chromebook every day.

    Having a mature browser, plenty of apps, stable platform and not having updates forced down you throat.

    Please Microsoft - don't do this mistake.

  27. Darmok N Jalad

    I guess one question would be, how good are schools at deploying that many devices in the first place? A good-sized school district is basically getting into large company territory if the aim is to provide a machine to every student, and look how hard that can be to manage. Granted, companies also deploy complex software and have different security concerns, but at the same time, they are issuing machines to employees, not to minors of varying degrees of responsibility. I went to a pretty benign high school a few decades ago, and I recall kids intentionally smashing school-owned scientific calculators just for the fun of it. I can only imagine the nightmares associated with giving kids laptops or tablets, even if they are "responsible" for them.

    And while I agree that technology should be introduced in school, just how much of the school work should be done using it? The aspect of having corporations vying for marketshare in the classroom should also be of some concern. What do those companies really stand to gain by being so cheap in this space? Perhaps an entire generation's worth of telemetry and social data? As for the true value of being in the schools for marketshare, just because an iPad or Chromebook is good enough for a grade schooler, that doesn't mean those same devices will suffice in college or the office environment. If schools get too much in bed with any corporation, the education itself is what will suffer.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

      In many school systems, parents are financially responsible for any devices given to students. If kids break Chromebooks, mom and/or dad buys a new one. Repeat offenders probably get creative punishments both at school and at home.

      As for corporations in schools, would MSFT in the classroom be any worse than Coke in the vending machines outside the classrooms? Or any better?

    • CaedenV

      In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

      Students constantly break stuff. Sometimes on purpose, but (surprisingly) most of the time it is an accident... careless and easily avoided accident... but an accident.

      But when you go 1:1 it is amazing how the maintenance goes down. If your box is in the shop for repairs, that is down-time where you can't do your homework which makes you get behind. Damage something on purpose? your parents see the bill and what was done. Repairs and maintenance does not go away entirely, but per machine the more boxes we get, and the fewer people who use them, the repair work gets better and better.

      As for their usefulness. Yes, you aren't going to do production work on a chromebook. Video and audio editing are rough (though no longer impossible). But really... how many people are doing that? Most people are logging into a website, and the website provides most of the tools the employee is allowed to use. But even most people who need hefty or proprietary software don't need a PC on their desk. They can easily remote into a personal VM that has all of their heavy software when they need it... I mean, they are already doing it so they can use their apple PCs, doing the same workflow on a chromebox or chromebook is not a big stretch.

      I am personally a little sad as it is turning PCs into a console style 'black box', which means people are far less generally computer literate now than they were when I was a kid... but at the same time, they don't need to be. The technology has come a long way, and it is mature and robust enough now where very few experts are needed.

      As for the issue of being in bed with a corp... ya. That is a problem. We just finished the OH State AIR testing, and for chromebooks it was a matter of picking which bugs you can deal with. No versions of Chrome were out-and-out broken, but some would not do proper speech to text, others would talk, but not highlight the right text properly, etc. etc. etc. OH State is a small fry customer to a behemoth company like Google, and a proper fix was not made in time. Not the end of the world... but at the end of the day you get what you pay for, and Google is essentially free. But then again you pay (relatively) through the nose for the privilege to use MS software... and that does not include support. There is TechNET, and plenty of other sites that provide free how-to and support... but that is largely guess-work and best-guess support. It is not the same as calling up Google, and their support person logs into your setup and is able to point out and fix the issue for you, or explain how it works and educate you on how to fix it yourself. It is not perfect... but OMG is it better than MS. So much better.

  28. Daishi

    I work for a utility company in Australia, a quick look at the usage stats on our website shows that for the year to the end of April we've had a touch over 320,000 hits on our website of which 227 were from Chromebooks. By way of comparison we had 516 sessions from Windows Phones.

    Chromebooks are a complete non-event here.

  29. Ugur

    On some ends your article is not that off, on other ends it is quite off.

    Where it is spot on is off course that yes, it is important what kids use and learn.

    But then some points are shaky in the article.

    For example no, it can not be assumed that because chromebooks are becoming more and more adopted in education in the US this would spread across the world (quickly or anytime soon).

    Simply because in most other countries it is not like in the US where things happen like a whole district gets chromebooks (or way worse for education iPads).

    In most regular schools in most other countries kids either get no computing device at all from the school and are expected to not use one or bring their own or when they get computing devices for an entire school, yes, sure, they look what's affordable, too but they also in many places have quite strict rules on what to teach during the year and hence what type of computers are at least needed for that.

    So chromebooks could for example be used for many writing/office work related type classes, but not for cross platform development/programming/art/animation creation focussed classes and hence would be a no go to buy in many countries as computers for the whole school as only or main computers.

    Then there is also the misguided notion brought up by some that no one would be developing stuff for/on windows anymore.

    This false notion is further accelerated by MS themselves as they are so hellbent for a few years now to brand anything win 32/x86/x64 as "legacy" like not current anymore.

    Which is complete nonsense.

    Most high end things, highend video and post production, CAD/architecture/product design, high end game and 3D art and animation creation, guess what, yes, most of all that is happening on Windows.

    Heck, Android apps, too, made on Windows for the most part.

    There are thousands of highest end 3D games released every year on windows alone.

    The highest end VR devices and most other cutting edge technology pushes, all happening on windows.

    (Of all those at best Google could bring Android app creation to chromebooks but even that only in limited form)

    Yes, we use our mobile devices most, that does not take anything away from windows being used massively in all those other fields and many others daily, A LOT.

    And that will continue until those other devices allow doing all that stuff on them, which with their OS restrictions: No.

    So yes, most of those things can not be done on a chromebook.

    I'm cool with chromebooks as affordable hassle free office docs work kinda laptop, to make laptops which work hassle free and all right at the few things they do accessible to a broader market.

    And yes, MS can learn a thing or two (or 100) from getting things hassle free to use on the level of a iPad or at least chromebook (but while not cutting away the capabilities and power and versatility of Windows), but yeah, they only have to worry about chromebooks if they don't actually get what all their platforms are actually used for and cut it off themselves step by step in misguided aim to push UWP instead.

    All (future) programmers, artists, designers, creators in general won't all stop using desktop OS now because they had a hassle free chromebook at school (in the US) which is fine for editing a paper, they wouldn't be able to as all those apps and OS capabilities are not available on those other devices.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Ugur:

      Digression: has any company lost track of the ball as thoroughly as Apple has in education. 15 years ago can't think of any primary school system nearby which wasn't using iMacs. Then came iPads, and they've proven to be one of the greatest disasters for educational use since New Math. How could Apple have been so far off in what it provided given what came before iPad was so damn much better?

      • MikeGalos

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        And before that, Apple owned the education market with the Apple ][ being almost universal in schools.

      • Paul Thurrott

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        Apple has had such great success with its iPhone "halo" strategy that I think they've gotten lazy. It will be interesting to see if they can fix this. I don't think they can but with a focus on phones it may not matter as much.

      • Ugur

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        Macs were never that huge in most schools in many european countries, but in higher up education, they were in several fields, especially where it was more about (print and web) design (and some advertising and some video fields).

        And yes, there is no denying Apple dropped the ball massively with their macs in general over the past few years. Heck, meanwhile there is no denying it to the degree that even Apple realized there is no denying it anymore and so made a statement to play "yes, we got the memo and will do something about it (next year)"

        Just this year they crappified the macbook pro and with that then suddenly it became obvious that, wait a minute, the whole mac lineup is actually pretty crappy (in comparison to other options) at this point, so then this year finally the moaning became so loud that Apple finally had to address it publicly at least.

        In previous years, where it was "only" the mac mini and mac pro not upgraded for ages, then also "only" the small macbook crappified, too, then also "only" the iMac being super stale besides higher res screen and thinner and thinner for no good reason (other than as excuse for not packing it way better hardware), but now, suddenly, with the macbook pros crapified, too, yes, it is the whole lineup front to back being not recommendable at all, especially at these price points, but not just at those.

        Meanwhile (quite) some years ago things looked quite different.

        Back those years ago, the Macbook Air was like a great portable hassle free and still desktop OS capable OS running laptop ideal for many students, the macbook pro quite powerful for the standards back then

        (and with best in class keyboard and trackpad and screen and even all commonly used ports and handy/cute/charming additions like glowing mac logo and mag safe).

        And the mac pro was powerful and extendable and they even had the mac mini as affordable but quite solid entry level desktop starter kit into the mac world.

        And yeah, the iMac was hands down the sleekest and still nicest in usability and really solid performance and capabilities all in one for the time.

        Yes, they were always on the expensive side, but when one paid for specked out versions, one got really solid all around very competitive total packages.

        And back then the others had worse trackpads, worse keyboards, worse screens (in most cases), even more hassle involving windows versions in between, and it was not like one could have a laptop with halfway ok battery life that could run VR games at high settings.

        But years went by and things changed. A lot. Apple did not go with the times for their macs, so what was once state of the art in many categories, is average or even a sad laughing stock now.

        Now Apple has (besides worsening keyboard and trackpad, removal of glowing logo and mag safe and removal of all commonly used ports, let's not talk about the complete fail design mac pro at all) not gotten much worse (if those weren't enough negative cutdowns), but worst of all: they haven't gotten better anywhere enough at all regarding macs.

        While all others have made major strides.

        All others got slimmer and sleeker, too. While many packing way more a punch in powerful specs. Or at least nice versatility with touchscreen/pen support.

        All others got way better screens, so the great screen of macs (besides on macbook air) is no unique selling point anymore.

        Mac hardware internals are weak sauce now compared to current standards where thanks to things like the nvidia 10xx series gpus one can have super powerful gpus which are really a big leap forward. Highest end gaming, vr and 2D and 3D art, animation, video and other creation allowing stuff on desktops and still amazing performance allowing stuff in quite sleek laptops, too.

        The macbook air, mac mini and mac pro have not been updated in many years and are so behind the times it's not even funny anymore.

        (and the last mac pro and mac mini redesigns were downgrades and fail designs to begin with)

        And iMacs are still nice to look at, but the misguided approach of pushing to make them thinner and thinner and hence not packing in any more capable graphics hardware has made them a bad choice for any graphic artists or other pros who want to make things pushing boundaries.

        At the same time they slept by getting pen support going so something like a surface studio is much more teasing to many artists.

        They keep on repeating the same nonsensical argument of arm fatigue when using touch/pen input on an up right screen while all others have screens one can use at any angle and Apple themselves sells an iPad pro and pen for it.

        Or their arguments for not packing in more powerful hardware internals into the macs being due to thermal constraints blabla.

        Well, d'oh, of course, but maybe then you should tell Jonny noone asked for 4mm thinner if it means giving up all commonly used ports and having to put in weak sauce gpu and even cut down your battery..

        So their whole argumentation for why they don't go with the times is nonsense front to back, and most halfway informed people know it meanwhile. And yes, that is a major impact against Apple's reputation. They went within a few lazy and misguided years (regarding macs) from "only Apple can do this" (deliver this level of refined great total package device) to "only Apple does this" (kind of nonsense and missing the point and times)

        And they also made most of their own creative apps worse and hence where macs were used heavily in some design oriented fields for some years, those all points are some of the main reasons why all that has gone down massively.

        Heck, even if it's purely about a company wanting to put the most fancy computers in their design offices and front desks, even for that usage alone macs are not the best option by far anymore.

        Apple basically drank too much of their own marketing coolaid and believed too much in iPads becoming the next computing platform on the level of replacing laptops/desktops for most regular people and not just for relaxing, but , even for education and work purposes.

        And that simply can't happen with the OS restrictions they have.

        And anyone who still acts like "but Apple could totally do this, they would only have to...", well, no, obviously it's not that simple, Apple can't just easily do X and very easily take over the entire sector anymore.

        Apple has slept too long for macs and mac software and the others just got way better meanwhile.

        Meanwhile they have to revise most of their decisions for mac hardware massively and push a lot and excellent stuff in very short timespan to just catch up.

        (I don't say they can, Apple tends to be at its best when falling behind and having to deliver, they are at their worst when being in the lead for too long)

        And most people meanwhile know where smartphones and ARM tablets have their strengths and weaknesses, and unless one changes the OS and it's restrictions to a degree where it is closer to a desktop OS than the thing it is right now, no, those ARM devices will not be used or usable in all those many fields where desktop OS are used for work and creation.

        All nice when i can use an (overpriced massively) iPad pro with dandy pen for drawing but if i can't use desktop Photoshop and desktop animation and 3d art creation software with it, it is zero use to me besides as (way way overpriced then) scribble toy.

        and even if it had all those desktop level pro apps (which it can't with that OS), it still would be a major hassle to get anything on and off it since no ports and no free access to the file system.

        Using cloud services is fine for file backup/transfer for small files, like word docs (without many pictures), as soon as one deals in other fields where project folders can be many gigs, that is a complete no go without external ports and without file system access.

        Then some act like hey, we could maybe just emulate desktop apps on arm, and voila, we have all people using arm devices since (at least) all the desktop apps there (again ignoring the whole file transfer issue and many others)).

        Well, what is the advantage to the user to use emulated desktop apps and games on arm devices?

        Do i have any advantage when i use my windows or macOS desktop applications and games on my iPad with no mouse/trackpad and no proper keyboard and the desktop app/game will at best perform slightly worse than it would when running natively on an intel/AMD chip?

        And i will at best only get slight compatibility issues, not horrible hassle involving or complete no go ones?

        Apple did a lot of sense making moves to bring those positive in usability/ hassle cutdown aspects from iOS over to macOS (the biggest one being automatic saving/history/restore for many desktop applications and their files, the number one thing i want in windows).

        And they already had some benefits over MS/Windows in other areas for many years, like way less hassle involving upgrading/restoring a system and better app bundle handling (points like downloading an app and putting one app file/icon (which is the whole bundle) anywhere one wants and using it from there, no install required, simply drag it to the trash to uninstall it hassle free. Way less mess left back than on Windows.)

        I could go on listing things, but yes, overall, in hassle free usage for desktop capabilities offering OS, Apple is still way further there than MS (who got side tracked with trying to establish their app store locked down uwp platform instead of tackling all those very important usability points for regular OS and regular desktop apps usage).

        But, well, Apple dropped the ball on mac hardware big time over the last few years (my macbook pro from 2015 (even if not competitive against newer windows laptops) is still hands down the best macbook in most aspects and the newer one a big downgrade in many aspects i would not recommend anyone to buy, just to bring the example back) and they also dropped the ball big time on their pro and regular user creation focussed applications for macs, hence reducing the reasons for people to use macs.

        Couple that with their weak hardware specs also not allowing to run high end games or high end anything, well, another large chunk of use cases cut away for macs.

        Then they also made the mac and mobile App Store way less attractive thanks to doing nothing proper against them becoming free to play shitfest implicitly enforced, so then less and less people can earn their living making apps for those, so then also another big reason getting smaller for why people would buy macs.

        So yeah, in summary, it is not a one single thing that decides what people use.

        The most intuitive (mobile grade) OS alone is no use for lots of work types without it being capable to run all stuff people use at work and to create things.

        Nor when it lacks keyboard, mouse/trackpad and it's a hassle to get bigger files on and off.

        The most intuitive and still powerful desktop OS is not enough without also being up to date on hardware specs people want and having applications and games people want and can't get elsewhere.

        And something like chromebooks, a laptop one can use for office docs editing and is hassle free to maintain, yes, MS could release a laptop with office 365 and it being affordable and still perform quite well, not just for the price, but that does not play into their main strength (they stupidly forgot about or declare as legacy only) which is that windows on a powerful computer is used in most fields which go beyond office doc editing.

        It also does not address all the usability issues of windows and those are not to be tried to be addressed by cutting down the OS to only run uwp apps, no, they have to be addressed by making the full fledged OS and desktop app usage less hassle involved to use and maintain (again, on that end have a good look at what macOS gets quite right there).

        MS has the advantage on some aspects (if they don't deny it and keep on pushing it further) by getting the most powerful hardware and having the pro apps and high end games and all one can't get on any other platform.

        If they get Windows working better, less hassle involving, they have the strongest option.

        But just making a cut down windows version which does not allow to do most things one can do with windows desktop applications and powerful hardware and at the same time still has all the hassle aspects of windows, yeah, that's not it.

        A good education initiative by MS should involve for example sponsoring courses where they teach and use desktop creation applications only available on desktop OS.

        Full Photoshop, Unity and Unreal Editor, Cad applications, Animation and 3d content creation and pro video editing things, medical and science applications, one could list many examples.

        (Unity also having the advantage of using C# (even if Mono C#))

        But yeah, will be interesting who gets the memo and gets there first.

        Apple releasing competitive cool macs again which go with the times in ways users want and better pro and regular user desktop apps again or google allowing to do more and more on chromebooks or ms getting the memo on their strengths and address those weaknesses people care about which hold them back by causing major hassle.

        At the end of the day (at least in the US) a school or school district can place whatever they want as the default computing devices there, at the end what wins out and is used more is what people have to use when wanting to make things and what they want to use because it allows them to do all that stuff in least hassle involving smoothest workflow.

        I'll be watching MS' presentation in very interested way to see how much (or not) they got the memo and offer something appealing =)

      • skane2600

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        I don't know how much profit Apple gained from the educational market ( I believe they offered discounts to schools) but there's little evidence that the Mac's overall market share benefited from use by schools. iPads failed fundamentally because Jobs' tablet vision was simply wrong.

  30. dnation70

    this is were the cloud computer comes in

  31. glenn8878

    My local elementary school has Macs in the computer lab. It seems to do the job. The problem with Windows is it's clearly become the truck. Only used for the office. Microsoft isn't helping things with its new approach to Office that only benefits Microsoft. Chrome is cheap, really cheap. Microsoft chased the Apple premium market with Surface. Windows lacks apps and a coherent approach in the future.

  32. fanchettes

    There is in fact a very vibrant community of educators who have embraced MSFT and Office 365. The sleeper app that is making huge inroads to the education market: OneNote. Educators are utilizing OneNote in amazing ways, especially when they employ digital ink. Seriously, look it up. I know Paul isn't a huge fan of the surface pen, but I totally can't live without it.

  33. hrlngrv

    My children used original iMacs in grade school, then relatively ancient PCs at school in middle school, and each had their own PCs at home by high school. My youngest just missed the Chromebook era. However, my sister's kids, all younger but in the same school system, have been using Chromebooks for the past few years.

    Part of what's going on is providing a common platform for all students, so none can add outside software to gain advantages on classmates. Windows to date isn't as easy to lock down.

    Another part of what's going on is that when my kids were in middle school (11 to 13 at beginning of school years), they had to take a full semester of 'Computer Skills' to learn how to use Office. Apparently no longer needed with Chromebooks. Office is considerably more complex than Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, and most of that extra complexity isn't useful in primary and secondary school.

    As for the workplace, if all the ones where I've worked are a guide, there are a lot of programs the typical desk-bound worker uses on the job which they never would have been exposed to in school.

    Finally, Office is overkill for most office workers. Excel is definitely overkill for 90% of office workers. If you don't use linear algebra on the job or know what an annuity function or net present value is, you probably don't need Excel and could get by with a much simpler spreadsheet. Same for Word and PowerPoint. Fewer than 20% need even 80% of what each of the Office programs provide, and those groups are more or less independent in the statistics sense, so fewer than 1% need 80% of what Word, Excel and PowerPoint provide. Those people just may be more efficient with Google's apps rather than Office.

  34. rameshthanikodi

    Nothing i've seen from all the Windows 10 Cloud rumors has convinced me that it will be a thing capable of addressing (or even understanding) what the education market sees in Chromebooks. We'll see.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to rameshthanikodi:

      Yep. I don't have a good feeling about this.

      • Chris_Kez

        In reply to Paul Thurrott:

        Considering you probably have better access to more information than any of us, that doesn't bode well for MS. That said, I am reserving judgement until MS presents its case tomorrow. Despite years of evidence to the contrary, I still have to think that MS finally understands the appeal of Chromebooks.

    • CaedenV

      In reply to rameshthanikodi:

      Could not agree more. They think the issue is the price of the machines... breaking x86 apps on affordable machines REMOVES an advantage of PCs over Chromebooks. If they both browse the web and run apps, then obviously the Chrome app store is the way to go.

      But really it is the support and maintenance costs of Windows that is killing it in schools. But hopefully Tuesday they will explain some fixes for those issues as well as cheap little devices.

  35. Bart

    I wonder what kind of incentives MS will offer OEM's in order to make Windows 10 compete on the low end of the market. Ie will we (finally) hear MS say: "This Windows 10 EDU SKU is free for OEM's"?

  36. ajwr

    The Chromebook phenomenon is defintiely interesting. I myself have started using a Chromebook personally, but with O365 Business services (e.g. web apps). I almsot wonder if they need to do a two-tiered approach too. They need to agressively pursue the idea that Office Web Apps + ChromeBook is better than Google. I would love to see more integrated with ChromeBook if it would be possible.

    • Waethorn

      In reply to ajwr:

      Office 365 will always be made so that Windows gets an advantage over the web (except for administration, which makes no sense whatsoever). Consider the difference between that, and Google's approach, where the web is the best platform for productivity, and you can see how Microsoft is going to lose out.

  37. CaedenV

    So, I work in a few school districts, and here is my feeling on the windows vs Chromebook issue

    1) While I personally can't use a Chromebook, they are excellent for students. Easy to use, cheap to replace, and really difficult to mess up. Headphones don't mystically switch to digital output at random. There are no real settings to lock down, because the settings that they have access to don't affect much. They are very simple machines, and they 'just work'.

    2) As a tech, they are a dream. Catch a virus? Stuck on a bad website? Just feel like starting over? it is a 5 minute process to do a powerwash which essentially makes it a new machine. No need to update, or troubleshoot, just powerwash and forget it. About the only real issue I run into is when there are battery issues the TPM modules get confused which can lock out the motherboard... but again very rare.

    3) As a network admin they are a dream. Simply (ha!) set up GADS and all of your users and passwords move over. You can micromanage pretty much all of the apps, links, settings, etc fairly easily. Not sure what you are looking for? simply search on the management page and it goes right to the setting, all in one place. This allows one network admin to run several districts with minimal issues.

    4) They are cheap! Device costs are one thing, and they are cheap up-front to be sure. But management costs are $30/device instead of being stuck on a hefty yearly VLA fee from MS. No distinction between students and staff; they are just district devices all with the same prices. Training costs are also low; students catch on quick causing less wasted class time. Teachers catch on quick, which means less expensive training time. Less time is needed per device for maintenance/updates/troubleshooting/mgmt/etc. which means 1-2 tech can deal with a full 1:1 school district instead of needing 3-5 techs with a full Windows network.

    Personally, I will use Windows until it is no longer a thing. But professionally, they make less and less sense every year. Between apps and websites there are decent substitutes for your average student. Students going into programming, or AV production, etc will still need access to a PC lab... but you can easily get by with a PC lab or two rather than a few hundred PCs through the district.

    I have high hopes for the announcement on Tuesday... but a mere 'cloud OS' isn't going to fix their costs, management, training, and maintenance issues. Hopefully we are in for more surprises than just cheap priced devices.

    • Narg

      In reply to CaedenV:

      I've seen a few initiatives by Microsoft on the level of manageability you state here for Chromebooks. It can be better, though no idea if Microsoft will even release these tools to the wild. What's even more interesting is that the Microsoft tools could manage ANY device, not just Windows devices. THAT is a good thing.

    • Tony Barrett

      In reply to CaedenV:

      A very sensible analysis, and I agree with everything you've said. MS just announcing a new Windows device (that ultimately will be subject to all Windows' usual problems which cause school's a nightmare) will not really help as far as I can see. MS think they can just announce a new product, and all problems solved. It failed with RT, it failed with Mobile, it failed with 8. MS don't get much right these days. Chromebooks seem to be a perfect fit for schools, and you have a feeling they may eventually be a good fit for business as well.

    • Ugur

      In reply to CaedenV:

      All very good and valid points, besides you narrow down the usage fields of windows a bit too narrowly.

      In reality, unless one does office docs editing type work, in pretty much all other fields if one does a tad higher/more involved type stuff with computers, there is no way around windows or at least macOS (no way around windows in way more fields though).

      But yes, i totally agree with you that MS should tackle the hassle free to use and maintain aspect of windows more than anything else.

      Yes, funnily i have it several times per week on several of my windows 10 machines where when i use different apps, it switches the audio output device by itself nilly willy, often to ones that make no sense at all.

      So then i want to do something with audio output i have to check each time it is set to the correct audio output.

      Something like that should not happen in 2017.

      Likewise, they should have more automated restore handling, and not just for basic things like desktop settings and some uwp apps stuff, no, i expect in 2017 i can press a button and it restores all my desktop applications and games to the prestine state of a week ago, and that works without unintuitive messing around with manually setting up restore points and it then not working to restore them etc.

      MS also has to take a good look at the usability improves macOS added since the release of the iOS devices.

      One of the biggest being that in macOS one can get a crash or shut down and restart the computer in usual way and next time one starts those apps again it can open all the windows with their former content and nothing is lost. For text edit docs and some other types it also automatically saves the file when one closes it.

      And this is for desktop apps like safari, mail, textedit etc, not some uwp type mumbo jumbo.

      That all said, all those hassle free and intuitive and sense making and easy to maintain things MS has to get going, yeah, still no way around the point that windows is used in pretty much all fields (where not at least macOS is used) in professional work life for anything that goes beyond basic office docs editing.

  38. Roger Ramjet

    I mostly agree with Paul Thurrott. It is true that Apple dominated schools, and did not heavily translate into the workplace, but Apple was following a different strategy than Google, and it also turned out that Apple found something else -Smart Phones - that aligned very well with its differentiated strategy, and turned out to be the most profitable product to ever exist, so, they might have been more aggressive in enterprises had things not turned out that way. Also, without a doubt Apple's mindshare hold on that generation plays a critical role in its overwhelming consumer mindshare today = amongst other things dominance any high end technology service they enter.

    Google is a threat to Microsoft's existence (or at least Microsoft's prosperity) in a way Apple never was. While Apple is a Microsoft peer, Google is the company that is following what we might think of as the post-Microsoft strategy, and very consciously in a way that Wintel did the post-IBM, but more so. And Google has been extremely successful at this in some areas, market caps don't lie. Android of course, is exhibit #1, there is also Chrome Brower, gmail, etc. While Ballmer was thinking Apple, it was actually Google/Android that was killing it in what should have been Microsoft's space, since Apple continued its differentiated strategy, and Android is basically the Windows strategy, translated and updated for Phones, executed at lower cost (get the shareware distro and add to it), better services, plus higher returns due to Google's mobile services advantage, which was no accident. Looking back one can see that Google was planning for the mobile world for many years (maps, earth, search etc).

    Looking forward, Google follows a low cost strategy plus with very well developed offerings. Such companies are always very dangerous to incumbents. Walmart/Sears, Amazon/Traditional Retail, GEICO/Insurance entities, etc etc, the history of business is littered with those who could not adequately respond to such entities. Microsoft had better sit up very straight (there is a lot of evidence that they have seen it clearly now, MicrosoftEDU aside, execution is still not top notch though. We'll see how well are doing on Tuesday.

    • Jack Smith

      In reply to Roger Ramjet:

      Easily the best comment on this thread by a country mile. Agree 110%. MS executes should be buying some CBs and use them at home for a couple of weeks. Have their kids and wife use them also. Only then do I think they would get it.

    • Jeff Jones

      In reply to Roger Ramjet:

      You mentioned that Google has been planning for the mobile world for many years.

      I remember reading an article in the early 2000s about someone at Google saying mobile was the next big market for the internet. This was in the time of the candy bar phones, flip phones, and the clunky Windows Pocket PC and PalmPilot devices. I remember wondering how in the world could anyone think this is the next big market.

      Looking back it is obvious they were right, although I wonder if they were just lucky with regards to how big the market became. If Apple hadn't shifted the mindset to finger friendly touch with the iPhone the market would probably be half the size it is today.

  39. joeaxberg

    I'm happy, we should all be happy, that we live in a world where Microsofts solutions are one of many different competing and viable solutions. Competition is good.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to joeaxberg:

      Indeed. If only there were more for Office. In some ways Excel hasn't progressed since the early 1990s.

      • karlinhigh

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        "Progressed" to what? There comes a point where a product is mature, and adding more features will make the users say "Get out of my way!"

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to karlinhigh:

          As in it's still impossible in a single Excel instance to load C:\a\b.xlsx and D:\z\b.xlsx (same base filenames b.xlsx) at the same time. Excel may be unique in this limitation among all Windows programs which can open multiple files at the same time. In this respect, Excel is still a toddler. If you don't believe this is more than an annoyance, you don't participate in user-to-user support forums.

  40. Sprtfan

    When I was in elementary and high school, Apple dominated education but work places were dominated by Windows. I wouldn't guarantee that loosing market share in education dooms Windows in the business world. That said, I think it is a wise decision for Microsoft to make a big push back into education. If they can get the ease of management on the same level as the chromebooks, they could have a superior offering.

    • Ugur

      In reply to Sprtfan: Yes, very good point and i feel like one that is somehow always missed by many who argue in the vein "what people use in their education is what they'll use later".
      The reality is often more like: people buy themselves those things they find cool and/or useful for themselves and they use for their work what gets the job efficiently done.
      Yes, my small nephew's generation was the first which used a touchscreen (iPads/other ARM tablets, smartphones) before using any other computer, but does that mean this generation will not use computers? Not at all of course.
      My nephew is only 7 now and he already knows how to use a mouse and keyboard, too and he also knows that the iPad is for watching movies or playing basic games and apps and the windows and mac laptops/desktops are for playing the most in depth games and using the big desktop apps to make all the stuff.

      iPhones did not become used lots in work places because Apple had some big work usage push back then, they got used because people bought them themselves because it was a more usable phone platform to them.
      Apple on the other end tried quite heavily for a while to push iPads in education and has so far failed heavily for all levels besides pre school because iPads are just not well usable for most things one would do as in creative or other work on computers.

      MS is in a better position regarding an education push if they try to push it with desktop apps; if they try to push it with UWP stuff, well, they are not in much better place than chromebooks then.

      MS has to realize their strengths which is that windows is the de facto standard for getting things done and creating things and not with UWP but with all the win 32/x86/x64 applications that are used across all industries.
      Don't destroy that, embrace and strengthen it.
      MS should not try to push away from win 32/x86/x64, they should make it more user friendly.
      So there should still be proper windows desktop apps one can simply launch from the desktop or a folder via single or double click, but it should have the advantages of macOS applications like not spamming stuff everywhere, application bundles containing all they need inside them etc.

      MS needs to get away from this model of always trying to establish an entirely different platform (UWP or something else) by the way of cutting the old platform.

      It is incredible to me they don't get how much of a failed approach it is when you cut ties with your former iteration every 2-3 years as they did for windows phone several times.

      • Paul Thurrott

        In reply to Ugur:

        s The thing is, enterprise has already changed because of this trend (people coming out of school and expecting to use tech they are familiar with). Slack and other IM-based collaboration solutions are a great example. Before that, Yammer and other social networking-like solutions. The decline of email. You can deny it all you want, but it's happening.

        • Ugur

          In reply to Paul Thurrott: I don't deny anything if it's valid, but to my experience Slack came to the offices i worked at because it was a handy service some tried and liked, and none of them had tried it at the school/uni first.
          (And this experience i talked about is from when i worked for a company in NY which has it's work place at one of those buildings where many startups have their offices in one space)

          Regarding some other options for collaborative work like google docs, well, in our teams we started using that more and more because it's available on all platforms and free and the syncing works better than in all other options we tried.

          I don't deny that when pupils learn about something handy at school/uni, sure they might consider using it in their spare time or even at work, sure, but there's also no denying about the point that nowadays lots of things are discovered among people outside school/uni course hours and then some things also used at work places after debating it together or already decided when one gets there.

  41. skane2600

    Apple was king of the classroom for a long time yet it seemed to have little or no effect on Apple's overall market share. Outside of the classroom, the competitive forces that drive which platform is adopted aren't really driven by the special needs of elementary and secondary education. Some schools quick embrace of iPads and their sudden decision to drop them suggests that schools are somewhat fickle and fad-driven rather than leading the next wave of technology adoption.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to skane2600:

      That was a long time ago. And to be fair, the rise of MacBooks in businesses is very real.

      • skane2600

        In reply to Paul Thurrott:

        Given that Apple's overall share hasn't increased much, it suggests that Mac users were just switching from desktop Macs to Macbooks, just as many Windows users were switching from desktops to laptops.

        • Ugur

          In reply to skane2600: Yeah, exactly. I worked at many places where for a good while Macs were used a lot and most of them went through the transition of desktop macs to macbook pros or macs to windows machines.
          Macs only increased for a few years in recent memory overall when the hype around the app store and mobile apps in general was the biggest, and macs were ideal to develop mobile apps as they allowed to deploy both iOS and Android apps, whereas when using windows one still needs a mac/hackintosh for the deploy part (since it requires xcode).

          The hype on the app stores has died down massively though as meanwhile free to play is implicitly enforced which is not making most devs do that great anymore there.

          And yeah, people who make mobile apps usually have their macs for the deploy of that meanwhile.

          Desktop macs got so massively less appealing because the mac pro and mac mini were not updated in a very long while (and the last big mac pro revision is also a total fail design) and iMacs weren't updated with high end internals either, so then overall it has very little advantage to buy a desktop mac right now.
          If one needs a big screen, one can attach that to a macbook (pro), too and if one needs way higher end power than a macbook pro has, then one is way better off buying a windows machine for that.
          The very rare exception where a desktop mac still makes sense with the lineup they have is basically when one either knows one doesn't ever want to use the thing portable and/or needs more hardware power than the macbook pros have but at the same not that much hardware power that one would buy a windows desktop with way better specs (and/or one is tied to macOS for some specific software or bigtime OS preferences).

          Overall, yeah, Apple has not exactly made desktop macs any more appealing over the last few years and they themselves talked about the mac pro for example being in the lowest percentage share of all their macs with single digit percentage.

          Given how they treated their desktops i wouldn't be surprised if it was meanwhile below 3% share of all their macs sold.

  42. Shmuelie

    One of my good friends is a public school teacher and his school recently switched to Google Apps/Cromebooks/Google Docs, etc. Only people who like it so far are the people who saw the word "free". From what he tells me not a single teacher or student likes them.

    • jwpear

      In reply to Shmuelie:

      That's interesting.  What is it that they don't like? 

      The teachers and kids in our school district love Google Apps and Chromebooks. I'm really impressed with how quickly they adjusted and how well they're integrated into the curriculum.  Despite having Office on all of our PC's at home, my kids prefer using Google Docs, Sheets, etc.

      Our district made the mistake of jumping on iPads when that was the cool thing.  They issued iPad Mini's to all high school students.  Never made sense to me.  I could see them used in the elementary schools, but not middle or high.  The high school teachers and students absolutely hate the iPads.  The big complaint is that they're just too small.  My daughter has one, but never uses it.  She says none of her teachers use them.

    • bbold

      In reply to Shmuelie:

      Everyone I work with at my job and at school all hate using Chromebooks. This is also unfortunate because its taking future Office users away from MS, ceding them to Google services and devices. So not only are Chromebooks affecting PC usage, it's also affecting Office-usage.

      • VancouverNinja

        In reply to bbold:

        And then they grow up and use MS products - its sad actually. At least MS is arriving with a solution to do what schools need and put the best products in front of the students. When the get in to the workforce they will be on the right platform.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Shmuelie:

      I bet there aren't many complaints about the Google stuff, which is simpler than Office, etc. and just works. The only people moaning about this are old people who still think Office is the only choice.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to Paul Thurrott:

        Teachers may not like it, and while some of them may be old enough to have developed preferences for other platforms, would they qualify as old people?

      • mmcpher

        In reply to Paul Thurrott:. My kids and their friends are happy Android Phone and Chrome and Gmail users. They all seem to hate the school Chromebooks when they encounter them and I don't recall ever hearing someone come home racing and begging to get that cool Chromebook they saw in school. They seem content to burn through Windows laptops outside of class. As they've gotten older, there's a tendency to go to Office apps for more complicated and important school projects. Which is good news because that is likely what they'll have to use when they start working.

        Even after they're on their own in their apartments using Chromecast to watch TV (should it even still be called that?) they seem to want no part of Chromebooks. But the ground sure is prepared and primed for google to close the school Chromebook/Android Phone/Chrome Browser net and capture the next few generations.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Shmuelie:

      What were the students using before?

  43. conan007

    "An entire generation of kids is growing up with no exposure to PCs, or to Windows, Office, or other Microsoft products and services."

    Don't worry, kids (like your son play games and they would soon find that their Chromebooks are useless.