Thursday, 4 May 2017

Microsoft takes aim at Chrome OS with a new, and very necessary, education push

The New York City event of Microsoft to launch Windows 10 S and Surface Laptop seems to have confused many people. The broader theme of the event was "education", but it is a broad subject. To judge by many reactions, Microsoft has not done a good job to distinguish the Surface laptop from its offers and ambitions for K-12 education. When it was introduced, the laptop still received a spin of education, but in a very different context: students, rather than high school students.

Both are important, but they are important in different ways, and the challenges Microsoft faces are very different. While Surface Laptop is the most eye-catching company announcement, it is, like other surface material, designed as a high-end halo product rather than a mass market device. Surface Laptop was probably the least important part of what Microsoft had presented. Windows 10 S, and the range of education-based systems starting at $ 189, are much larger.

Secondary and secondary education has patterns of use that are not common in most other areas. For example, while Windows has long supported individual user accounts, the use of highly shared systems - in which each student takes a laptop from a basket at the beginning of a lesson (or sits on A lab PC) and connects, having never used this particular machine before - is much less common in home or business scenarios. Enterprise deployments of hundreds of computers would almost always have some kind of on-site administrative staff and centralized management using Active Directory and group policies. School environments are often much more ad hoc, without this same central management and greater use of practical maintenance.

This means that school environments are often relatively under-served by traditional IT-based management tools, diluting the strengths that Windows might otherwise have.

The school market is not the same as the one found in the same way as the company office. Apple has, for many years, a strong presence in American education, but this success has not been felt in the rest of the world. The most recent threat in the educational landscape, however, is to see the global reach: Chrome OS.

Find your niche

Google's locked operating system was not specifically designed for education. It was built as a browser-based operating system to use Google's ecosystem of cloud services. But Google properties have given Chrome OS a good fit for education. The operating system uses the Linux kernel and provides an essentially built-in desktop environment around the Chrome browser. Google constructed it deliberately restrictively and securely; For example, Chrome OS was automatically upgraded, it did not allow applications installed locally, and it used digital signatures to ensure that the operating system was not tampered with. Although some of these restrictions have been raised somewhat, the operating system now has full support for running Android applications locally installed, although they remain marketed and restricted. This remains a highly constrained environment.

With cloud-based applications and a locked operating system, there's just not much that people can do to break the Chrome operating system. This makes the OS largely immune to both pirated students and hackers.

The machines that run Chrome OS are also very inexpensive. While Google used high-end, highly engineered and expensive machines, Chromebooks - with x86 and ARM processors - were available for only a few hundred dollars. Chromebooks have largely resisted the Netbook concept and its price.

 Add to this G Suite (formerly Google Apps) for education: Google offers a suite of free cloud services for schools and cloud-based administrative tools, and Chrome OS is an attractive option for schools that are at risk Personal . In addition, Chrome OS has some international reach, not only in the US classrooms, but also in Sweden and beyond.

This wider adoption makes the OS Chrome OS threatening Microsoft so that Macs in education were not. The prospect that Microsoft faces is that a generation of school children will go through their education without using both Windows and Office drivers. The problem for Microsoft will not be that these children are hostile to the company's software; Rather, they will ignore it, having never had this exhibition. When these children enter the workforce, they will know the applications of Google and Chrome. They simply do not have any particular interest in Windows or Office, and they are much less likely to expect them to use or otherwise want to use them.

Microsoft may have already seen this same problem on a smaller scale. The popularity of Macs in (especially) US universities means that many graduates who might previously have had the expertise of Windows are not. Their experience is MacOS, bash command line and systems similar to Unix. We heard from people within the company that this caused problems when hiring new graduates: they did not know how to develop Windows and they had to learn a new set of skills. The improved hardware, as well as the Windows subsystem for Linux, gave Redmond a certain ability to push back in this particular area.

Windows 10 S and the new Microsoft education features are the broadest answer. On the front of the hardware, the price is correct. Windows 10 S systems for schools will begin at $ 189. Increase up to $ 300 and you can add touch support and pen, spill-resistant keyboards and shockproof designs. We expect that for the most part, any Chromebook x86 also contains a comparable version of Windows 10 S, especially among systems oriented to education.
Upgrading the Playground

The promise of Windows 10 S on client devices is the same as that of the Chrome operating system. Windows 10 S can run a browser (Edge this time, rather than Chrome), and it can run applications from a store (Windows Store, of course, rather than Google Play Store). 10 S automatically updates itself, uses cryptographic certificates to protect itself from manipulation, and as long as Microsoft has implemented a Store-based restriction, it should offer comparable robustness and resilience to both hackers and students.

Microsoft also recognizes the weaknesses of existing IT-oriented management facilities. The company has built a "Set Up School PC" deployment tool to configure Windows 10 systems. This does not depend on enterprise features such as Intel vPro management, PXE or Active Directory remote booting, and Group policy because they simply are not features of these environments. Instead, Set Up School PC uses USB sticks: the deployment tool creates a configuration by configuring things like networking, preinstalled applications and even the desktop wallpaper, and writes it to a drive USB.

This USB drive is inserted into the client machines for about 30 seconds each, and it configures them. With a handful of USB keys, hundreds of machines can be configured within a few hours. Practical administration is necessarily a reality in this field; Microsoft's goal is to make it simpler and simpler.

Once the systems are up and running, the administration goes to the cloud. The Intune Device Management Service offers additional education-based features such as the provision of test accounts that lock systems when they are used to perform exams and full support for school concepts such as Teachers, students and the different so that policies can be applied to the organizational units that make the most sense in the parameters of education. Remote deployment tools and Intune for Education have been in beta since the beginning of the year, and both now enter the general availability.

With similar prices and robustness of the operating system, Microsoft has probably equalized its position on the customer. And in other areas, the company may well have an advantage. Just as Google makes G Suite for Education free, Microsoft creates a similar Office 365 for cloud-based education, with access to different Office Web applications for free. Some of these apps do not yet have a Google counterpart. Office 365 for Education includes Microsoft Teams, the company's Slack-like collaboration and collaboration service. This is pushed as an ideal tool for collaborative and collaborative projects. OneNote, likewise, has educational features, such as workbooks, that can be synchronized with digital whiteboards. The digital whiteboards give the children a single place to take their own course notes and review those presented by their teacher.

And Windows 10 S can, of course, run office applications Office. Desktop applications will soon be included in the Windows store, and even if access to education on desktop applications is not free, the option to use these applications much more powerful is not Something on Chromebooks.

Chrome OS in education will not disappear, and its features will still appeal to educators. But with Microsoft Windows 10, Intuition for Education, Office 365 for Education and low-cost Windows machines on Chrome, Microsoft offers offers to match all elements of Google's educational platform. Schools can still choose Google's platform, but it now has a strong competition that it did not have before.