Microsoft wants more students and teachers to use Windows 10 and related software, but the company needs a better way to get its technology into cash-strapped schools. So the software giant plans to make less expensive hardware available to the education market, according to tech news site Windows Central.
Microsoft’s idea is to help hardware partners build cheaper hardware running Windows 10 for schools.
The goal is to challenge Google Chromebooks, which have done extremely well with schools. Microsoft’s existing Surface laptops and tablets have been well reviewed, but they start at $799 for the Surface Pro 4 to $1,499 for the Surface Book without software. Chromebooks, by contrast, can be had for as little as $179, and range up to $499.
Citing a confidential Microsoft (MSFT) document, Windows Central lists minimum specifications for a new “Cloudbook.” The laptop would run an Intel (INTC) quad-core processor with 4GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage.
One of the goals for the computer is that it have a battery that lasts all day (there are a limited number of plugs in classrooms, after all). In addition to the usual keyboard , it may also come with the option of a touch screen or the ability to use a stylus to write or enter data directly on the screen.
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The new details follows months of reports that Microsoft plans a new foray into education.
Schools may have budget shortages, but they are an important market for software and hardware companies that want to get people to use their products early. Students who learn how to use one kind of computer tend to stick to that computer (and software) for years, which is why Microsoft, Google (GOOG), and Apple see value in pursuing the education market.
Apple blazed the trail here in the 1990s with its K-12 discount programs for schools. “Education is the on-ramp to college which is the on-ramp to work,” said Patrick Moorhead, chief executive of Moor Insights & Strategy, an Austin, Tex., research and consulting firm.
What’s happened in recent years is that Google Chromebook has not only replaced Windows notebooks and desktops, but also Apple (AAPL) iPads and Macs, he added via email.
“It’s not just about the hardware, it’s about the management too. Google currently offers very compelling and nearly-free services to educators,” Moorheaad said. “Microsoft does need to respond to the threat.”
These new Cloudbooks may be what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will trot out at a planned May 2 event in New York City. Microsoft had no comment on this story.