Hello, Windows 10 S.
Microsoft just unveiled the new lean-and-mean operating system for running classroom PCs. The software will come with new PCs from partners, including Acer, Asus, Dell Technologies, and Hewlett-Packard. List prices for the PCs will start at an aggressive $189, Microsoft executive vice president Terry Myerson, said at a New York City event on Tuesday kicked off by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
As has been previously reported, the idea is to wrest market share in the education market away from Google (GOOGL) Chromebooks, which have done very well in the space—and most definitely do not run Windows.
While cash-strapped school systems don’t have huge tech budgets, the market is a key battleground for the big vendors as kids who learn on one set of tech tend to stick with it for years. That’s why Apple (AAPL) long focused on the K-12 education market, but started to let that slip years ago. Chromebooks were a key beneficiary of that move.
The $189 price point is important. While Microsoft’s own Surface laptops and tablets have done well, they start at $799 for the Surface Pro 4 (and $1,499 for the Surface Book) without software. Chromebooks, by contrast, can be had for as little as $179, ranging up to $499.
Myerson also said “premium” education PCs running Windows 10 S, presumably at a higher price point, are coming.
Related: Microsoft Plans Chromebook Killer
Microsoft (MSFT)will make the new operating system for free to schools now running Windows Pro. Those schools will also get Office 365 for Education applicaitons for free worldwide, Myerson said.
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But the biggest reaction came with news that the company will offer a free one-year subscription to the education edition of Minecraft a popular video game, with all new education devices running Windows 10.
“This is a video game, but it’s also a valuable tool to teach teamwork, problem solving, and critical thinking,” Myerson said to applause.
A spokesman said Windows 10 S does not replace the existing Windows 10 Education Edition, but users of that version can move over for free. (And move back again if they so desire.)
Microsoft corporate vice president Panos Panay also touted a new 13.5-inch screen Surface laptop, weighing in at a slim 2.76 pounds with a streamlined design that shows no visible sign of a hinge. The product will get an impressive 14.5 hours of battery life.
“Leave your charger at home and go to school. Then come home and binge on Netflix,” Panay quipped.
The Verge got the jump on the news of the laptop, which Panos said will start at $999 and be available June 15.
Microsoft also launched a new version of Intune, its systems administration software, tailored for use in schools, so that it “knows” about the concept of teachers and students, for example, Myerson said. Intune lets administrators manage the set up, updates, and patches to PCs and mobile devices. Announced in January, Intune for Education is available now.