Chromebooks are a hit in schools and even some enterprises by virtue of their affordable prices, G Suite-inspired manageability and Google's user-friendly cloud operating system, Chrome OS.
During the Bett Show, an education technology tradeshow in London this week, Microsoft is highlighting new Windows 10 PCs from its OEM partners with starting prices that sneak under the $200 mark and a new version of Intune for shared learning environments.
Microsoft is showcasing notebooks like HP's Stream 11 Pro G3 for Education. It features an 11.6-inch display, an Intel Celeron processor and runs Windows 10 Pro. Prices start at $189.
For $289 with an included stylus, schools can step up to the HP ProBook x360 11 Education Edition, which HP claims is "the world's thinnest, most rugged convertible PC." A Corning Gorilla Glass option protects the screen and the device can survive drops of up to 30 inches relatively unscathed.
Acer debuted its TravelMate Spin B118, an 11.6-inch convertible notebook with a 360-degree hinge that allows it to be set up in various modes as a laptop, stand, tablet and tent. Starting at $299 and also running Windows 10 Pro, the notebook is powered by Intel Pentium processors and includes a spill-resistant keyboard that can channels liquids away from the device's internal components. Touch and stylus support are available in certain configurations.
Like HP, Lenovo had ruggedized its ThinkPad 11e series notebooks, which are available in the traditional clamshell or convertible Yoga styles. It supports Microsoft's Windows Ink technology and can run 11 hours on a single charge. In mid-2017, Lenovo will release its new N24 convertible notebook, with an 11.6-inch IPS (in-plane switching) display and a built-in stylus holder.
Acquiring PCs is only part of the challenge faced by schools. Another is managing them, according to Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president, of Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group.
Nearly half of all teachers provide their own tech support in the classroom. To lighten the load for all involved, today Mehdi took the wraps off a school-centric version of Microsoft's cloud-based device management platform, Intune for Education.
"Specially designed for schools who want to put devices in classrooms and not touch them again for the rest of the school year, Intune for Education makes it easy for either IT administrators or teachers playing the role of IT in the classroom, to get up-and-running in minutes on Windows 10 devices and easily manage shared devices," he wrote in a Jan. 24 blog post.
Intune for Education offers an express setup feature that enables classrooms, schools or entire school districts to set up and propagate default policies in minutes. App deployment controls allow schools to restrict access to approved Windows and web applications. The solution also integrates School Data Sync, Microsoft's classroom automation technology.
Microsoft plans to release a preview version of Intune for Education in the coming weeks before it is made generally available in the spring at a cost of $30 per device.