With yesterday's launch of Windows 10 S, Microsoft is directly addressing the success of Chromebooks within the education market. The new flavor of its flagship operating system is locked down, limiting users to running apps in the Windows Store to keep the device more secure from malware. (Learn more about Windows 10 S here.)
It's also the latest attempt to put Windows into cheaper PCs to compete against low-cost systems running Google's Chrome OS. Ironically, Microsoft rolled out a new Surface laptop that belied that pricing strategy, with a starting price tag of $999. It's unclear, however, who will pay that amount for a limited, albeit secure, notebook -- most potential users would chafe at the inability to download software they'd want or need that's outside the Windows Store walled garden.
Not to fear, however, as Acer and HP are already filling the gap with a pair of Windows 10 S portables that are more in line with school budgets. Both Acer's TravelMate Spin B1 Convertible and HP's ProBook x360 Education Edition (already available as a Chromebook) feature a hinged display for multiple viewing angles and rugged designs to handle drops and spills from younger users. Each also comes with a far more palatable starting price of $299.
The similar pricing is a result of nearly equivalent specs. Both laptops come with a 11.6-inch screen, Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of built-in storage. The TravelMate has the advantage with the display, however, as it not only has a higher resolution (1,920x1,080 versus the ProBook's 1,366x768), but also includes touchscreen capabilities as a standard feature. Both systems sport rubber frames to withstand minor drops and spill-resistant keyboards to prevent damage from tipped-over drinks.
While Acer and HP are first out of the gate, Microsoft said that Asus, Dell, and a handful of other manufacturers will be producing Windows 10 S machines in the near future. These will include systems starting as low as $189 as well as premium devices, though again it's hard to see what the market for those will be.