Microsoft is touting new, low-cost Windows 10 PCs from several of its partners, as well as a coming version of its Intune management software honed for education, as providing the missing keys to its classroom strategy.
While Microsoft officials have been trying to capitalize on new features built into Windows, such as Windows Ink -- along with OneNote and a host of new school-focused tools -- as its primary differentiators from Chromebooks in the education space, the company has had less to crow about on the simplicity and management fronts.
At the BETT conference in London on January 24, Microsoft introduced Microsoft Intune for Education, a new version of its application and device management service. That service, due to go to preview "in the coming weeks," will be broadly available this spring for $30 per device. It also will be available through Volume Licensing, with pricing around $0.69 per month per teacher with student benefits.
Intune for Education is Microsoft Intune tailored specifically for K-12 IT Admins. It will come with both Intune, which provides the ability to manage all mobile devices, plus an Intune for Education portal. The Intune for Education portal can be used by teachers and part-time IT pros to manage Windows 10 and other types of devices in the classroom.
Intune for Education also includes select features from Azure Active Directory Premium and purchasing options designed for schools. Administrators can select which students get certain apps based on teachers' requests, and manage devices that are shared by multiple users.
Among the new lower-cost Windows 10 PCs starting at $189 that Microsoft is touting this week are the Acer TravelMate Spin B118, which is an 11.6-inch convertible notebook that starts at $299; the Lenovo N24, due by mid-2017, an 11.6 inch convertible notebook; the recently introduced HP ProBook 360 11 Education Edition; and the JP.1K convertible TURN T201 PC for Windows 10, aimed at students between 12 and 18.
"Now Windows 10 devices offer the power, performance, and security schools need at the same price as Chromebooks, with none of the compromises," said Windows and Devices Group corporate vice president Yusuf Mehdi in a statement in Microsoft's press release.
Microsoft also is releasing the latest Minecraft: Education Edition update at the show today. That new release adds features including Global Pause, text-to-speech for in-game chat, an updated UI for managing game settings and more. Minecraft: Education Edition, based on the MinecraftEdu learning tool Microsoft bought last year, enables collaboration by classrooms of up to 30 students without a separate server required.