Microsoft touts Office dictation, new Windows 10 devices starting at $189 aimed at Chromebooks in education

Microsoft is continuing to push new Windows 10 PCs, plus its various Learning Tools as key differentiators in its quest for more share in the education space.

Microsoft is continuing to increase its focus on schools and education with a number of new software and services updates which company officials are announcing at the Bett IT in education conference in London this week.

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Credit: Microsoft

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Microsoft also is touting a couple new Windows 10 PCs from its partners to try to thwart the impact of Chromebooks in the education space. Among thse new devices: A new Lenovo 100e Celeron Apollo Lake PC starting at $189; the Lenovo 300e 2-in-1 with pen support, starting at $299; the JP Classmate Leap T303 at $189 and the JP Trigono V401 2-in-1 with touch and pen at $299.

Outside the US, Windows continues to be the dominant education platform. But in the US, Chrome OS is continuing to outpace Windows in the K-12 education arena, according to the latest data from Futuresource Consulting.

Last year at Bett, Microsoft announced Intune for Education, its device management and provisioning service for schools. This year, the company is offering a deal, via which schools can receive professional development at no additional cost when they purchase Microsoft 365 A1 licenses for their Windows 10 devices.

The fine print: Qualified K-12 schools that purchase 30 or more Microsoft 365 A1 licenses are eligible for free training up to a maximum of 3 days, provided by select, qualified Microsoft Education Training Partners. This offer is for US only and is available from February 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018. (Microsoft 365 for Education includes Windows 10, Office 365 and Intune for Education features.)

On the learning tools front, Microsoft is adding dictation to Office 365 in February to help students write more easily by using their voice, officials said. Microsoft also is expanding the company's Immersive Reader assistive technology to Word for Mac, iPhone, Outlook Desktop, OneNote iPad, and OneNote Mac. Microsoft also is making Teams -- its Slack competitor -- accessible on iOS and Android, as part of its quest to make Teams the "digital hub for the classroom."

This spring, Microsoft is adding a new Chemistry Update to Minecraft: Education, plus new science curricula for MakeCode for Minecraft. Pearson will start rolling out in March six new immersive applications that will work on HoloLens and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. And Microsoft also is offering a limited-time (January 22 to May 31) price cut of 10 percent for Commercial and Developer HoloLens units to qualified academic institutions.