Windows 10 S is the first Google-free Windows PC. A PC running Windows 10 S will not let users install Google Chrome, won’t let users change the default search engine to Google, and of course, does not have any Google Apps in the store (largely due to Google and not Microsoft.)
Google is however pretty sanguine regarding Microsoft’s new OS, saying those famous last words which usually precedes being steam-rollered by the competition.
“I’m happy to see a validation of the approach we’ve taken,” said Prabhakar Raghavan, the Google vice-president responsible for G Suite — Google’s range of productivity apps like Docs and Pages. “What educational institutions have demanded is simplicity. It’s a real test tube for all of us, whether it’s Microsoft or any of us, right.”
According to the latest stats, Google has grabbed 58% market share in the US education market, largely due to the low cost and easy manageability of Chromebooks and the browser-based curriculum which is somewhat unique to the USA.
Microsoft has however taken pains to make sure their Windows 10 S PCs were in the same price range as Chromebooks, and have even made sure the Edge browser is compatible with Google’s Education apps.
The battle for the hearts and minds of students is important if Microsoft is to have any role in the computing lives of the next generation in 5 to 10 years.
Noted Google’s Raghavan:
“Because kids do things in amazing ways where you or I would never expect. So here’s one of the things we’ve learned in a study of kids as we were developing all our tools for classrooms, right. We would put a Chromebook in front of a kid, they would whip out their phone and write their essay. We said ‘no no no, there’s a keyboard there, you can use it,’ and they still write the essay there. They said ‘we’ll use the keyboard to touch up the formatting, but it’ll be much faster here,’ right. This is something we consistently learned when we looked at pre-teens … these kids are really forerunners, the vanguards of human evolution, in some sense, and so it’s great to see that some of the approaches we’ve taken, but I think the world is going to keep evolving and it’s a scramble for us to keep up with what people are going to do.”
With no mobile platform to speak of the success of Windows 10 S in schools is even more important for Microsoft.
“The success of the Chromebook has awakened sleeping giants,” Tyler Bosmeny, CEO of education tech company Clever, told Reuters. “There’s so much investment into the space — it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
Whether Microsoft has what it takes to convince educators to take up their platform remains to be seen, but it is probably a bad idea to bet against Microsoft in the semi-corporate environment of the education industry.