School days are fast approaching and Satya Nadella says he knows just how to empower “the students of today to create the world of tomorrow” by providing an entire ecosystem that places importance on security, safety, and a rich interactive culture.
Microsoft CEO Nadella and his team’s EDU event in New York is undoubtedly the company’s strengthened foray into the academe, unveiling the new Windows 10 S operating system, a host of education-focused apps, and the shiny Surface Laptop.
Windows 10 S
Tying the entire experience together is the new Windows 10 S, a streamlined operating system designed with the classroom experience in mind. “We’ve taken everything that teachers need and millions of people love about Windows 10 and created a new Windows experience that’s ideal for all our creative endeavors inside and outside the classroom,” Microsoft said. CNET, however, called this version a bit of a walled garden because only apps found in the native Windows Store may run in this platform. At first glance, this seems restricting—and it is to a large extent—but for good reason. Laptops running Windows 10 S are more secure, faster in terms of start times, have better battery life, and supports mass setup via a USB key.
There is also the option for upgrading to Windows 10 Pro, which allows for programs outside the Windows Store to run—but be forewarned: there is no going back once you have the license key. Also, while it is a no-brainer that the new Microsoft Surface Laptop would run on this operating system, there are cheaper alternatives through partner PC makers such as Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Samsung, and Toshiba.
More than a closed system, the Windows 10 S offers a new suite of apps designed for skills development in the 21st century, including programs integrating virtual reality and programs that develop code-building.
Starting with the online version of the Office Suite, Microsoft has allowed for real-time collaboration. Just this March, Microsoft launched Teams, a chat-based work space developed specifically for the Office 365. Now, the giant is revealing what it calls “classroom experiences” in Teams.
“The magic happens in the conversation, and that’s in the center. This provides a persistent, rich interaction between the teacher and the students. What’s great is, if the a misses a few days or joins mid-semester, they have all the recorded conversation and content that they need to have context.”
This classroom experiences might be Microsoft’s answer to booming learning management systems (LMS), and if that is so, then its close integration with the Office Suite is its most powerful feature.
Code Builder Minecraft: Education Edition
Paint 3D and View Mixed Reality
A free program in Windows 10, Paint 3D also graces the Windows 10 S. Microsoft touts this to be the best and easiest 3D-making tool. Coming this Fall, the company even promises to bring 3D model integration to PowerPoint in such a way that reminds users of adding a typical 2D image.
Meanwhile, one of Microsoft’s newest endeavors for the classroom is to bring mixed reality into lessons. This goes a few steps ahead of AR and VR by allowing the use of your camera and screens. Microsoft, which is slated to release View Mixed Reality by fall, also partnered with Pearson Education to bring 3D and mixed reality devices into schools by 2018.
The Surface Laptop
With the new OS and a whole slew of apps for class discussed, Microsoft jumps into the clincher: the ultra-thin and light Surface Laptop. Coming at only 2.76 pounds and under 14.5 millimeters, the new Microsoft sensation is touted to be slimmer and lighter than any of its competing MacBook series, and is 50% faster than the MacBook Air.
The Surface Laptop boasts a 13.5-inch PixelSense display with a staggering 3.4 million pixels and a 3:2 aspect ratio and a svelte profile. “There’s no rubber bumper, there’s no plastic chin, there’s no hinge that you can see,” they claim. The Surface Laptop also features smart integration of the dial and is said to have up to 14.5 hours of battery life, something that’s good for when a student needs to complete an exhaustive research.
With all these new products from the trusted brand, Microsoft is indeed gearing up to be among the top choices for schools along with iPads and Chromebooks. And why not? This powerful set of features is compelling, even to the point of making it stand out and have a following of its own.