Eyeing an education market that's been dominated by Apple and Google, Microsoft yesterday announced a new Surface Laptop aimed at college students and a new operating system, Windows 10 S, that runs only apps from the Windows Store.
By running only verified Microsoft apps, Windows 10 S is designed to provide a safe, secure and fast-loading experience for classroom settings, according to Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group.
While its $999-and-up Surface Laptop targets college students, Microsoft has also partnered with other manufacturers, such as Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Samsung, and Toshiba to produce a variety of lower-price Windows 10 S devices for schools that start at $189. Available for pre-order now, the Surface Laptop is set to hit the market on June 15, while other Windows 10 S devices will come out this summer, Microsoft said.
Refresh of Classic Laptop
Featuring a 13.5-inch edge-to-edge touchscreen made of Corning Gorilla Glass 3, the Surface Laptop weighs in at 2.76 pounds and is 14.47 millimeters thick. It's powered by a 7th-generation Intel Core processor and will offer a battery life of up to 14.5 hours, according to Microsoft devices head Panos Panay.
"We built Surface Laptop to do two things: refresh the classic laptop form factor that our customers, especially college students, have been asking for; and make a Surface that works seamlessly to showcase the best of Windows 10 S," Panay wrote yesterday on the Windows blog.
Panay said the Surface Laptop was designed to provide college-age users with important features, such as long battery life, storage capabilities, display quality, and portability. Other features are aimed at making the device more visually and physically appealing. Rather than metal or plastic, the worktop surface is covered by a fabric called Alcantara that has a feel similar to Ultrasuede. And the laptop will be available in four colors: platinum, graphite gold, cobalt blue, and burgundy.
Initial buyers of the Surface Laptop will also receive a one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal, along with one terabyte of cloud-based storage on OneDrive.
Verified for Security
In a separate blog post yesterday, Microsoft's Myerson said that the new Windows 10 S operating system was built to address issues raised by teachers and students about classroom computing.
"With Windows 10 S, all the applications which teachers and students download come from the Windows Store where they are first verified for security, and then locally they each run in a safe 'container', ensuring consistent performance of the system," Myerson noted. "In the classroom, this ensures fast login times and consistent performance, enabling everyone in the classroom to start learning quickly, and stay focused without distraction."
By emphasizing such features, Microsoft is clearly taking aim at Google, whose cloud-centric Chromebooks have taken a growing chunk of the classroom computing market in the U.S., as well as at Apple, whose laptops are popular among college users. However, Microsoft said it is not locking educational users into Windows 10 S if they want to switch to the company's standard OS.
"At any time, they can go to the Windows Store and switch to Windows 10 Pro," Myerson said. "This is a one-way switch, as when a user is running Windows 10 Pro they can install anything -- but this is the magic of the open Windows platform, which we plan to always continue to make available alongside Windows 10 S." After the free upgrade offer to Windows 10 Pro expires, users will still be able to switch for $50.