Microsoft Empowers US Students with Laptops and VR
Microsoft Empowers US Students with Laptops and VR
When Microsoft announced Windows 10 S last year, during its newly established EDU event, the primary goal was to take back America’s classrooms through affordable laptops and ground-breaking VR technology. It’s a noble goal – especially as Windows 10 S is the latest operating system in the Microsoft Surface line.
However, it’s also a clear effort to once again take a bigger piece of the pie in the education market. Years ago, before Google’s inexpensive Chromebooks took the market by storm, Microsoft dominated schools all over the world with affordable Windows PCs and Windows solutions. Microsoft took a backseat after Google released the Chrome OS and their Chromebooks – a cloud-driven affordable laptop designed for education, leisure and work. Now, with the Windows 10 S, Microsoft is attempting to reclaims its throne as king of the classroom.
The Microsoft Surface laptop is powered by an Intel Core i5 CPU with 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of SSD storage. The laptop is also has a battery that can power the device for 14 hours. Pound for pound, the 13-inch Microsoft Surface is lighter than the equally sized MacBook Pro at around 1.25 kg or 2.76 pounds. The laptop also touts a good touchscreen display with Surface Pen support.
The Windows 10 S Software
Windows 10 S is taking on a fresh approach as it loads faster and provides better safety and security for student users. According to Microsoft, the new laptop boots up easily and boasts of improved battery performance.
But there’s a catch.
The Windows 10 S operating system will only let users run applications managed by Microsoft. Also, the system will only allow the installation of third-party programs from the Windows store. One of the main reasons Microsoft went with software that’s closed-in is to make things easier for teachers and educators to handle the laptops of their students in schools. The system also offers features like moderation tools, chat groups for classrooms, and assignment submissions. The Windows 10 S is designed to allow quick and simple mass setting up of the laptops across classrooms via USB key.
People who own the Windows 10 S can easily upgrade the operating system to the full Windows 10 Pro version if they wish to veer away from the limited student version. The catch, however, is that once the license key update has been made, there is no turning back. The user will spend around US$49 to upgrade from the 10 S version to the Windows 10 Pro full version. The Pro version will enable users to download and install software not secured or provided by Microsoft.
Microsoft’s Surface laptop is not the only running Windows 10 S operating system. During the EDU event, Microsoft also announced their partner laptops, including big contenders such as Acer and HP. Both brands are offering cheaper alternatives available to schools that may have limited funds or are simply not willing to spend a thousand dollars for a single device.
Microsoft Partnering with Minecraft
Microsoft is also offering Minecraft: Education Edition upgrades in the hopes that students will learn coding by using Minecraft. The tech revealed a new code builder designed for the Minecraft: Education Edition upgrade, which enables students to make code/codes to build, create, and move while playing the game.
Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality
In addition to the release of the Windows 10 S for students, Microsoft has also launched the Windows Mixed Reality—the company’s answer to the explosion of virtual reality technology. But what is Windows mixed reality?
The term “mixed reality” is a bit confusing. For now, the technology is only capable of delivering virtual reality experiences. The key difference between Windows Mixed Reality and its competitors is that the former has headsets that don’t require separate sensors. Microsoft is also offering movement tracking, with six degrees of freedom, without the need for additional sensors installed throughout the room. The headsets are equipped with cameras and sensors to track the motion controllers.
Microsoft opted for the Windows Mixed Reality name because the company believes both virtual reality and augmented reality will eventually merge and become one experience. During the launching of Windows Mixed Reality, however, the headsets were still unable to provide augmented reality experiences. The system also does not offer passthrough mode like that of the Gear VR. But as the technology continues to advance, more and more products will eventually come to market that are capable of providing true virtual and augmented reality experiences.
The Education Battle Rages On
For regular software users, Microsoft might be most known for their strong Microsoft Azure solution.
However, it looks like Microsoft is now moving at full force towards the education market. As technology continues to assimilate in the classrooms of the US, leading tech companies like Microsoft, Google Apple will continue to battle each other for market share.
Considering the growing interest surrounding virtual reality, it’s clear that both augmented reality and virtual reality can make a clear difference in the work of education. However, we’re interested in seeing how the big tech companies solve perhaps the greatest challenge – the fact that VR technology, and the headsets in particular, is still too expensive for most educational institutions. The good news, on the other hand, is that the probability is high for newer and more affordable VR devices to become available in the future.
VR and AR technology holds the key to success for many tech companies around the world. But who will bring affordable and accessible solutions to the market first?
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