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Everything you need to know about Microsoft's new Chrome OS competitor

Microsoft held a live event in New York City this morning to announce a slew of new products and options for the education market. The #MicrosoftEDU event was covered by our pals over at Windows Central, and here's a rundown of the major announcements made!

New version of Windows 10

Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 S, a new edition of its current operating system which is primarily aimed at schools and the education market. The main difference between Windows 10 S and its standard edition is that this new version is locked to the Windows Store for all apps and games (kind of like Windows RT from back in 2012), meaning you're only able to install what's available from Microsoft's app store. Students will have the option to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro from a Windows 10 S installation (free until the end of 2017), which is actually cheaper than upgrading from Windows 10 Home to the Pro edition.

This OS is part of Microsoft's attempt to tackle the Chromebook, which are a big deal within the education market.

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New Surface Laptop

The Surface Laptop rounds out Microsoft's Surface lineup, which includes the Surface Pro tablet, the Surface Book 2-in-1 convertible, and the Surface Studio desktop.

The Surface Laptop appears to be aimed at higher-education students and professionals looking for a more traditional laptop experience from the Surface line. Featuring a 13.5-inch PixelSense display and measuring in at only 14.47mm at its thickest point, this is an extremely portable computer that Microsoft says features 14.5 hours of battery life with an Intel Core i5 CPU for the low-end model, with options to upgrade to an Intel Core i7 CPU for those requiring more performance. Read the full specs.

The Surface Laptop will start at $999 and comes pre-loaded with Windows 10 S.

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More low-end PCs for education

Along with the new education-focused version of Windows 10, Microsoft announced that they've partnered with the likes of Dell, HP, Samsung and more to offer affordable PCs for schools that start at just $189.

These PCs will run Windows 10 S and come with a free subscription to Minecraft Education Edition, along with Office 365 for Education. They also announced that Windows 10 S will be offered as a free upgrade for any genuine Windows Pro PCs already in use in schools.

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What does this mean for Chromebooks?

That's the big question here. Will these $189 PCs running Windows be able to disrupt a market that is heavily entrenched in Chromebooks already? With developers being forced to convert some of their traditional desktop apps to work in the Windows 10 S environment, it may be some time until we see a big impact, but at the very least this announcement will force Google to invest even more heavily in Chromebook and Chrome OS marketing and development.

Marc Lagace was an Apps and Games Editor at Android Central between 2016 and 2020. You can reach out to him on Twitter [@spacelagace.

39 Comments
  • Yu need to keep in mind that the hardware partners that will create the sub$200 laptop for Windows 10 S , they will do the same for Chromebooks.
  • yeah, to me this is the most EXCITING aspect of Windows 10 S -- the exact same hardware will probably end up with both with the option of either being a Chromebook or a Windows 10 S computer!!!! Consumers should win bigly!
  • Wish they would release a 15 inch Surface Laptop with number pad. I'd buy in an instant, probably going with the LG Gram instead.
  • Bigly?
  • Big league.
  • I can buy 5 Chromebooks for the price of a surface laptop. Is the surface better? Undoubtedly. Is it $700 better? I don't believe so.
  • Probably..if you do more than just word processing.
  • You're missing the boat if that's what you think especially in the education sector.
  • You're comparing the wrong item. The education Windows 10 S devices start at $189.
  • Think of the Surface Laptop as the Chromebook Pixel. 👍
  • You can already get entry level Windows laptops for $199.99, hope these at least offer better specs or their dead. This is Windows RT all over again.
  • Not exactly. RT was never a desktop OS. Also Chromebooks are only really a web browser. I get the comparison, but not the same.
  • No, that is exactly an apt comparison. Windows RT had a full browser and only could use apps through the Windows Store. This is the same thing. You can't freely install applications or products unless they are on the Windows Store, already making this an extremely crippled OS.
  • Could RT be upgraded to Pro? No, not the same thing then is it!!!!!
  • Windows 10 s can run any app put in the store. Even a win32 desktop app
  • I tried RT on a Nokia tablet a few years back, was really nice, but it was basically a web browser with the poor selection if apps. This new Windows S will have the same problem, even on my Atom powered 2 in 1 the majority of what I have installed isn't from the Windows store, it isn't available. The major difference is this runs on x86 capable hardware, can be upgraded to full Windows later, and hopefully in time more x86 regular programs get added to the Windows store. So it's not as dead as Windows RT was, but I won't be buying or recommending this to anyone in the near future.
  • Every inexpensive windows laptop I've ever used runs like crap. Sluggish. I have not used Chromebooks, but I'm assuming Chrome OS is much lighter on resources.
  • I've honestly got no problem using an Atom based PC with only 2Gb of RAM, some how it's faster than my old desktop with a Phenom II X6 3.8Ghz CPU and 8Gb RAM. Main thing to avoid is the horribly slow 5400rpm drives they put in alot of budget laptops, and install an adblock.
  • Wow Microsoft is totally clueless. Many manufactures already produce Windows Laptops at Chromebook price points. Why does Chromebook sell more? It's the out of the box security and easy of use. Add to that the Android app ecosystem and Windows 10 S (RT 2.0) won't be able to compete.
  • Windows 10 S adds increased security and simplicity. Otherwise why bother?
  • Because the new Windows 10 S laptops are equipped with 64GB/4GB storage/RAM, as opposed to the usual low-end 32GB/2GB.
  • Very true. I mean that for organizations using MS Active Directory, like schools, it makes far more sense to use the superior integration capabilities of Android/ChromeOS than that weird MS OS that doesn't fit and is so much more of a hassle to support. Wait, I think I mixed up some names here...
  • I'm more interested in the Surface Laptop with Windows 10 Pro to replace my aging MacBook, not my Chromebook.
  • Anyone inside the I.T. world that thinks a $1,000 computer is a competitor for Chrome needs to find a new profession. Seriously, Marc, did you really put your name on this article?
  • Did you even read the rest of the article? I know it's hard, but read :)
  • Yes, I was especially unimpressed by this paragraph:
    "That's the big question here. Will these $189 PCs running Windows be able to disrupt a market that is heavily entrenched in Chromebooks already? With developers being forced to convert some of their traditional desktop apps to work in the Windows 10 S environment, it may be some time until we see a big impact," The fact that anyone even puts this Microsoft product in the same paragraph as a Chromebook is what prompted me to comment. Either this is simply a click bait article or the author really believed some jokester's comment that this is a Chromebook disruptor.
  • Think of the Surface Laptop like the Chromebook Pixel. Not crazy or click baity anymore..
  • I think in Schools, it might compete against chromebooks, where purchasing is heavily influenced by price.
    I also think that it's competing against to budget PC market, which is where Chromebooks have gotten a foothold due to the lower price. Sure, there have always been budget PC's in that category to begin with, but for the most part users shopping those pc's don't know the first thing about pc's. I honestly think Chromebook's success has been due to laptop design/weight/size for that price point rather then informed customer preference with OS. So, is it a direct competitor, sure. But I don't think the competition will be ANY different then it is already.
  • not at all a competitor, though there will be customers that probably will buy the cheap windows laptop S because the guy or girl at best buy told them to. That customer will go home and use it and be just as satisfied as they have been using old windows. they will look at facebook and instagram and ebay.
    all in the meantime not knowing what they are missing or have been missing with a fast smooth chromebook.
  • "They also announced that Windows 10 S will be offered as a free upgrade for any genuine Windows Pro PCs already in use in schools." How exactly is that an upgrade?
  • It's a choice. Mainly for organizations managing many devices. If you want Windows, but don't want your users to mess things up too quickly, an App only thing like Android or iOS or Windows S is ideal. More so if that App only device integrates perfectly in your existing organization infrastructure.
    For power users it's a downgrade in most cases. But imagine the rest of the users. They don't want to mess around with their device mostly. They just want to be productive (and play some games). What better way to do that than deliver a Windows version they know, recognize and don't have to be educated about?
  • Can it do a full set of updates in a 7 second reboot like a Chromebook? If not...its dead.
  • The only thing that I think kids would care about is Minecraft. I have tried convincing my friends at work that a Chromebook would be a better option for their kids, but the kids want to play Minecraft and don't seem to care about the ease of use. They buy a cheap Windows unit from Walmart and complain about how abysmally slow it is.
    Let's be real, Windows computers have their place and they are good for those who need them. I really don't think they are going to get the education sector back with this.
  • Well the windows store sucks and the Android play store rocks so enough said :)
  • Exactly. What has greatly expanded the usability of Chromebooks is Goggle Play Android apps. The MS store is pathetic.
  • As usual Microsoft is late to market. This will be a repeat of their mobile debacle.
  • Well said donatoadc they are always late example windows mobile phone blah.... Pure crapola. With the way Android apps are growing maybe one day chromebook will corner more of the market. If they could come up with a program like WINE for Linux that let's those who need a Microsoft program to run have that option case closed.
  • Is Microsoft can't compete in the education Market with an operating system that does less than regular windows, how are they going to compete with this? They won't, it's a sector they dont understand.
  • What I really love about ChromeOS is that it's a new direction from what was previously out there for laptop/desktop OS's. It's not just a scaled down Linux with only Chrome installed. It was custom designed by Google to the point where it's really its own kind of device and not just a PC with an alternate Operating System. If what Microsoft has to offer is just a scaled down Windows 10 without any actual thought put into it otherwise then I'm not really all that interested.