Microsoft announced Intune for Education to better compete with Google's Chromebooks in the education market. The program was announced with cheaper Windows 10 laptops and an update to the popular Minecraft: Education Edition game that will complement the new app and device manager.
Low-Cost Laptops From Acer, Lenovo, And More
Microsoft wasn't shy about positioning new Windows 10 devices from Acer, Lenovo, and other manufacturers as competitors to Google's Chromebooks. The company said the devices start at $189--though the only product with a definite price costs $299--and emphasized their included styluses. This allows them to take advantage of Windows Ink, a software tool that allows students to "write on their device, create sticky notes, draw on a whiteboard, and merge their analog thoughts with their digital device." Google announced today that similar styluses will debut with next generation Chromebooks.
Acer introduced the TravelMate Spin B118; Lenovo announced the Thinkpad 11e, as both a traditional and convertible laptop, and the Lenovo N24 convertible notebook designed with Microsoft; and another manufacturer, JP.IK, revealed a 360-degree convertible PC called the TURN T201 PC. Most of these devices come equipped with styluses and were designed to withstand the abuse that comes part-and-parcel with being used in classrooms. Microsoft said Acer's TravelMate Spin B118 (opens in new tab) will cost $299; prices for the other devices have not yet been revealed. All are expected to debut in 2017.
"Minecraft: Education Edition" Gets An Update
It's hard to compete with Minecraft, and that's probably also true of the student-focused version of the game. Here's what Microsoft had to say about the latest update to Minecraft: Education Edition in its announcement:
Today, we’re excited to launch the latest Minecraft: Education Edition update, offering a number of new features requested by our community, including Global Pause to take a quick break to transition to a new activity, accessibility features like text to speech for in-game chat, an updated user interface for managing in game settings, 256 world height for greater building capabilities, complete gameplay from the first night to The End dimension, and new “Minecraft mobs” and items including igloos and Polar Bears in snowy biomes.
The idea is to give teachers more control over how Minecraft works in their classrooms. That's also the focus of Intune for Education as a whole.
What's Intune For Education, Anyway?
Managing devices used by a bunch of students, teachers, and members of a school's administration doesn't sound like a lot of fun. Microsoft is trying to make that easier with Intune for Education, which allows schools to easily manage the apps and devices used within their locker-lined hallways. The service can be used to manage some 150 settings in Windows 10 to make sure people can only do what they're allowed; to deploy apps to specific groups based on school roster data; and make sure people have the same experience no matter what computer they happen to be using at the time.
It sounds a lot like the features available to educators using Chromebooks. It's even priced the same: Google charges $30 per device for access to similar features, and Microsoft will also charge $30 for Intune for Education when it rolls out this spring. (Volume licensing will be available.) The video below highlights Microsoft's hopes for Intune for Education--well, kinda. It would be more accurate if it showed a kid-friendly Game of Thrones wherein two tech companies via for a throne built from old textbooks and bad lunch food. Microsoft's coming for Google; the only question is which will win.