Microsoft has announced plans, as of May 2, to bring an entirely new Windows 10S and the company's Office applications to compete in the education sector. The move comes in response to how far Google's Chrome OS has penetrated the market. Google, in 2016, made staggering progress in the sector, managing to capture more than half of the total education market in the U.S. in just over 3 years. Windows 10 S is intended to compete directly against Chromebooks and the outcome of the upcoming battle is anything but certain. Microsoft has also invested or partnered to create several computers meant to compete in terms of price. However, Microsoft's best chance to regain market share in the schools may not be as tied to hardware costs as that might imply since school board decisions are rarely grounded in pricing alone. In fact, the advantage of having native access to the company's world-renowned productivity software isn't even a cut and dry affair, despite that the native Google Docs is nowhere near Office in terms of usability or features.
To begin with, Microsoft has said that even Windows 10 S won't be able to run native Office out of the box. As part of the OS's built-in security measures, the OS doesn't allow any software that isn't pulled down from the Windows Store itself. The web application for Office can still be used, but that really doesn't provide any advantage at all since any Chromebook can already do the same. The company has said that an Office application is in the works for the Windows Store, so that won't be a problem for long, but that fact may also not be as impactful as Microsoft may hope since there is a growing number of Chromebooks that have access to Android apps running natively. That means those Chromebooks will already run the streamlined Office software natively. Because there are already any number of Chromebooks that can support Android Apps, that may even be an advantage for Chrome OS. Schools and education departments that might be looking to update their hardware in time for the start of the next school year, may turn to Chromebooks, rather than waiting to see if Microsoft's Office makes it to the Windows Store in time.
That said, the advantages aren't really distinct for either side. If both devices are on what is essentially a level playing field in terms of what applications can be run, the cost of devices, and security, then whether or not Google can hold onto its market share will mostly come down to the individual decisions made by the tech heads working for individual school districts. The fight is also not going to be an easy one for Microsoft, but Google does need to be vigilant. There is no reason for any given school to update its computer hardware on a yearly basis. The hardware of any computing system may come a long way within a few years, but the machines in an education environment don't need the latest graphics cards, processors, RAM or storage options, or anything else that would drive a shorter upgrade cycle. The company is going to need to put some serious effort into catching up to Google on the marketing front.
In the meantime, Microsoft may actually have at least one other advantage. While the Android app versions of the company's Office software are undoubtedly great, they are still not as feature-rich as full-blown desktop versions. On the other hand, those versions can still be used to do nearly anything a student would need for a project, report, or essay. Because of that - and, moreover, because that's where the new Windows 10 S will be marketed - there's really no guarantee the Windows Store version of the applications will be closer to the desktop experience than the Android App version. With that in mind, Microsoft is almost certainly aware that productivity software is one area where it has managed to maintain a serious foothold in computing markets and the company will probably leverage that in whatever ways it can. Another advantage could be taken if the company opts to include some version of Microsoft's Intune for Education program with Windows 10 S. All things considered, Google has an advantage in terms of visibility and market saturation. That Google gained so much ground over such a short stretch of time also means it may have an advantage granted by the timescales of the upgrade cycles involved. Microsoft is bringing its own weapons to the fight, with Office Software and a brand new OS with Windows 10 S. Whatever the eventual outcome of this newly ignited battle, how it ends is anybody's guess at this point.