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Oscar Williams

News editor

Microsoft squares up to Google as it unveils affordable school laptops to rival Chromebooks

Microsoft will unveil a range of educational products at the ed-tech show, Bett, in London this week, as it attempts to consolidate its position in the £130bn market.

The US tech giant will launch six new mixed reality apps in partnership with Pearson, a chemistry update for Minecraft: Education Edition and a dictation tool for students to help them write more easily.

It will also be revealing, among other products, four new Windows 10 devices for the classroom, including 2-in-1 PCs for under $300 from Lenovo and notebooks under $200 USD from JP, a partner Microsoft works with in emerging markets.

Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president at Microsoft, said the Windows 10 devices would provide more options for schools that “don’t want to compromise on Chromebooks”.

Google’s low-price laptops represent a threat to Microsoft in the education market because, as Mehdi acknowledges, “affordability is the top priority for many schools”. Microsoft’s announcement today will be seen as a direct response to that challenge.

Anthony Salcito, vice president of Worldwide Education at Microsoft, told NS Tech: “We’ve got to make technology more and more affordable, and frankly more importantly, we’ve got to make technology better for classrooms, better for outcomes, better for teachers to use effectively, more thoughtful for the kind of scenarios students need and desire. That’s something we’re trying to do at Microsoft.”

Salcito added that coding and chemistry updates for Minecraft would inspire more students to take an interest in STEM subjects: “What we want to do is create value out of the experiences students do and get students to be more active with the work that they’re doing. If students are excited and what they can do the more education value we can provide to it, that’s something parents will applaud.”