Microsoft is reportedly working on a low-cost Windows machine to compete with Chromebooks.

Here’s why this won’t work…

When Google began its massive move into the education space, there were two driving components: super-cheap, easily managed Chromebooks, and super-cheap (as in free) software tools now known as Google Workspace for Education. One without the other will not lead to success.

And right now, Microsoft doesn’t have a web-based productivity suite of tools that has the performance, ease of use, and (most importantly) sharing capabilities as those offered by Google. Not even close.

Also, let’s remember how bad things were back in the late 2000s when netbooks hit the market and Microsoft tried to jam a full desktop operating system on an underpowered machine. It was bad. So bad. Netbooks became popular due to the price point but oh so many people felt frustrated when every application ran slowly or not at all.

Chromebooks solved this problem by offering a lightweight operating system based on Linux and focusing on using web-based tools rather than locally installed software. And when those devices were paired with a program to support and train educators on how to best leverage that new technology in the classroom on a global scale (oh, and then topped off with a global pandemic), device sales go through the roof.

Things are better in MS land than they used to be, but not by much. OneDrive is still atrocious cloud storage. The online versions of Word, Excel, etc., are laughable. I mean, have you tried using them recently? Do and you’ll go running back to Google tools quickly.

No, Google tools aren’t perfect and there are serious questions about data privacy involved with any tools provided to schools by for-profit companies. And I’m still not happy about the recent pricing structures implemented in the Workspace for Education world.

Let’s be serious, Google friends. You are hurting for cash flow. Keeping your education tools free for ALL users is the way to go. ALL tools and features. Or is the pricing structure because you’re still not seeing the growth in the private sector you want?

Anyways, back to the issue at hand. Without drastic improvements in the Office365 suite of tools for web-based access, I don’t foresee many low-end Windows devices making their way into schools.

Of course, there’s a better chance if MS would just purchase Dropbox (since it actually works).

Bottom line: Creating a new, low-end device for educational purposes will not grow the business. But sometimes we don’t learn from past mistakes, so we get to make them all over again.