Vertical markets, IT management

Microsoft Windows 10 PCs vs. Chromebooks: Will Intune for Education Help?

Yusuf Mehdi

Microsoft has launched an IT management and Windows 10 PC initiative to counter Google Chromebooks in schools. Indeed, the new Microsoft Intune for Education -- coupled with Windows 10 PCs starting at $189 -- specifically pursue schools that are contemplating Google Chromebooks.

Yusuf Mehdi, corporate VP for Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group, offered this blog update:

"Today, we are announcing Microsoft Intune for Education: a new cloud-based application and device management service that is built on the proven Microsoft Intune service, offering easy setup and management in shared learning environments. Also, in partnership with OEMs, we are delighted to announce that starting at just $189, Windows 10 PCs are available today from Acer, HP and Lenovo, with many devices featuring Windows Ink, touch support and with great designs that are perfect for the classroom.   Now Windows 10 devices offer the power, performance and security schools need at the same price as Chromebooks, with none of the compromises."

Windows 10 PCs vs Chromebooks: Google's Momentum

Google Chromebooks are quite popular in K-12 schools across the United States. In fact, Chromebooks outshipped Apple Macintoshes in the U.S. for the first time during Q1 2016, based mostly on strong K-12 school demand, IDC confirmed to The Verge.

Chromebooks originally were low-cost, cloud-centric alternatives to traditional notebook PCs. They were heavily tied to Google G Suite (formerly Google Apps). But over time, Google and its hardware partners gradually introduced higher-end Chromebook models. Moreover, Google G Suite for Education caught on with school administrators and teachers.

Indeed, Google G Suite for Education had 60 million users as of March 2016. Among those, 10 million users were leveraging Classroom, a Google workflow tool that allows teachers to create and organize assignments, share feedback and communicate with classes.

During the early Chromebook years, Microsoft attempted to counter with a range of options. One move involved Windows 8.1 with Bing -- which was free to PC makers. But we all know how the Windows 8 story played out.

Windows 10 PCs vs. Chromebooks: Microsoft Intune

More recently, Microsoft has regained its PC operating system footing with Windows 10. Next up, the special Intune for Education platform could help schools to more easily manage fleets of low-cost Windows 10 PCs.

Still, Intune has a mixed history with MSPs and channel partners. Originally launched as Windows Intune, the cloud-based management platform could only maintain Windows devices during its early years. Microsoft gradually expanded Intune to manage iOS and Android devices as well. But overall, RMM (remote monitoring and management) platforms from Autotask, ConnectWise, Continuum, Kaseya and SolarWinds MSP (among others) have remained far more popular with MSPs.

Among the key questions worth tracking: Does Intune for Education have a service provider setting -- allowing MSPs to manage PCs on behalf of school clientele?

We're checking...

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.