Microsoft is aiming to take back control of the education sector with the launch of a stripped-back version of Windows 10, and a new ‘Surface Laptop' (pictured).
The duo of two new products were unveiled at Microsoft's EDU event in New York last night.
And although they generally went down well, some of the tech press covering the event were quick to point out apparent contradictions between the positioning of the new education-focused OS - dubbed Windows 10 S - and the new laptop, which starts at $999.
A good summary of the Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S can be found here, and here, at our sister publication The Inquirer. The OS, a lightweight, education-focused version of Windows 10, can only run apps from the Windows Store, which in theory translates to better security and performance, plus improved battery life.
As well as the Surface Laptop, Windows 10 S will also run on devices from Acer, ASUS, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Samsung and Toshiba as cheap as $189, and bundles free Office 365 and free Minecraft.
In contrast, the Surface Laptop will start at $999, or £979 in the UK, which is one of 20 countries where it can be pre-ordered.
One article on The Verge described the new laptop, which weighs under three pounds and has an aluminium finish and design as "beautiful". The author also lauded the alcantara fabric that surrounds the keys and trackpad and the fact that it can be opened with a single hand.
However, another piece on The Verge argued that Microsoft's Windows 10 S strategy would confuse people.
The "crisp, clear, and concise" message hammered home around the new OS, ie that it is cheaper and less versatile than Windows 10 Pro, was diluted by the "all-encompassing" Surface Laptop, the piece argued.
"If the 10 S story had been kept focused solely on education, shop assistants would have had no problem understanding how to pitch this software and how to prepare buyers for its limitations," the article read. "But Microsoft's ambitions for Windows 10 S are clearly grander than that.
"Immediately upon its introduction, Windows 10 S spans a price range from $189 to $2,199 (for the top Surface Laptop spec). So is this a straightforward and affordable solution for mass educational deployment?"
Wired, however, had a more positive reading of this, arguing that the Surface Laptop - which it described as a "hybrid of the Surface Pro tablet and the Surface Book laptop, minus all the detaching" - should be seen as a showcase of Windows 10 S's potential.
"[Microsoft] doesn't expect schools to snap up thousands of these, but hopes this device shows off what its new software can do and inspires partners to make new devices too. And it makes an important point: Microsoft's new software is slimmer and lighter, but not lesser," the article stated.
Elsewhere, Windows 10 S came in for some flack from Business Insider for being "a bit more locked down than first anticipated".
"Microsoft likely has its reasons for this — the big ideas it's selling with Windows 10 S are security and simplicity, with a particular focus on schools. The easiest way to create that, in its eyes, is to put the services it can directly control at the forefront of the OS as much as possible. Getting more people to use its stuff probably doesn't hurt, either," the article stated.
"But from a consumer standpoint, this kind of closedness is a ways away from the flexibility of standard Windows 10. Bing, while generally fine, has long been less popular than Google Search, even as it's become more tightly integrated with Windows 10."
The Surface Laptop will begin shipping on 15 June. A range of other Windows 10 S devices, ranging from Windows Ink and touch PCs to premium devices, will be available from Microsoft's OEM partners "in the coming months", Microsoft said.
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