Late last year, we wondered why Microsoft was seemingly wasting its time bashing Chromebooks, the low-cost browser-based laptops that have barely registered in consumer sales figures. However, Fortune’s Michael Helft writes that Chromebooks have the potential to give Microsoft major headaches in one of its important markets: Schools. In particular, Helft says that his sons’ school district has started buying up Chromebooks instead of PCs and he says that they’re delivering some real advantages.
“It’s not hard to see why our PTA and the school district opted for Chromebooks,” he explains. “Sure, they don’t have Office. But they do have the free Google Docs, which is an easy-to-use alternative and sufficient for most tasks required of elementary school students. As for the lack of Windows — or for that matter MacOS — that’s actually an asset for the cost-sensitive school environment. The machines boot up immediately, they can be shared easily amongst students, they never have to be upgraded or backed up, and they are always up to date.”
This is particularly interesting because it shows that Microsoft’s attempt to paint Chromebooks as mere “toys” might not be as effective as the company thinks. Sure, Chromebooks might not have all the high-end productivity tools that Windows PCs have but do first graders really need the full versions of Excel and PowerPoint preloaded onto their machines? It seems that what Google has done is address certain pain points that schools have with Windows machines — namely, their maintenance costs — in a way that Microsoft is having a hard time responding to.