Windows 10 Cloud Tablet Aimed at Students Could Hurt Google Chromebooks

Windows 10 Cloud and Surface 3 hybrid tablet

Microsoft is going to reveal a piece of hardware specifically aimed at the education segment come May 2. And if it’s going to be what we think it will be, that device could effectively push Chromebooks to the sidelines.

What is Windows 10 Cloud?

Windows 10 Cloud is a version of Windows 10 that is lightweight and a little restrictive, but it’s perfect in terms of cost because Microsoft intends to license it to device manufacturers at a much lower price than a full Windows 10 OEM license. Because of that, devices running on Windows 10 Cloud will be much cheaper.

It now appears that Microsoft may launch a Surface 3 running on this lighter Windows 10 Cloud. It can only run UWP (Universal Windows Platform) applications, or UWP apps, from the Windows Store, but it will be ideal for students because it will have all the Office applications that a student typically uses, plus it will be able to run Office 365 off the cloud as well.

Microsoft recently opened up its cloud-based Teams application to Office 365 Education plans, which is another piece of the puzzle. Putting all of them together, it looks like Microsoft is squarely aiming a salvo at the education community with this initiative.

To summarize, the setup will consist of a hardware device that will be launched on May 2 – possibly the Surface 3 hybrid tablet – which will possibly run on Windows 10 Cloud, have pre-loaded UWP apps, and can hook up to Office 365 if an education plan is active.

A Direct Hit on the Chromebooks Market

Such a setup has the potential to disrupt the Chromebooks ecosystem, which is a strong product because of its lower cost and its ability to quickly boot up and be ready to use. We expect Windows 10 Cloud to be just as fast, letting you to boot up your system and be online in less than seconds.

If we’re right, then we should see this sort of device proliferate the notebook and hybrid tablet market over the next several months. There’s literally no serious competition for Chromebooks in that segment at the moment, and we’re hoping that the Windows 10 Cloud devices from Microsoft – and then OEMs – will give Chromebooks a run for their money.

It’s also possible that Microsoft won’t showcase its own hardware, but use an OEM device like HP or Dell to run Windows 10 Cloud to show how fast and versatile it can be. That part isn’t very clear at the moment, so it could be either Microsoft’s own hardware (more likely) or an OEM device running Microsoft’s lighter OS.

The education hardware market is huge, and it’s growing fast. Data from Technavio shows that “the education PC will be the largest product segment in the market and is expected to account for more than 54% of the overall market share during the forecast period.”

And that market is expected to grow at a healthy CAGR of over 14 percent until at least 2020. If our assumption is accurate, that’s the market Microsoft is after with Windows 10 Cloud and the Surface 3/OEM device.

Despite speculation, we’re not likely to see a Surface Pro 5 or Surface Phone launched at the event.

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