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Microsoft Launches New Cloud Tool and Convertible Devices to Ease Classroom Tech Use

New two-in-one devices — and an easier way to manage them — are on the table this year for the tech giant.

In the first quarter of 2016, Windows devices accounted for less than 25 percent of U.S. education sales, Futuresource Consulting reports.

Microsoft is taking aim at changing that: Last month, the company announced the launch of Intune for Education, a new cloud-based app, as well as an upcoming fleet of new hybrid devices.

With the tech giant reporting that 50 percent of educators are serving as their own tech support, Intune for Education was created to make managing new classroom devices and applications much easier.

“This new offering will help teachers save time, improve student learning outcomes and help protect student data,” reports Microsoft.

With Intune for Education, teachers and IT professionals can set up default policies for classes, schools and entire districts, writes Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Windows and devices, on the announcement blog.

Once set up, there are over 150 additional settings that educators can assign individually to students, making personalized learning simpler, writes Mehdi.

While Intune for Education is similar to Microsoft’s other device management tools, tech analyst Jack Madden says in a blog post that the new tool has been optimized for school use.

“The management console has been simplified to be friendly to non-professional IT staff, and it contains wizards, default settings, and group types that are appropriate for schools,” writes Madden.

New Windows Devices Aim to Capture Success of 2-in-1 Market

In an effort to grow sales in an education market dominated by Google Chromebook, Microsoft also announced a collaboration with companies like HP, Acer and Lenovo to create new hybrid devices that will be compatible with Windows 10 and other Microsoft Education tools.

Convertible devices are a hot commodity in the tech market right now, and sales are expected to top 58 million units by 2019, Gartner reports.

Two-in-one devices, like Lenovo ThinkPads, have been touted as perfect for the classroom because of their flexibility.

“Our teachers and students use them both to consume and create content,” Karen McKenzie, director of technology and innovation at Cary Academy in North Carolina, told EdTech. “While other products have started to advance, the convertible’s built-in stylus, and software like Microsoft’s OneNote, have made it the best choice for our students and faculty.”

Up first from Microsoft is the Lenovo N24, a convertible notebook with an 11.6-inch display, a 360-screen rotation and an active pen with support for Windows Ink — a tool that helps make writing with a stylus feel as close to pen and paper as possible. The Lenovo N24 is set to be available later this year.

With prices under $300 and longer battery life, these new devices are going to be a stiff competitor in the education market, EdSurge reports.

“What I am excited about is seeing the competition bring technology into the classroom,” Josh Hutto, Microsoft’s senior direct for education product marketing, tells EdSurge. “The more kids who are able to get access to it one way or the other — that’s good for everybody.”

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Feb 21 2017

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