Microsoft Kicks Off Back-to-School Season Windows 10 Pro Education

The company is kicking off the back-to-school season with a new Windows 10 Education SKU based on the upcoming Anniversary Update. But it has left out Cortana, for good reason.


Apart from the Bash Unix shell and other highly anticipated features, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update is set to bring an entirely new SKU for schools to the Windows 10 family.

On July 27, Microsoft announced Windows 10 Education Pro based on the upcoming Anniversary Update, or Windows 10 version 1607. But at least one feature, an improved Cortana virtual assistant, won't be asked to enroll.

"Windows 10 Pro Education is effectively a variant of Windows 10 Pro that provides education-specific default settings, including the removal of Cortana," wrote Microsoft content developer Celeste de Guzman in an online support document announcing the new offering. "These default settings disable tips, tricks and suggestions and Windows Store suggestions."

Disabling Cortana is an understandable precaution given the sensitive nature of the data stored on Windows systems used in educational institutions. Since Cortana's inclusion in Windows 10—available on Windows Phone prior to that—the virtual assistant helped stoke privacy concerns.

To sharpen Cortana's assistive skills, Microsoft collects information about Windows 10 users. In schools, Windows systems may store student information and other private data. As a byproduct, removing Cortana also removes the temptation to find quick answers during class.

Schools running the non-Education edition of Windows 10 Pro with discounted K-12 licenses will automatically receive the Windows 10 Education Pro update, said de Guzman. Others can configure their existing Windows 10 Pro systems to closely mimic the new offering by changing some settings as detailed in this Microsoft TechNet support document.

Windows 10 Education Pro builds on some of the previously announced education-focused features that Microsoft is bundling into all Windows 10 Anniversary Update editions, including Home.

In April, the software giant took the wraps off the new Take a Test app. The software allows teachers or a school's IT personnel to create a secure environment for exams and quizzes. Also new is the Set Up School PCs app that enables teachers to set up a Windows 10 PC in a shared environment within minutes using a streamlined, three-step setup process.

Windows isn't the only software from Microsoft that's getting ready for the 2016/2017 back-to-school season.

This summer, the company plans to launch Minecraft: Education Edition, based on the popular sandbox game and MinecraftEdu. Microsoft acquired Mojang, Minecraft's developer, for $2.5 billion in 2014. Last month, the company snapped up MinecraftEdu for an undisclosed amount.

Also on deck is Microsoft Classroom for Office 365 Education. The collaborative class and assignment workflow management app uses OneNote Class Notebooks, enabling teachers to issue and grade homework, complete with due dates and private feedback.

Offering schools some more forward visibility concerning what Microsoft has planned for Office 365 Education, the company recently began publishing the product's roadmap. Currently, there are 130 updates in development, including PowerPoint Online co-authoring for entire classrooms, the ability to embed interactive Sway presentations into Microsoft Classroom and new OneNote Class Notebook teacher transfer capabilities.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...