Microsoft's intensifying focus on the education technology market seems to be paying off.
Over the past few years, schools and a fair number of enterprises have been flocking to Chromebooks. The devices, which are powered by Google's Chrome OS and can now run Android applications, frequently offered an affordably-priced alternative to Windows laptops. Starting at $149, they provide access to G Suite, educational apps and approachable device management tools.
Showing that two technology titans can play at that game, in January Microsoft unveiled low-priced Windows 10 PCs from hardware partners HP, Acer and Lenovo at the Bett Show, an education technology tradeshow. With starting prices of under $200, the devices can be managed by the teacher-friendly Education edition of Intune, a cloud-based device and application management service.
Those moves appear to have helped Microsoft gain share in the education market.
"In K-12 schools in the U.S. in the last year, Windows device share grew 4.3 percent on devices under $300 and 8.2 percent on devices over $300, as more and more schools are choosing Windows over competitive offerings," said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of the Windows and Devices division at Microsoft, in a blog post citing data from Futuresource Consulting.
Beyond American borders, Mehdi reported brisk sales in India and Argentina where "hundreds of thousands of students" will soon be logging into Windows devices to help them learn new subjects and complete assignments, added the Microsoft executive.
Another statistic sheds light on why major IT vendors are setting their sights set on schools. Overall, the worldwide education technology market grew 15 percent year-over-year, Mehdi said.
Microsoft's other efforts to get its products into the hands of more school districts and students includes another version of its flagship operating system, Windows 10 S.
PCs bundled with Windows 10 S offer practically all of the functionality of standard Windows, with one major difference. Windows 10 S PCs can only run apps downloaded from the Microsoft Store (formerly Windows Store), a move that helps improve security and manageability, according to Microsoft. Windows 10 S users can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro, but it's a one-way, irreversible process.
In May, the company unveiled the Surface Laptop, a 13.5-inch portable PC aimed at students. It is outfitted with an Intel Core processor and a keyboard area that is swathed in Alcantara, a suede-like synthetic fabric sometimes upholstering the interiors of luxury and performance cars.
Microsoft is even reaching students who don't use Windows PCs.
Microsoft recently lifted a restriction that allowed only select Chromebook models to run the Android version of Word. As of November, practically any Chromebook that supports Android apps can run the Microsoft Word.
In October, the company announced it was adding its Learning Tools to the Word app for iPad. Learning Tools are AI-enabled software helpers that provide an immersive and guided reading experience and help students with dyslexia and other disorders improve their reading and writing skills. Meanwhile, Teachers who use OneNote and Microsoft's chat-based collaboration tool, Teams, in classroom settings can now use those products to manage their assignments.