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Microsoft's Chromebook event: what to expect

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  • Microsoft's Chromebook event: what to expect

    Microsoft is hosting a special hardware and software event in New York City this week on May 2nd. The software giant has consistently used New York to launch new Surface devices, but this event will be slightly different. We’re not expecting to see a new Surface Book 2 or Surface Pro 5, instead Microsoft is focusing on education. Microsoft is ready to show how it will compete with Google’s Chromebooks.

    For all of the details on what to expect we've put together a full preview of the event below. The event kicks off Tuesday, May 2nd at 9:30AM ET / 6:30AM PT.

    A new version of Windows 10

    Microsoft is expected to unveil a new version of Windows 10 designed to compete with Chrome OS. Windows 10 Cloud first appeared earlier this year, and leaks suggest it only supports apps from the Windows Store. A document appeared last week, detailing Microsoft’s performance targets for hardware running this new variant of Windows 10, and it’s rumored to debut as either “Windows 10 Cloud” or “Windows 10 S.”

    One of the big targets for this new version of Windows 10, and the associated hardware, is battery life. While the OS is expected to be identical to a regular copy of Windows 10, Microsoft wants to improve battery life by limiting the software to Windows Store apps. Microsoft is also working on a new power throttling feature for its next major Windows 10 update in September, to help reduce background task interference with battery life.

    Any version of Windows 10 that takes on Chrome OS will need to have similar attributes. Chrome OS has thrived in education because it’s simple, easy to manage, and fast for students to access and use. Windows 10 Cloud or Windows 10 S will need to boot fast and easily support multiple users with little management required. Microsoft will have to prove it has a worthy competitor to Chrome OS, and not just a few basic changes to Windows 10.

    A Chromebook competitor

    Alongside a new version of Windows 10, we’re expecting Microsoft to have at least one new piece of hardware. Rumors have suggested that Microsoft might introduce the Surface Pro 5 tomorrow, but sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the company isn’t planning to introduce an all-new Surface Pro or Surface Book at this event.

    Instead, we’re expecting to see Microsoft’s own answer to Chromebooks and even Google’s Chromebook Pixel. Some rumors have suggested Microsoft might be planning to switch to a clamshell design for its Surface Book 2, but it would make more sense if we saw this type of design for a new Surface entirely. It will be key for Microsoft, given its education focus, to balance the right price and performance on any type of hardware that’s going to take on Chromebooks.
    Microsoft has designed this new version of Windows 10 to take on Chromebooks, but that doesn’t mean it will be the only company with new hardware running this OS. We’re expecting to see Microsoft’s usual hardware partners support this effort, and price points will need to be low enough to compete with existing Chromebooks on the market.

    Education focus

    Microsoft used a creative theme for its last Surface hardware event to introduce the Surface Studio. This week’s event will focus on education, and it will likely see the return of Joe Belfiore to the stage. Belfiore took a year out from Microsoft and has recently returned to Twitter. A recent interview with Mashable revealed that Belfiore is focusing on education efforts for Windows, and it’s likely he’ll appear onstage to introduce this new Windows 10 focus.

    Education isn’t just about Windows 10 and Surface hardware, though. Microsoft has a range of tools like 3D Paint, Minecraft, Office, and OneNote that are popular with students, and it will be interesting to see if the company has managed to combine these efforts into a focus on education. Microsoft is also obsessed with pushing giant screens for productivity, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see some type of whiteboard technology or hardware like the Surface Hub being demonstrated for school environments.

    The future of Microsoft Office

    Microsoft Office is always a key part of the company’s education offering. Schools and businesses alike have come to rely on Office over the years, but recent alternatives like Google Docs have shown that not everyone needs the full power of these desktop apps. Microsoft has responded with its own web-based versions of Office, but the company has never done a good job of advertising them over pushing its Office 365 subscriptions.

    Microsoft’s education event will undoubtedly feature Office, and we're expecting to see a full version of Microsoft Office enter the Windows Store. This will be required for these Chromebook-like devices that only run Windows Store apps. Microsoft could also give us a glimpse at how it sees Office evolving in the future. Recently, Microsoft started hiding its touch-friendly mobile versions of Office in the Windows Store. While mobile devices can still search for them, if you’re a tablet or regular PC user then they’ve simply vanished from the Windows Store search. These apps are Universal Windows apps, and were supposed to be the future of Office and a demonstration of how powerful Microsoft’s Windows 10 apps could be. If Microsoft is stepping back from them, now is a good time to show what’s next.

    No Surface Phone, Surface Pro 5, or Surface Book 2

    As this is all about education, don’t expect to see regular Surface devices refreshed. This event won’t see the introduction of a Surface Phone, and we understand that no Surface Pro 5 will be announced either. Microsoft could choose to simply refresh its Surface line with different options, but we’re not expecting any major new additions for the Surface Book or Surface Pro line on May 2nd. The main focus will be Microsoft’s response to Chromebooks.

    [The Verge]