While the Surface Laptop is supposed to be going after the upper echelons of educational computing purchases (read: MacBook), the lightened software is supposed to give K-12 students affordable access to complex, but streamlined digital work. Google’s Chromebooks have been dealing in that space for a few years now — analysis from Futuresource claims that Chrome OS is currently taking up 58 percent of elementary and middle school markets.
While Raghavan is happy to see the new competition as “a validation of the approach [Google has] taken,” he notes that the institutions value “simplicity,” though kids value flexibility. He told Business Insider:
Because kids do things in amazing ways where you or I would never expect. So here’s one of the things we’ve learned in a study of kids as we were developing all our tools for classrooms, right.
We would put a Chromebook in front of a kid, they would whip out their phone and write their essay. We said ‘no no no, there’s a keyboard there, you can use it,’ and they still write the essay there. They said ‘we’ll use the keyboard to touch up the formatting, but it’ll be much faster here,’ right.
This is something we consistently learned when we looked at pre-teens … these kids are really forerunners, the vanguards of human evolution, in some sense, and so it’s great to see that some of the approaches we’ve taken, but I think the world is going to keep evolving and it’s a scramble for us to keep up with what people are going to do.
Could phablets be the “in” thing for kids to do real work? Does a dock-to-screen solution make sense to them? How do you accommodate some complex, maybe processor-heavy needs on a $300 laptop when the basic ones can be fulfilled with a $500 handheld slab? How can anyone in this market make sense of it all?
There’s plenty of irony in that story, but whatever the case is, the companies involved have to step up.
“It’s a real test tube for all of us, whether it’s Microsoft or any of us, right,” Raghavan said.