New low-cost Windows 10 laptops and 2-in-1s challenge Google Chromebooks in the classroom

New devices are being released by Acer, Dell and Lenovo, starting from $189 but will only be available for schools and colleges to buy in bulk, not to the general public.

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Microsoft has revealed seven new low-cost Windows 10 laptops and 2-in-1 PCs designed to challenge Google Chromebooks' growing foothold in the education market.

New devices are being released by Acer, Dell and Lenovo, starting from $189, but will only be available for schools and colleges to buy in bulk, not to the general public.

Among the new offerings are two new 2-in-1 tablet/laptop PC convertibles from Acer and Lenovo that sell from under $300.

The new machines will be the Lenovo 100e, Lenovo 300e 2-in-1, Lenovo 14w, Acer TravelMate B1(B118-M), Acer TravelMate Spin B1 (B118-R/RN), Acer TravelMate B1-141 and Dell Latitude 3300 for Education.

Microsoft is highlighting the versatility of the Lenovo 300e, a convertible 2-in-1 device that includes a stylus housed in the computer's case, and which also allows students to write on the screen using a No. 2 graphite pencil.

lenovo300e.jpg

The Lenovo 300e.

Image: Lenovo

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The new machines seem priced to compete with Chromebooks, one of the fastest-growing family of PCs on the market, with shipments increasing more than 50% over the past two years, according to IDC. Chrome OS also holds close to 60% of mobile computing market share among schools and colleges teaching K-12, 17 to 19-year-olds, as reported by our sister site ZDNet.

In possibly another attempt to match the simplicity of managing Chromebooks, Microsoft is also pushing the use of S-Mode for Windows 10 on these machines. S-Mode locks the PC to using Microsoft Store apps in an attempt to improve the speed, reliability and battery life of computers.

However, the idea of locking Windows 10 to using Microsoft Store apps has been heavily criticized in the past, due to the shortage of Store software.

Microsoft is also promoting these new machines as a portal to its software and services, such as making handwritten notes using Windows Ink and OneNote, handling assignments and grading via Microsoft Teams, and its free accessibility technology available via the Learning Tools in Office 365.

Alongside the new devices, Microsoft is also releasing the Classroom Pen, which is optimized for use with the Surface Go and is aimed at K-8 students, children aged between five and 14. The pen is smaller than the Microsoft Surface Pen and designed to be durable, with two buttons on the side for erasing and right clicking. The pens will be sold in packs of 20 at the price of about $40 each and will be available to buy anywhere in the world where the Surface Go is on sale.

The new devices are being revealed to coincide with the Bett conference in London this week.

Microsoft is also launching a number of new features for its software and services aimed at the education market, including syncing grades between Teams Assignments and the teacher's Student Information System (SIS), mobile grading on iOS and Android phones using the Teams mobile app, integration between Teams Assignments and the anti-plagiarism service Turnitin, and Teams Assignments being made faster and easier to use.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Seven new low-cost Windows 10 devices aimed at the education market will launch this week.
  • The machines appear to be designed to challenge Chromebooks, with Chrome OS holding close to 60% of mobile computing market share among schools and colleges teaching K-12.

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    By Nick Heath

    Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.