doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

I could probably make it work

“Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”

Hands up if you remember that piece of advice.  I know that it was good wisdom a long time ago.  But, things have changed.  Today’s market includes all kinds of things like the personal computer, the laptop, the smartphone, the tablet, …  What’s a person to do?  What’s a school system to do?

In education, there was a time when there were essentially two players. Those that made Windows computers and those that didn’t.  They made Macintosh computers.  The paradigm of what a computer looked like on either platform was pretty similar.  You got a device that could run all kinds of software written for that platform.  And, with an emulator, you could even run Windows programs on a Macintosh computer.

There were thousands of programs available and providing the best learning opportunities for students involved scouring the web looking for the best pieces of software.

Then, along came the internet.  That opened all kinds of doors as it was now possible to run applications directly from the internet without installing anything but a browser.

Then, things changed our thinking quite a bit.  Tablets became viable options. Into the mix, came the Chromebook. In its simplest form, it’s considered a web browser on a machine.  Those that really know computers recognize that it’s more than that; it’s an operating system based upon Linux, capable of running certain applications.  Newer machines will also run Android applications.  The nice thing to education was that they were priced very attractively.  So nicely, that the traditional players were squeezed in the marketplace.  All of this for that very attractive price.

As we learned recently, Apple seems hesitant to do anything in this area.  The new Macbook Pros are still priced on the high end and they’re the only company that makes these computers.  This week, Microsoft unveiled plans for Windows S, a new entry into the Windows platform.  It comes at a very reasonable price and stories are out indicating that some new machines will be priced to compete with the Chromebook.  This definitely was targeted at education and students who don’t necessarily need the higher priced devices.

The kicker, as it were, is that it will only run applications available from the Windows Store.

The concept of a “store” isn’t new.  Apple has done it for a long time to get iOS applications to its users.  Android applications have their own store.  So, Microsoft wants to do things along the same line.  There have been a lot of really negative reports about this move but I would suggest that they’re based upon the old idea of what Windows was all about.  Every vendor could have their own way of distributing software.  Now, Windows S says you have to get applications from one spot. So, with regards to the current way of doing things, yes, it is a change.

But, I think it’s a change for the good.  With the ability to download and install applications from everywhere, making sure you’re getting the latest and greatest can be a challenge.  Plus – is the site you’re downloading from legitimate?  Or, is it also distributing malware?  Conceivably by bringing everything to the Microsoft store, tighter control over quality and updates would be a feature rather than a maintenance task.

In addition to better pricing, the Chromebook has changed another way of looking at things in education.  No longer do you need a separate application to do every task.  So much can be accomplished in the browser.  That’s a very attractive option.  So, all you need is a good web browser.  Chrome is the browser, people like that.  Nobody complains that you can’t run Microsoft’s Edge on your Chromebook.

The other kick at Windows S is Microsoft’s plans to only allow browsers from its store to run on the computer.  And, this currently means Edge.  There was a time, not too long ago, that I’d be really concerned about that.  It’s not that the browser causes problems; most web browsers are pretty much interchangeable these days.  It’s the extensions that give more functionality to the browser.  Even that’s changing.  In the beginning, there were none.  Then, it started…

Before I started to write this post, I took a look at the extensions I have installed.

  • LastPass
  • uBlock Origin
  • Evernote
  • Translator for Edge
  • OneNote Web Clipper
  • Pinterest
  • Ghostery

I was pleased with the collection there.  There were a couple that I use regularly that weren’t there – notably Diigo, ScribeFire, and Google Keep.  However, if this was my only life, I could live with it.  In schools, chances are students wouldn’t be allowed to install extensions to the browser anyway.  The complete list is available to review here.

The one major problem would be websites that won’t work until you return with Firefox or Google Chrome.

2017-05-12_2108.png  Now, Microsoft isn’t a stupid company; if they’re about to make this work, they should be looking for such sites and I would hope providing some assistance for making the modifications needed to make it work.

So, with the current state of Edge, the supply of applications already in place, and a knowledge of great web resources, I could probably make it work.  How about you?

Imagine a world with only applications from the Microsoft store and the Edge browser. Could you make it work?


6 responses to “I could probably make it work”

  1. Andrew Forgrave Avatar
    Andrew Forgrave

    Could I make it work?

    How about “Would I be happy having to make it work?” or “Would I be disadvantaging my learners by requiring them to work within a limited learning environment?”

    Microsoft is playing catch-up and responding, albeit slowly, to new paradigms. In doing so, they are creating a more limited learning environment.

    You’ve identified a few of the following innovations that Apple and Google have successfully brought to the education market over the last 15 years:

    1) computing devices that aren’t the standard desktop PC (Apple)
    2) operating systems that are provided with the device, not an extra line on the bill (Apple, Google)
    3) a proprietary store that provides pretested software designed specifically for the target operating system (Apple, Google)
    4) a cloud-based file storage (Google)
    5) suite of collaboration-capable apps (Google)
    6) video-calling software (Apple, Google, Microsoft bought Skype)
    7) a classroom-based student work-management overlay for the collaborative apps suite (Google)
    8) a network of designated education experts (Apple)

    Historically, Microsoft’s efforts have been focused and directed at developing and marketing the Windows operating system, an operating system that was designed to respond to the challenge of running on a huge variety of hardware configurations while supporting an even more huge third-party software base.

    Microsoft is realizing that to maintain market share in education, they need to provide more than just an operating system. A lot of what Microsoft has done in recent years in Education is simply mimicking the innovations listed above that Apple and Google have brought to the market. Of course, when you look at that list now, all of them have followed suit on most of the innovations

    Although it may have been back in the day that “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM,” I would hazard a guess that there aren’t a lot of public school systems in Ontario that are buying IBM these days. I’m thinking that the old stand-by argument of buying “what the kids will need to use when they get out in the real world,” has also gone a by the wayside. There’s a lot of folks out in the real world these days carrying around iPhones rather than Blackberries.

    Microsoft still has a good thing going with the Windows operating system, because it is still the one platform that a lot of grown-up that there are familiar with. Non-educators who ask me about buying a computer seem to still be living in either the Windows, or more recently, Apple world. However, with their great cloud-based deployment model for education, complemented with their lowest price, Google has the potential to make their strengths clear to the newest generation.

    And of course, this brings us all back to your question, “Could I make this work?” and my question redirects, “Would I be happy having to make this work?” and “Would I be disadvantaging my learners by requiring them to work within a limited learning environment?”

    Historically, my answers would have been “yes, no and yes.” Today my answers are “yes, no, and yes.”


  2. Andrew Forgrave Avatar
    Andrew Forgrave

    I see now, as well, that your question, “Could I make it work?” was specifically asking about having to live within a world as defined by the Edge browser running within the Windows S platform.

    I guess my answers would remain “yes, no, and yes,” but they would be qualified more as follows:

    The first yes would be a long drawn out “well … I guess so … probably … I could under duress…” (followed with the subsequent question, “Can I still use Google search with Edge, or would I have to use Bing?”)

    The answer the second question would be a much more vehement “NO!”

    The third response would be qualified, ” I really need someone to convince me of the advantages in using this. and they really need to have a much better argument than “Well, at least it runs Minecraft.”


  3. I suspect the other browsers will end up in the store as Microsoft could be viewed as anti competitive. After all Apple did end up allowing chrome, dolphin and other browsers into the App Store.
    Also I read that for 99$ you could upgrade to the pro version of the OS which would allow you to install software no from the App Store. Viable option.


  4. I really don’t use any extensions and live on Edge without any problems so I think 10S would work for me except for developing software. And Chromebooks don’t do that either. So I don’t see a problem for me or my school. On the other hand having Office there would make my life much easier. I spend a lot of time helping students with Google’s Office replacements. I find them painful to use.


  5. It will work, and far better than a Chromebook, or a Macbook. Even assuming you stick with WIndows10S (which is stupid-easy-quick to set up, install & maintain).
    First, you have the entire Office365 application/collaboration suite (Word, Excel, PPT, Sway, Delve, PowerBI, Forms, etc). And the full programs for Word, Excel & PPT, not just the web versions, if your school is an Office365 school. And the full programs, and the web apps, are as collaborative and in many cases more powerful than the equivalent Google app.
    Second. You have OneNote. Which means you have all of your content, embedded inside of the Notebook and shared with your faculty, students & parents. And digital ink with the pen (not included, unfortunately, with the purchase price of the Surface Laptop, but the cheaper devices, including one at 299$US do). This digitizes your entire curriculum — every subject, including math, science and foreign languages which are often cut out because of the limitations of the keyboard). At every school I’ve visited that give faculty & students access to a device with a pen, on its own, digital ink motivates a change in teaching & assessment. Between #1 & #2, you’ll find you don’t have to try to track down other web apps because the Google Suite doesn’t offer you the capabilities you need.
    Third. You have access to the web just like the Chromebook (in fact, that’s all you get with the Chromebook) and the Mac — the number of sites that don’t work in Edge are few & far between (and it is more likely the security and age of the sites are to blame rather than Edge. And Edge is on a more rapid development cycle than Windows so updates get pushed out regularly. I have yet to find a site I use for school to bounce me out of Edge, and even sites that say “oh, you should use Chrome” often do work in Edge (Edusight, for example). But I’ll be more diligent in recording those that don’t.

    Now, just to maintain my integrity, and to stay completely honest & transparent, our school won’t go for WIndows10S — we give our students admin control on their machines, and have no plans to change. We also won’t go for the Surface Laptop; our request is always for a convertible. And third, Microsoft invited & paid for me to attend the Release Presentation. That said, I’m still quite happy to tell Microsoft when they screw up (as they are about to on another topic).


  6. And just to respond to Andrew’s first post: (my comments after each asterisk)
    You’ve identified a few of the following innovations that Apple and Google have successfully brought to the education market over the last 15 years:

    1) computing devices that aren’t the standard desktop PC (Apple)
    *Surface Tablet/Book/Studio but before developing their own devices, they ensured that versions of Windows were pen-enabled (digital ink) going back to 2001. As my first post indicating, bringing digital ink into the classroom is the greatest step forward in educational technology since it breaks the barrier that a keyboard device introduces to the classroom space.

    2) operating systems that are provided with the device, not an extra line on the bill (Apple, Google)
    You don’t get anything for free (and in Google, you don’t *get* an OS technically); Microsoft has different levels to their OS so it makes sense to offer choice at purchase time.

    3) a proprietary store that provides pretested software designed specifically for the target operating system (Apple, Google)
    *I’m not sure what this means; prior to the introduction of a proprietary store I would download the programs designed specifically for the target operating system I wanted from the vendor’s site (or *gasp* Tucows). The only thing a proprietary store does is ensure a profit-path for Apple/Google/Microsoft and arguably add some convenience in finding them (Tucows had reviews). And in Apple’s case, an opportunity to impose a US cultural perspective.

    4) a cloud-based file storage (Google)
    *Prior to OneDrive there was LiveMesh — which pre-dates GoogleDrive — and was subsumed into OneDrive (née SkyDrive)

    5) suite of collaboration-capable apps (Google)
    *OneNote has been collaborative since 2004; the other Office apps in 2012. This is one area that I will agree Office was slow to innovate but they have rapidly caught up and the desktop applications are now synchronously collaborative.

    6) video-calling software (Apple, Google, Microsoft bought Skype)
    *I’m not sure why you added “Microsoft bought Skype”. Microsoft was expanding LiveMessenger and then bought Skype rather than continue their own development. If you’re going to go that route, I’d remind you that Google bought Writely, which became GoogleDocs. And they did the same with the predecessor of GoogleSheets.

    7) a classroom-based student work-management overlay for the collaborative apps suite (Google)
    *OneNote ClassNotebook predates GoogleClassroom (ask me how I know!)

    8) a network of designated education experts (Apple)
    *Microsoft Education Experts … but don’t get me started on these branded-badges. There are enough online communities of all types & descriptions that bring educators together from around the world. There were Gopher groups for any number of applications in any operating system, for pete’s sake. People connect, regardless of whether you get a “cool group” sticker.

    Again, to maintain my integrity, I use in my classroom the best thing that works the best. I used GoogleDrive & GoogleDocs (alongside OneNote) until OneNote ClassNotebook came along and then everything got swept away in that edtech tsunami. When Google (or any new company) comes out with something that will help students learn better, or create a more vibrant learning space than OneNote & digital ink does, then I will drop Microsoft quicker than Google dropped Reader, and I’ve told that to Microsoft repeatedly — the dropping part, not the Google Reader [RIP] part .


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