Everyone is looking to make a "Chromebook killer" laptop and lately, Microsoft has been pushing to make less expensive laptops to directly compete with Chrome OS in schools. On the surface it seems like a good idea. Most schools are comfortable with Windows and some might want to continue using Windows machines since everything is in place from a technical standpoint. And let's face it, it is a full OS that can install programs on it and has more flexibility. But is it worth it to go to a cheaper Windows laptop over a Chrome OS device? Once again this is a factual post no opinions here. This is a look at Windows devices for student use, not for teachers/administrators. Although, I am pretty open about that as well.
Don't get me wrong I like Windows. I have a Windows PC running at my house as my htpc streaming shows and using Windows Media Center to watch and record TV. I have Windows 10 technical preview running as well. It look nice and does bring some additions to Windows, but that isn't coming til summer.
Windows is still Windows. Windows still slows down over time because of the amount of files it accumulates over the life of the machine. Windows will keep certain programs running in the background, so that when you open the program it will load faster. By keeping those programs running in the background, your machine is using more RAM. Open up the App Data folder on most Windows machines and you will probably be shocked at the size of the folder. After a few years from all the files it has saved, the folder is gigabytes in size. You can always reformat them or reimage them, but that takes time, sometimes a week or more.
Although Chrome OS is a relatively young operating system, it does seem to buck the trend of slowing down. People who received the first Chromebooks in 2011 are still using them. Part of the reason is that Chrome OS is basically a glorified browser. It has one job to do and it does it well. It doesn't need top of the line specs to do its job.
Windows is still Windows. Although 8.1 & 10 aren't the resource hogs of the past, you will still want to run it on decent hardware. Usually, people are looking for an i3 processor with at least 4 GB of RAM. Well, most of the Windows machines geared towards education have 2 GB of RAM and an older Baytrail processor. That is the bare minimum needed to run Windows. After you install some programs you will quickly see that those 2 GB aren't going to be enough to do simple tasks quickly. Eventually, there will be a delay in opening a program and it actually being able to use it because of the older processor.
Once again since Chrome OS runs everything in a browser, you don't need high end specs. The latest celeron processor and 2 GB of ram is more than enough.
Windows is still Windows. It is easy to install malware and malicious programs on the machines. It is easier to accidentally download a file that can absolutely wreck havoc on your machine. Since you can't install programs on Chrome OS, the chances of obtaining malware decreases exponentially.
Windows is still Windows. How many times have you gone to shut down your device and an update keeps spinning for minutes? How long does it take to restart a machine and get it back to the desktop? How many times has a device froze as you are trying to open a program? When you are doing a lesson, you don't have time to deal with machines needing to restart or freezing. If there are any issues with Chrome, wifi, trackpad, etc., just restart it. Chrome OS devices start in under 10 seconds and you are on the desktop.
In the end, schools will be lured in by the cheaper cost versus a traditional laptop or even a Chromebook. But the price doesn't match the functionality. You can run GAFE on both machines, but coming from someone who has used both, GAFE works better in Chrome OS, as it should. The entire OS is built around the browser. Just like Internet Explorer (and Spartan) work better in Windows.
Windows is useful for certain things, but mass education devices isn't one of them.