Microsoft built a stylus for students as it goes aggressively after education market

Key Points
  • Only schools will be able to buy the Microsoft Classroom Pen, which is smaller than the Surface Pen.
  • It's part of Microsoft's strategy to compete with Apple and Google in the education market.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at an Economic Club of New York event in New York on Feb. 7, 2018.
Mark Kauzlarich | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The classroom has emerged as a battleground among big tech companies, which are looking to get their gadgets and apps in the hands of the next generation of consumers and developers.

Microsoft is taking the market so seriously that it's just created a stylus specifically for students. The Microsoft Classroom Pen, introduced Tuesday, is designed to work on the smaller Surface Go tablet, but is compatible with other Surface devices, as well as certain Windows PCs from other manufacturers.

The device was designed with a student's needs in mind, part of Microsoft's effort to stave off threats from the likes of Apple and Google in the education market. The stylus is shorter than Microsoft's current Surface Pen, the tip is more durable, and it has fewer moving parts. There's even a slot for tethering it to a PC, so it's less likely to get lost.

Microsoft's hardware team spent time with students in classrooms as they developed the product, said Eran Megiddo, the company's corporate vice president for education, in an interview.

"They are the future as far as leaders, employees and consumers," Megiddo said of students. "They're definitely the ones that are adopting technology the quickest."

Microsoft's new Classroom Pen with the Surface Go.

The stylus will get bundled in classroom packs that schools can order from Microsoft. Currently there's no other way to order the digital pen, but Megiddo said that some early users have already suggested that it be made available to anyone.

They'll be sold in packs of 20 for about $800, or around $40 each. (The Surface Pen costs about $100.) The stylus will go on sale next month and will be available in all 36 countries where Microsoft offers the Surface Go.

Megiddo highlighted other areas where Microsoft is focusing on education. For example, in 2017 Microsoft gave Word the ability to read text out loud to users. Now students will also be able to have Word and other programs read out math equations.

Non-Microsoft products are also part of the strategy. One device the company is touting is the Lenovo 300e, a convertible tablet starting at $289 that will let students write onscreen with a traditional No. 2 pencil.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly indicated that the new stylus is wider than Microsoft's current Surface Pen.

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