Microsoft recently partnered with Neverware, a company that have created a CloudReady OS to support Office365 Online apps. This can best be likened to a ChromeBook style interface where users sign in with an existing G Suite account and then use their Office365 credentials to access a “web only” interface.
Currently, it appears that you can not sign in directly with your O365 username/password (this would rely on Azure AD), but instead sign into the device locally using an existing Google Account. This is a downside for schools that are exclusively Office 365 for their identity management, as to make it seamless you’d need to also have users set up with a Google Account and then using ADFS for single sign on (SSO).
Nevertheless, you can learn more in this introduction video:
This is an intriguing concept, particularly because it allows schools to recycle older hardware that perhaps would not support desktop applications too smoothly any more, but could run a browser-based operating system. Neverware have created an extensive Supported Devices Catalog where you can easily search to see if your hardware will definitely run the CloudReady OS.
Schools can take advantage of the affordable pricing model outlined below:
Here is another video showing a webinar of the product from Neverware:
I deployed this to a Lenovo N23 device and it worked fine, aside from the above issue of having to sign into the device with my Google account first (and not directly using my O365 credentials). The knock on affect of this, of course, is that when you launch the “apps”, you need to sign into them in your browser as well.
For schools that have older hardware or who want to minimize the management of devices moving forward this could be an interesting option to explore.
Using a Chromebook or CloudReady relies on a Google profile for management or storage of profile settings like bookmarks, wallpaper, preferences, etc. So a Google Account must exist for each user. However, Neverware provides a guide to set up standard SSO between Office 365 and Google so that users only need to log in using one set of Microsoft credentials.