Microsoft announces Windows 11 SE, a new competitor to Chrome OS


Microsoft has created a new edition of Windows 11 designed for students and schools. Windows 11 SE will ship exclusively on inexpensive laptops designed for K-8 classrooms, and this is Microsoft’s new attempt to tackle Google’s line of Chromebooks and their popularity in American schools.

Microsoft has struggled to understand why schools and students have flocked to Chromebooks. The company has previously tried an S mode that essentially locked Windows 10 to apps from the Microsoft Store. The restriction was more of an irritation to end users and schools, as there weren’t enough apps available in the Microsoft Store for it to make sense.

Windows 11 SE comes with all key Microsoft 365 apps preinstalled.
Image: Microsoft

Windows 11 SE takes a different approach from a Windows for Schools edition, and it’s a similar direction to where Microsoft was originally heading with Windows 10X before it was canceled. Windows 11 SE will only be available on new low-cost devices and only for schools and education customers. While Windows 11 SE is naturally optimized for Microsoft Edge, Office, and Microsoft’s cloud-based services, it’s not just limited to Microsoft apps.

“Windows 11 SE also supports third-party applications, including Zoom and Chrome, because we want to give schools the choice to use what works best for them,” said Paige Johnson, education marketing manager at Microsoft. IT administrators will be responsible for installing apps and devices can be managed to update silently outside of school hours.

Windows 11 SE will not ship with the Microsoft Store. Instead, Microsoft allows certain third-party apps for IT admins to provision on SE devices. This list of apps includes Chrome and Zoom at this time, but Microsoft has yet to share its final list of approved apps.

Most of the changes to Windows 11 SE are pretty minor elsewhere. Microsoft has spent the past 18 months chatting with teachers and students to get feedback on its efforts to date on low-cost Windows laptops. These comments led to apps still launching in full screen mode on Windows 11 SE, and Microsoft removed the multiple Snap layouts in this edition in favor of a single mode that allows you to place apps side by side. rating.

Microsoft has simplified Snap layouts in Windows 11 SE.
Image: Microsoft

The new Widgets section in Windows 11 was also removed in SE because Microsoft found it awkward in a classroom environment. Microsoft Edge will also be configured to accept Chrome Extensions, which are disabled by default on Windows 11. Many schools in the US rely on Chrome Extensions as part of their use of Chrome OS, so this change is one of them. clear recognition. Windows 11 SE also backs up documents to OneDrive by default, with offline support to make it easier for students to use these Windows 11 SE laptops beyond the classroom.

Windows 11 SE will also ship with a new colorful Bloom wallpaper by default and some changes to the way apps are grouped together. Although you may come across two different versions of OneNote or Teams in Windows 11, Microsoft is cleaning this up in Windows 11 SE so that only one version is installed.

Windows 11 SE will only be available on inexpensive laptops sold to schools. Acer, Asus, Dell, Dynabook, Fujitsu, HP, JK-IP, Lenovo, and Positivo will all be making Windows 11 SE laptops in the coming months. Microsoft even has its own $ 249 Surface Laptop SE, which paves the way for Windows 11 SE. The base model comes with an Intel Celeron processor, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of eMMC storage, and an 11.6-inch (1366 x 768) display. You can read everything about the Surface Laptop SE here.

The Surface Laptop SE specs show the kind of low-cost devices that will ship with Windows 11 SE. Microsoft tells us that it has made a lot of performance improvements to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage devices, so hopefully Windows 11 SE will hold up well on these cheap laptops.

The $ 249 Surface Laptop SE comes with Windows 11 SE.
Image: Microsoft

Windows 11 SE, which Microsoft says isn’t meant to be short for anything, is also a big part of the company’s overall efforts to compete with Chrome OS. Microsoft has often overlooked what makes Chrome OS so easy to use and manage for IT administrators and schools, and Windows 11 SE laptops will now be ready to immediately communicate with Microsoft Intune for setup.

This makes it easier for IT admins to provision these devices with a more streamlined backend management console for education. Microsoft also groups together applications such as Teams, Office, OneNote, Minecraft for education, and Flipgrid in Windows 11 SE so IT administrators don’t have to install them separately. This should make it easier for students to open a Windows 11 SE laptop, enter their login information, and instantly access their cloud applications and documents.

Microsoft expects Windows 11 SE laptops to hit education channels later this year and into 2022, right at the start of the education buying season.

Update, November 9, 4:40 p.m. ET: Article updated with more information on application support for Windows 11 SE.

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