As we reported last week, Microsoft used its Reimagine Education event to announce Windows 11 SE alongside the new Surface Laptop SE. This is a new SKU of Windows that will run on a low-cost Surface device that Microsoft hopes will compete with Chromebooks. With plenty of questions around both the software and hardware, let’s take a closer look at both.
Starting with Windows 11 SE, Microsoft says the name doesn’t really mean anything but is just to separate this SKU from others. As expected, the SE build is targeting education users, with Microsoft pointing to grades K-8.
Windows 11 SE is getting a worldwide release, and it will also be available to OEMs to include in their hardware. In fact, some of those devices are already available from today. It is clear Microsoft is charting a direct line towards Google’s Chromebooks, with the company saying the following:
“The cost for a Windows 11 SE device is not higher than Chromebook’s solution. However, when you consider other benefits, like management, productivity, and accessibility features, Windows 11 SE is actually more affordable. Windows 11 SE includes more built-in accessibility features. At no additional cost, which reduces the need to evaluate and purchase third-party solutions. In addition, schools using Chromebook’s devices need to pay for management subscriptions and services. Microsoft’s per-device price includes management capabilities (Intune) as well as full versions of Microsoft Office and Minecraft: Education Edition for the same price as Chromebook’s management-only price. Microsoft also offers subscription options that can make management and productivity even more affordable.”
Microsoft directly says that Windows 11 SE does not really work as a solution for non-education personal use. However, it is possible to buy an SE device, wipe the OS and clean install a full Windows 11 SKU. There is no method for switching SKUs, so any changes will be permanent.
Perhaps the main differentiators between Windows 11 SE and other SKUs is apps. SE cannot support all app types, instead focusing on IT admins controlling what students see. This is another reason why the OS is not a personal solution. Apps are available for SE through Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and Win32 with permission from admins. These apps include:
- Content-filtering apps
- Test-taking solutions
- Accessibility apps
- Effective classroom communication apps
- Essential diagnostics, management, connectivity, and supportability apps
Of course, Microsoft already provides Windows 10 S Mode, but the company says the SE SKU is different in the following ways:
- “Windows 11 SE has an even more simplified user interface, to minimize distraction and keep the focus on education
- There is no Microsoft Store for Windows 11 SE, so IT educators can control which apps and tools students download
- Windows 11 SE has built-in enhancements to optimize performance on low-cost hardware
- There is no way to upgrade or switch to Windows 11 from Windows 11 SE, whereas users could switch to the full version of Windows 10 from Windows 10 in S mode at any time.
- Windows 10 in S mode was built simply to limit apps; the other enhancements were not yet developed
- Windows 11 SE is optimized for institutional use, whereas Windows 10 in S mode was also available to consumers.”
Like Chrome OS, Windows 11 SE is a cloud-first platform, but Office applications will run offline and OneDrive can save local files. Speaking of OneDrive, it is the only file sharing/storage app SE supports.
Surface Laptop SE
While there are OEM devices running Windows 11 SE, Microsoft is pointing to the new Surface Laptop SE as the best vessel for the OS. Comfortably the most affordable Surface laptop ever, the SE costs just $249.
For that cut price users will get an 11.6-inch screen, stereo speakers, a 720p HD camera, 16-hour battery life, and an Intel Celeron processor. Microsoft is being a little quite on all the specs, which means they are not very good. Of course, this is a $249 product. The Surface Laptop SE is available from today.
Tip of the day: Hard drives are getting faster and more affordable every day, but unfortunately, their moving parts will always make them loud and mean their power draw isn’t insignificant. This can be a particular issue for those with laptops, leading many to wonder how to turn off a hard disk after it reaches an idle state. In our tutorial we are showing you Windows 10: How to Turn off Hard Disk after Idle to Save Power .