Microsoft has announced a special edition of Windows 11 for students called Windows 11 SE at their Reimagine event. In a blog post introducing the new OS, the company notes that it would cater to K-8 classrooms, which are elementary to middle school classes in the US. This is to say that it is designed especially for educational purposes. Ergo, it will be a lighter and affordable version of the Windows operating system with core Microsoft apps as well as enhanced security and performance. And, in a way, it would seem like a successor to Windows 10 S, but there is a key difference, which we will get into later.
But, it’s not just the OS, Microsoft has also announced Surface Laptops SE, which will be their attempt at taking on the Chromebook. This will be an entry-level offering, available exclusively for students and schools. Both these offerings together aim to enhance and assist teaching and learning during these tough times. Also, there will be various features and tools to assist both teachers and students in using these products.
Windows 11 SE Features
Since Windows 11 SE has been designed for educational purposes, it comes with some changes to Windows 11. It is a cloud-first operating system built to keep e-learning in focus. Fancy features that were seen as unnecessary or distracting for students have been removed. These include multiple Snap Layouts (which allows apps to be viewed side-by-side) and Widgets, which are one of the key features of Windows 11.
Also, new defaults have been set like automatic data backup documents to Microsoft OneDrive for easier access to data for students when they are at home. Apps like Office, Teams, Edge (with support for Chrome Extensions), OneNote, Minecraft for Education, and Flipgrid are pre-installed in Windows 11 SE.
Windows 11 SE will support third-party apps like Zoom and Chrome too. This will allow schools to configure what they want to install on the systems and when to upgrade an app. The company claims that they are committed to continuing to expand third-party app support to include the most common test-taking, accessibility, content filtering, and classroom orchestration apps.
This customized OS will also open all apps in full-screen mode by default and as a security measure, only IT admins will be allowed to download apps directly to the device.
As mentioned earlier, Windows 11 SE is optimized for Microsoft apps like Office, the Edge browser, One Drive, and other cloud services. However, a big difference between the S and SE mode is that SE doesn’t restrict users to downloading apps from the Windows app store, which also happens to be a more open approach compared to Google’s Chrome OS or Apple’s Mac OS.
“Windows 11 SE was designed and built during the pandemic to address the most fundamental challenges that schools will face in the blended learning world. It brings performance enhancements that optimize resources on low-cost devices to deliver more comprehensive learning experiences and is simple to deploy and manage. Windows 11 SE has been optimized for the most used education experiences, including Microsoft 365 applications, supporting both online and offline capabilities.” Said Paige Johnson, VP of Education Marketing, in his blog post.
Windows 11 SE Availability
It has been designed for low-cost devices and Microsoft claims that OEMs like Asus, HP, Dell, Acer, and Lenovo are already working on Windows 11 SE laptops which should arrive in the coming months.
Surface Laptop SE Price & Availability
As for Microsoft’s own Surface Laptop SE, it hasn’t announced any specific date of availability, but it is expected to be launched early in 2022. It will be priced at around $249 in countries like the US, UK, Canada, and Japan.
Surface Laptop SE Specs
Surface Laptop SE is powered by Windows 11 SE and comes as an entry-level laptop that will retain some features of the Surface Laptop Go, like the keyboard and the trackpad. The laptop will feature an all-plastic built and will come with standard screws at the base so that the IT admins in schools can replace corrupt components easily. The company will also sell spare parts to schools for this ease of reparability.
It will feature an 11.6-inch display with 1366×768 pixel resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio. It will be powered by Intel or Celeron N412 and have an option of 4GB and 8GB RAM. Storage options available will be either 64GB or 128GB.
Connectivity options will include a USB-A port, one USB-C port, a DC connector, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. It will have a 1MP camera at the front for video calls with 16 hours of battery life.