When Microsoft first showed off Windows 10X, many people commented on the similarities to Chrome OS. Windows 10X was eventually scrapped, but Windows 11 SE can be considered its spiritual successor. Let’s take a look at this new Windows version.
Windows 10X wasn’t even the first time Microsoft attempted to take on the popularity of Chromebooks in schools. “S Mode” in Windows 10 locks down the system to only apps from the Microsoft Store. S Mode is still an option in Windows 11, but the “SE” version is restricted in other ways.
Simple for Students
Microsoft didn’t explain what exactly the “SE” stands for, but it might as well be “Simple Edition” or “Student Edition.” That’s the focus of Windows 11 SE. It’s a simplified version of Windows aimed at students in K-8 classrooms.
On the surface, it looks just like the regular version of Windows 11. Unlike S Mode, it’s not restricted to just Microsoft apps. Students can use third-party browsers, Zoom, and other apps they might need. It’s up to the school’s IT department to install whatever apps they need. Windows 11 SE is optimized for Microsoft apps, but not restricted to them.
The functional changes to Windows 11 are pretty minor, too. Microsoft Edge will be able to use Chrome extensions by default—this is turned off in Windows 11. Apps always launch in full-screen mode and Snap Layouts have been simplified to just two side-by-side modes. The widget section has also been removed.
Essentially, Windows 11 SE is Windows 11 with some of the fat trimmed. It’s not remarkably different, but Microsoft is positioning it as a slimmed-down version of Windows for affordable, low-powered computers.
Cheaper for Schools
Schools and students are what Windows 11 SE is all about. This is a big play by Microsoft to take on the Chromebooks that have skyrocketed in popularity in classrooms. Price is one big reason why Chrome OS devices have taken off in these environments.
Windows 11 SE will only be available on low-cost laptops that are sold to schools. Many major Windows manufacturers will be releasing Windows 11 SE laptops, including Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo. Microsoft itself is releasing the Surface Laptop SE for $250. However, it will not be offered for sale to the general public.
The Surface Laptop SE is a good look at what these laptops will offer. It has an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and an 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 display. The current crop of SE devices sports similar specs in the $240-330 range.
Traditionally, Windows has struggled with specs like that. $250 Windows laptops certainly exist, but the experience is not great. Windows 11 SE is specifically optimized for 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage devices.
When Will Windows 11 SE Laptops Arrive?
Microsoft says Windows 11 SE laptops will begin arriving later this year (2021) and early 2022. The Surface Laptop SE is slated to be released early next year. Other SE laptops from Acer, Asus, Dell, Dynabook, Fujitsu, HP, JK-IP, Lenovo, and Positivo will be available around the same time.
Unfortunately, Windows 11 SE laptops will be sold exclusively to schools and students. It’s not clear what requirements you will need to meet to purchase a device as a student. The goal of these devices is to take down Chrome OS in classrooms, and Microsoft is very focused on that. Windows 11 standard is the version they want most people to use.
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