Microsoft touts Windows 11 SE: A locked-down OS to give Chromebooks a run for their money in schools

Oh OK, so the kids get a repairable Surface laptop but not us, huh?


Microsoft has prepared a version of Windows 11, dubbed Windows 11 SE, primarily for schools and their students, and has crafted a $250 Surface SE laptop to go along with it.

To us, it seems the OS is Windows S but with a twist. While Windows 10 and 11 in S mode only allow users to install applications from Microsoft's official online store, Windows 11 SE doesn't even come with an app store, and instead lets school IT admins deploy software just from a Microsoft-controlled list that right now isn't fully public.

Chrome and Zoom made the cut, so those can be installed. Microsoft Education veep Paige Johnson said on Tuesday the Windows giant will try to "expand third-party app support to include the most common test taking, accessibility, content filtering and classroom orchestration apps."

Other than that, you get Microsoft Edge for web-based tools and extensions, and you can stick Microsoft 365 applications on it, which will work if the device is offline, we're told. A suitable license is needed, natch. Once the PC goes online, it should sync any offline changes with its OneDrive cloud storage.

Administrators can use Windows Autopilot and Intune for Education to remotely provision and manage the boxes, select their applications from the approved list, and define when updates can be installed so that classes aren't interrupted by downloads and reboots. Only admins can configure the machines and select which software runs on them.

This minimal approach, with just a few approved apps running as needed, is supposed to lengthen the time between battery charges and not tax the hardware – and Windows 11 SE is primarily aimed at low-end portable PCs destined for classrooms and bedrooms. In the case of the Surface SE, Microsoft claims 16 hours of operation between charges.

The Surface Laptop SE, priced at $250 for the base spec, sports an Intel N4020 or N4120 Celeron processor, 4 or 8GB of RAM, and 64 or 128GB of storage. The 11.6-inch screen should be OK for kids. There are USB ports, stereo speakers, a front-facing 720p camera, and a venerable 3.5mm headphone jack.

Microsoft said it optimized the OS – which is essentially Windows 11 Home with a simplified user interface – to work down to 4GB of RAM and an Atom-class processor. It's supposed to be a godsend for teachers, parents, and school IT admins, and will be hell for anyone trying to use it as a traditional desktop environment.

And so it appears with this software and hardware spec that Microsoft has Google's Chromebooks in its cross-hairs. Chrome OS-powered laptops have done a roaring trade in the US education market, at least, which Redmond can't be too happy about.

Microsoft reckons its Surface SE has an edge over rival equipment that will make school IT admins happy: its repairability. Since children aren't the best at protecting their kit, the Surface Laptop SE is designed to be taken apart using standard tools, and the display, battery, keyboard, and motherboard can all be swapped out easily, with parts made available via authorized service providers. We wish the rest of the Surface range had that, let alone Google and Apple gear.

The Surface SE is due to land later this year or early 2022. See the promo video below for more details.

Youtube Video

In addition, Dell, Lenovo, ASUS, and Acer will be bringing out laptops with Windows 11 SE bundled, and the budget theme continues. None cost more than $350, and Dell and ASUS have laptops that match Microsoft's Surface price point.

The education market is an interesting battleground for operating system vendors. As the philosopher Aristotle, or St Ignatius Loyola depending on who you believe, said: “Give me a child until he is seven and I’ll show you the man.”

There's the argument that people tend to stick with the operating system they grew up with, or least spent their school years with. Another argument is that schools pick the operating system students will need to know when they go off to work or college. Then there's the wheeling and dealing by vendors to ensure their wares are the ones that line the classrooms.

Whichever way it works, Windows 11 SE is clearly designed not just to compete against Chrome OS in education but also to get kids hooked on Microsoft 365 for life. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021