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Microsoft Announces Windows 11 SE for Schools

Microsoft on Tuesday announced a new version of its Windows 11 operating system designed for K-8 classrooms.

Windows 11 SE will be a scaled-down version of the OS, offering online and offline access to Office 365 applications running on the newly announced Microsoft Surface Laptop SE, which is set for launch in 2022 for $249.

Microsoft said the education-focused OS was created to meet demand for simpler and more secure devices to use by students. "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," wrote Paige Johnson, Vice President, Microsoft Education, in a blog post.  

Tuesday's announcement can be seen as an answer to Google's push in classrooms with its education-based Chromebooks. However, unlike Google's custom OS, Windows 11 SE will run offline, which will help the 16 million school-aged children who don't have persistent Internet access out of the classroom, according to Microsoft's numbers. OneDrive will also allow offline students to save work and sync once they return to the classroom.

While it will be a more limited OS compared to Windows 11, Microsoft did confirm that the use of custom and third-party apps will be allowed in Windows 11 SE. Further, to simplify use, Windows 11 SE will only allow for a single version of an app to be installed at once.

The biggest noticeable difference between Windows 11 SE and the full OS is the removal of the central widget toolbar. Instead, a more traditional layout toolbar consisting of installed apps will take over the bottom toolbar real estate in Windows 11 SE.

For school IT, Windows 11 SE will include Windows Autopilot for quick deployment and Intune for Education for simple cloud-based device management and security.

Windows 11 SE will only run on specific devices, like the Surface Laptop SE and upcoming partner devices.

Microsoft Surface Laptop SE
Microsoft's education-focused Surface Laptop, priced at $249, will run Windows 11 SE and come with an 11.6-inch screen. Running on the less power-hungry Intel Celeron processors, Microsoft said the Surface Laptop SE has a battery life of up to 16 hours. The base version also comes with 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage.

The company also said the new devices were designed to ease repair. "Surface Laptop SE offers the same high-quality typing experience as the rest of the product portfolio but offers new levels of repairability for IT admins," wrote Johnson. "That means vital components like the display, battery, keyboard -- even the motherboard -- can be easily repaired onsite, saving time and money for IT admins and schools."

Microsoft also said that devices from partners, including Acer, ASUS, Dell, Dynabook, Fujitsu, HP, JP-IK, Lenovo, and Positivo, will be coming soon.

About the Author

Chris Paoli (@ChrisPaoli5) is the associate editor for Converge360.

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