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Microsoft is building an 11.6-inch low-cost laptop designed for K-12 education markets

Surface Laptop Logo
Surface Laptop Logo (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft is working on a low-cost 11.6-inch Surface Laptop.
  • It's designed specifically for the K-12 education market.
  • It's codenamed Tenjin and features an Intel Celeron N4120.

Microsoft is preparing to take its Chromebook compete strategy to the next level with a new, low-cost laptop made specifically for the education market. This laptop is designed in the same vein as other low-cost EDU laptops (opens in new tab) such as the Lenovo 100W or HP Stream series, built primarily for education establishments to buy, manage, and distribute in bulk.

According to my sources, this new laptop is codenamed Tenjin and features a fully plastic exterior, a 1366x768 11.6-inch display, an Intel Celeron N4120 and up to 8GB RAM. This is a no-frills laptop designed to be as low-cost as possible, built for student-use in a classroom environment. I'm told the device features a full-sized keyboard and trackpad, one USB-A port, one USB-C port, a headphone jack, and a barrel-style AC port.

Tenjin marks the beginning of a new K-12 education strategy for Microsoft. In addition to the new hardware, Microsoft is also preparing to launch a new edition of Windows 11 titled "Windows 11 SE" built specifically for low-cost school PCs like Tenjin. I'm told this SKU focuses on special optimizations, tweaks, and features built for education establishments deploying low-end hardware.

I also hear Tenjin might ship under the Surface Laptop brand, possibly dubbed "Laptop SE" to match the Windows 11 edition that's installed. I'm not sure what "SE" stands for specifically, but I'd guess it's something along the lines of "Student Edition" or "School Edition." Either way, Tenjin will fall in line below the Surface Laptop Go, which starts at $549 and is a more premium device.

Tenjin will compete head-to-head with low-cost Chromebooks from the likes of HP, Dell, and Lenovo which have seen huge success shipping sub $400 Chromebook devices for the education market. While I have no concrete info on pricing, I'm expecting Tenjin to target a sub $400 price bracket to remain competitive against Chromebooks. I'm told the device is pretty much ready to go, and will be announced before the end of this year if plans don't change.

Microsoft officials declined to comment.

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

57 Comments
  • I hope MS releases any affordable Surface laptop for college students.
  • $400 surface laptop makes more and more sense than surface laptop go. If the look is premium, students can choose this one.
  • Yeah, as long as the exterior looks nice, it doesn't really mater if it's metal or not. Though I wonder what is really unique about this low cost Surface Laptop SE that Dell, Lenovo and HP don't have at this price range? It's interesting that Surface is actually catering to deliver normal cheap laptops to these markets where usually already served by OEM partners. Also will it be easy to service like able to easily open the laptop and replace components like RAM, SSD, WiFi card and cooling system.
  • I hope Microsoft can offer windows mobile OS to compete against chromebook to offer better battery life. As these laptops are not for heavy-task device, normal use case with longer battery and $400 price would be killer combo.
  • "I hope Microsoft can offer windows mobile OS "
    Let me stop you right there. There is no "windows mobile OS." Let it go.
  • Who are you to tell him to "let it go"?
  • People need to move on from Windows Phone and the idea that there is a mobile version of Windows ever coming. It's over, done. The only future, right now, for an OS is: Windows 11 desktop Windows cloud Holographic
  • @Daniel Rubino don't get me wrong but battery life on windows devices are not as good as competition. So if a device is not targeted to heavy task, Microsoft can offer a lite-weight version of windows here,
    However, thanks to you for replying my every comment on windowscentral
  • Oh, agree 100%. I've never used a PC and thought "too fast, too much battery life!" lol MS does face a challenge with improving it although, I think a lot of that will come from the chips. Not with this device, but 12th Gen Alder Lake, ARM, etc. It'll be curious to see if this "SE" is any more efficient.
  • which is why i will keep my surface pro 7 and wait for surface pro 9.
  • "don't get me wrong but battery life on windows devices are not as good as competition." This is just false. Surface Pro X competes with MacBooks. And in general only laptops since the MacBook M1 have had decent battery, which isn't the main user base of Macs. Intel Macs and Intel/AMD Windows laptops are all poor. Only Chromebooks offer consistent decent battery.
  • Windows 11 SE is basically rebranded Windows 10x. HoloLens is the future of communication and smartphones anyway Microsoft is already there. Windows 11 desktop is going to be there if you need it. I find it now I don't need all that legacy crap.
    I'm definitely go by the device
  • "Windows 11 SE is basically rebranded Windows 10x." I don't think so. That was a ground up rewrite. Seems like this is a tweaked Windows 11 or have I misread it?
  • HoloWhat?
    That thing is retrenched in the bureocracy guts of the USA Defense department. Come on, iGlass and Google will come and show the future of AR/VR while MSFT toy get trounced all around in the consumer market.
  • Someone bored of hearing it. 1. Windows Phone died in 2017 and was officially announced as "End of Life" in 2020. People need to move on that Microsoft is interesting in their own Windows phone platform. Surface Duo runs Android there's your answer. 2. Google branded Android tablets died in 2019 with Google announcing, "we're making no more tablets", and ALL their tablet development has been in ChromeOS since. Yet Windows Central's sister site still regularly writes articles hoping for Google to update Android for tablets. Both are rather sad really.
  • I think he means a version of Windows that is less resource intensive, maybe like the "S" version, but lighter. I guess we'll have to see what this SE version entails.
  • Sure, that's fair. Hopefully, this goes towards that goal.
  • What's unique?
    Bulk purchase discounts. Bundle deals.
    Software load will almost certainly include remote management software.
    Possibly bundled servers for a plug and play network.
    The laptops will be list priced low but work best with servers with better margins.
    Not meant primarily for consumers, but for organizations.
    Any consumer sales will be frosting on the cake.
  • "...a barrel-style AC port." It appears even Microsoft realizes that USB-C is not robust enough to be a laptop charging port for kids.
  • The barrel connector seems odd to me. Yes, it works well enough. But as these are going to be used and abused, why not something magnetic like the Surface Connect port? It seems like it would be much longer lasting. Price maybe?
  • Surface Charger are quite expensive, so maybe that's why, but still the advantage of that magnetic port is to prevent or at least have least chance of pulling the laptop from the power brick. Also not able to charge with USB-C in this day and age is weird, and feels wrong. Considering that also allows schools to get a compatible USB-Charger instead of getting proprietary ones.
  • Yeah a magnetic connector would be good. A robust version would be great for kids. I bought some used HP tablet computers for my kids that only had one USB-C port that doubled as the chargers. One of them broke 6 months in. Fixed under warranty. I got those magnetic charging inserts hoping to prevent another incident. My son managed to break his USB-C port even with the magnetic adapter. Replacing motherboards are the only way to fix them. My son's however isn't under warranty and due to the cost of repair it isn't going to be repaired at this point.
  • so, did they forgot about the Neo?
    The retrenchment is full steam ahead.
    Come on, this low cost edu laptop is just embarrasing.
  • I love how you just copy/paste your comment from the Verge and post it here. Cute! Is it on other MS news sites too? Trolling is easier when you can ctrl-v I guess. Retrenchment = to pull back, retreat, curtail, reduce. We're talking about a new Microsoft product/category launching. I'm not sure you know what "retrenchment" means. This is expansion, it's additive.
    "so, did they forgot about the Neo?"
    A niche, high-end concept device with little chance of mainstream success that has nothing to do with EDU, which is the topic of this article. OK. To answer you're weirdly off-topic question: Neo is on permanent hiatus and there are no plans to launch it. I'm not sure why so many of you think Neo is a good idea, but that's a separate topic.
    "Come on, this low cost edu laptop is just embarrassing."
    You haven't seen it yet. And why is the EDU market embarrassing? It's one of the fastest-growing areas in computing where innovation is needed to meet increasing demand and changing styles of learning.
  • hey man...my comment was first posted at MSPOWERUSER. Copied on the Verge and here. No need to reply with that long post. Throlling? Come on...maybe MSFT should stop the trolling first by not talking about Neo vapourware and then coming back years later with a new SKU that is not needed outside the education system of North America.
  • Richardo, you fit the typical definition of a troll. MSFT needs to be sure it can provide a Windows experience at a competitive price with the same administrative simplicity as Chromebooks. I wonder if these laptops will support touch and pen input.
  • "did they forgot about the Neo?"
    it not not Dead it's on pause. The are had schedule on the cheap devices. I'm she probably start working on it again.
  • Microsoft cant make their mind up on what they want to do.
    Shifting strategies, poor performance, crappy hardware. They have lost most of the education market to Chromebooks and I dont see this winning much share back.
    That ship sailed when they botched the market pushing POS netbooks and not optimizing the Windows experience for the hardware they were putting it on.
  • What shifting strategy? Windows 10 S was a thing. Windows 11 S is a thing (ships with Go 3, EDU devices). Windows 11 SE is a refinement of that concept. MS is simply making its own low-cost EDU device competing where Dell, HP, and Lenovo have a few offerings as well. Where's the shift as this has been that way for a few years now?
    "They have lost most of the education market to Chromebooks ..."
    We don't actually have the data besides Chromebook sales have risen sharply, but no info on the market breakdown in EDU. But I think you're kind of missing the point, too. It's not between Chromebooks and PC (Chromebooks are already dominating, at least in the US), but between Apple and MS where MS is ahead of Apple for second and Apple is receding (or was the trend from 2018 when we last had data). To be clear, are you suggesting that MS should abdicate the 22% it had in 2018 because even though EDU is still growing rapidly, why bother? That's a weird take to have, IMO, for competition.
  • I agree. Plus Surface line should aim to enthusiasts and Pro users. If I were MSFT I would think how to answer to Apple new MacBook Pro unless they want to leave the high end market to Apple.
  • "Plus Surface line should aim to enthusiasts and Pro users. "
    How do you explain Surface Go and Laptop Go, especially with the former being one of the top sellers for MS?
    "unless they want to leave the high end market to Apple."
    High-end for video production and Apple developers, sure aka where Apple has always done well, even when it sold janky keyboards with no ports for 5 years. High-end PCs are mostly gaming and enterprise workstations, which are not under threat from Apple and make up a larger portion of that market.
    "I would think how to answer to Apple new MacBook Pro"
    You want them to announce a new product in response to a new product that just went on sale today and by "answer" you mean magically make up a new laptop CPU from Intel or AMD that has not yet been announced? Also, what makes you think the company can't make a sub-$400 laptop and work on high-end too? What makes the latter prevent the former, I'm curious.
  • In this way MSFT risks to go against Windows OEM and it not clear to me the value proposition of a MSFT product in this segment. I also question the utility for MSFT to propose a Surface Go which does not excel particularly neither in power efficency neither in performance.
  • "I also question the utility for MSFT to propose a Surface Go which does not excel particularly neither in power efficency neither in performance."
    I feel some of you are so out of touch with the market and only think of your own needs. Surface Go 2: Amazon: 4.6 (out of 5) from 1,472 reviews Best Buy: 4.5 (out of 5) from 647 reviews for 4GB / 4.6 (out of 5) from 328 reviews for 8GB B&H: 4.5 (out of 5) from 25 reviews Also, as noted, one of the top-selling Surface devices simply due to its price. It's OK to think Surface Go doesn't meet your needs or your preferences, but it's another to suggest that people are not enjoying it and finding value. I think you may need to reconcile those two things.
    "and it not clear to me the value proposition of a MSFT product in this segment"
    They haven't announced it yet, nor made the case for it, so why would it be clear?
  • "...so why would it be clear?" Oh, maybe because individual thought processes are a thing? Do you need MS to explain EVERYTHING to you? He says he can't see the market for the device. You can agree with him or explain the use cases YOU see; telling him only MS have the answer is ridiculous...
  • I stand by what I wrote.
  • based on the latest earnings report and stock price, MSFT is doing an excellent job. Surface is a sideshow for MSFT. But its purpose in the WinTel ecosystem is to expand the windows experience. If kids never experience the windows experience until work or college then the overall MSFT value falls.
  • If Windows Central is right about the new device, it seems to me that it will have to main weakness: 1) The OS: Windows 11 ì, even in a SE version, is way too much for Educational market if you compare it to Chromeos 2) The CPU: an ARM Cpu would likely be better suited. It is time for MSFT to expand its ARM products.
  • For now that Windows 11 SE is clear as mud. It could be just a lite version of Windows 11, a successor to Windows 10 S. Or it could be a Windows 10X revival with a new name and updated UI using same Windows 11 elements. And if it is from Windows 10X, I wished they already done developing proper File Explorer, because the last update from that was horribly barebones that 3rd-part Files app suprasses it.
  • Daniel - question that isn't related to the main topic - where did you get your numbers for the statement "How do you explain Surface Go and Laptop Go, especially with the former being one of the top sellers for MS?". Not questioning you, just curious about the Surface GO doing so well
  • If it's surface then it's bad decision to use premium brand for Fully plastic build & HD screen in 2021. Instead they should launch new sub brand for such products. Although price is unknown but still
    Shouldn't a full HD tablet with inexpensive keyboard cover & pen combo like lenovo duet be a more modern and versetile intro hardware of windows 11 than another me too product in sea of cheap windows laptops.
  • Interested to know how they will differentiate it from their competitors, I'm presuming that it won't have touch support right?
  • I find these products interesting and I know their porpuse, but I would never recommend these types of products to a regular consumer.
  • Most likely this won't come with touchscreen just to reduce the cost, especially for parts replacement. But maybe they still have who knows.
  • somehow, I don't see the one IT guy in a school taking time to fix a broken $350 laptop. I would imagine these devices are designed with a 5-year life cycle. The cost is in the management of the software infrastructure--responding to teachers and students having trouble using the device (log-in/software upgrades etc.). Think of one guy in a school district running the entire population of the devices through Azure from his couch. How do you update one thousand devices easily?
  • Out of curiosity...
    I have kids in grade school, and for basic, lower class educational needs, the school supplies each child with an iPad.
    Outside this, Windows (or at least the Office suite) is the default. Some older kids (particularly high school and college students) choose Macs, mainly as a fashion statement, but Windows machines are still the default, and with few exceptions also at work later in life.
    I have yet to see a Chromebook in the wild... So, how are things in other countries? I know Chromebooks are big in education in the US. Here in Denmark they're non-existent. How about YOUR country?
  • Never saw a single chromebook in Portugal, I don't think I have even saw any at a tech store, and I understand why, why would anyone get a worse laptop by choice?
  • Because Chrome OS being easier to maintain and administer, and the hardware hosting that OS are pretty cheap to procure en masse and replace when gets broken. But yeah, I feel like we are just doing disservice for the children training them using an OS that is not used widely in the industry. Windows and even MacOS combined dominated the workforce.
  • Chromebooks have some advantages. Lighter OS, so more responsive on cheaper hardware. Since it's cloud based, It's backed up auto-magically. Also, nuke/rebuild or moving to a new chromebooks is incredibly easy. I'm actually a fan of chromebooks, I use it for travel all the time. I had hoped for a time that MS would create an "edgebook" (I'd prefer to be in MS ecosystem). Would also be handy in the workplace for many workers who could use it with 365 basic to get work done. But, that ship has sailed
  • A chromebook makes so much more sense for K-12 when working solely in a browser. My kid has used one for years with zero issues. Updates are installed really quickly as the OS is much simpler than windows, which makes my life easy. Any tech support I have to give is "reboot, you've had 50 tabs open for a month". :)
  • This is Windows 10 X with a different name I knew this was coming in there ahead of schedule. if you want designer app for Windows 11SE it needs to be PWA or UWP.
  • Will this be limited to UWP apps? That was something I was looking for in the article. Zac?
  • Windows 11 SE just Windows 10 x with a different name.
  • Windows 10x was expected to run desktop apps as well.
  • Most people use the web browser and that's about it. Woman Ville this device is to compete with Chrome OS so PWA uwp's. Have you ever tried to run a win 32 app on a device under $700 it's not fun
  • With MS already selling an Android phone - and pushing Linux in Windows 11 and Azure - why not use Chrome OS on this “11.6-inch low-cost laptop designed for K-12 education markets”? Most schools don’t have the resources to maintain and administer hundreds of Windows laptops. I can’t see very many schools buying these. Also (and this is not aimed at WC specifically) there is a HUGE difference between kindergarten and high school. I don’t understand why they are always lumped together. Something like K-6 and 7-12 (or whatever breakdown) makes more sense.
  • I remember way back when that the Surface RT was going to be Microsoft's big breakthrough into the Education market (Net-books tried but fizzled out earlier...) We teachers got them at a special 'Educators' price. I actually really liked it, but it died with a big thud, making no impact whatsoever in our classrooms. Then the Surface GO was going to try; it too could not take on our iPads and Chromebooks scattered throughout our school district. Microsoft is too late to this game. The battle has been won...this will not replace what is already entrenched in our systems.
  • Celeron, so they want performance to be poor. Nice.