Windows 11 TeaseSource: Microsoft

What you need to know

  • Microsoft has announced a new edition of Windows 11.
  • It's built specifically for low-cost education PCs.
  • It's called Windows 11 SE and features optimizations for low-end hardware.

Mirosoft has announced a new edition of Windows 11 designed specifically for the K-8 education sector, dubbed "Windows 11 SE." This new edition of Windows 11 is designed to address fundamental challenges that schools are facing day to day with improved performance, optimized resources, and simple to deploy and manage.

Microsoft says Windows 11 SE has been optimized for education focused low-cost PCs, most of which start at the affordable price of $249 and are powered by low-end Intel and AMD chips. Windows 11 SE was designed with feedback from teachers and school IT admins in mind.

Unlike normal Windows 11, Windows 11 SE comes pre-loaded with Microsoft Office out of the box, including Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, and OneDrive, which can also be used offline as part of a Microsoft 365 license. Microsoft has also limited some of the multitasking features, including reducing the amount of apps that can be snapped on screen at once to just two; side by side. The Microsoft Store app is also disabled.

Windows 11 SE also automatically runs apps in full-screen, which makes sense considering most Windows 11 SE PCs will feature small 11-inch displays. It also removes access to the "This PC" area in File Explorer by default, as it's an area most students don't need to access when working on school work. Windows 11 SE is "cloud backed" meaning it will mirror all your saved documents stored locally to the cloud.

Surface Laptop Se RenderSource: Microsoft

Additionally, Windows 11 SE is also designed with Windows Autopilot in mind, with Intune for Education providing a simple and secure cloud management solution allowing IT admins to deploy and manage Windows 11 SE PCs from anywhere. Windows 11 SE devices also update silently and automatically, with policies which can be set so that these updates only take place outside of classroom hours.

Unfortunately, there's not much else in the form of optimizations taking place to the underlying OS to improve it for educational use. Unlike Microsoft's canceled Windows 10X, Windows 11 SE is still based on classic Windows and therefore has slow Windows Updates and no way to fast wipe and provision new users, two huge sticking points for IT admins deploying education PCs. Perhaps this will change in the future.

Microsoft says that there is an ecosystem of Windows 11 SE PCs launching, including its own Surface Laptop SE in addition to PCs from Acer, ASUS, Dell, Dynabook, Fujitsu, HP, JK-IP, Lenovo, and Positivo. Curiously, there are no ARM-based education PCs being announced today.

Many of these new Windows 11 SE devices will begin being available to order through education channels later this year and into 2022. Windows 11 SE is not an edition of Windows 11 you'll find on consumer focused PCs at Best Buy, it's only available on low-cost education PCs that are purchased in bulk through education channels, meaning you'll only really come across it on PCs handed out at schools.