Microsoft Announces Windows 11 SE for Education

Posted on November 9, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 11 with 23 Comments

At its special education event today, Microsoft announced Windows 11 SE, a special version of Windows 11 that’s optimized for the education market.

“Today, we are addressing the needs [of the education market] with a new edition of Windows 11, purpose-built to support the K-8 classroom,” Microsoft vice president Paige Johnson notes of the release. “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.”

Windows 11 SE is a far cry from Windows 10S, which Microsoft announced at an education event in May 2017. That release just artificially limited what users could install and didn’t offer any cloud-based management functionality: Microsoft’s Terry Myerson literally demonstrated how a teacher could wipe Windows 10 S-based PCs between classes using a USB stick, a decidedly unsophisticated solution.

But Windows 11 SE is more akin to what schools have come to expect from Google’s Chrome OS. It’s a lightweight version of Windows that’s optimized for the Microsoft 365 workloads that educators want, and it of course works fully offline with desktop Office applications and OneDrive. Built with feedback from educators, Windows 11 SE also supports zero-touch Windows Autopilot deployment and Intune for Education cloud management. So no more USB sticks.

In tandem with Windows 11 SE, Microsoft is also announcing a new ecosystem of first- and third-party PCs that start at just $249. Companies like Acer, ASUS, Dell, Dynabook, Fujitsu, HP, JK-IP, Lenovo, and Positivo will deliver Intel- and AMD-powered education PCs running Windows 11 SE. As will Microsoft, which is separately announcing a new Surface Laptop SE for education. Naturally, I have a separate write-up about that device.

Windows 11 SE was codenamed “Hailey,” if you’re into that kind of thing.

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Comments (23)

23 responses to “Microsoft Announces Windows 11 SE for Education”

  1. crunchyfrog

    Not to be confused with any other "SE" related products from the past. Seriously, they couldn't come up with a more distinguished name for education?

  2. Slawson79

    I’m not sure how Microsoft believes they can gain traction in the education market at this point. In US K-12 Education Google’s ChromeOS and Chromebooks are a dominating force. Microsoft simply waited too long to respond.

    • Donte

      More in public k-12. My 3 kids went to private (Catholic) schools and they used Windows/Office 365 with iPads all over the place. They also had a small dedicated IT staff vs teachers pulling extra duty.


      The parents got a vote as well. At our parish school, Google products where brought up one year but voted down. The argument of business is dominated by Windows/Office was the major point. Privacy was a close second.

    • spacein_vader

      Because for better or worse MS Office is the de facto standard for office applications and thus kids need to know how to use it.

  3. dftf

    Aside from the claim of them having "tuned the performance of Windows 11 for lower-end devices", I wonder if there is a significant benefit to using "W11SE", rather-than just Windows 11 Home and then enrolling that device into something like Microsoft InTune or VMWare Airwatch?


    (Which you can do in Windows 10 Home, at-least, by going to Start > Settings > Accounts > Access work or school and signing-in there. Assuming this functionality is still-present in Windows 11, does this solution differ significantly-enough?)

    • atimms

      Guess wait for the reviews.


      One disadvantage of SE is apps are from a curated list(!). You can't install anything you want. 'you' as in the person who manages these, end-user can't install anything apart from PWAs.

      • atimms

        And the pricing of course!


        Microsoft 365 A1 consisting of Win11 SE, 'Office 365' and Minecraft managed by Microsoft Intune. One-off charge $38 per device for 6 years cover.

  4. red.radar

    Why the distinction of K-8? What are unique about the needs of highscool students that this version isn’t a good fit for ?

    • atimms

      There's no restriction, it's just a recommendation. Since only apps from a curated list are available this might be an issue for higher age groups. But the basics seems to be there.

  5. madthinus

    Does it have a powerwash feature ?

  6. polloloco51

    It would have been better, if they just called it Windows 10E.


    More simple, less confusing!

  7. justme

    I suppose my thought is why do they need a separate SKU for Windows 11 at all? Why could they not just make a Surface Education (see what I did there?) device with a tuned version of Windows 11 and tell OEMs to make hardware that has the OS tuned and market said devices as 'SE compliant'. S, SE, RT, Me...its all just too much.

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