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.