Microsoft is making its play for the brand new form of lecture rooms with a pared-down model of Windows 11 and a set of cheap laptops from the Surface model and a number of other different producers. It’s clear they’ve obtained Google’s widespread Chromebooks of their sights, and their companions appear to be hedging their bets as properly.

Before all that, let’s simply set up that “SE” doesn’t stand for something, in contrast to the SE in Windows 98 SE (“second edition”) or the iPhone SE (“special edition”) or the Macintosh SE (“system expansion”). The SE is “intended to clearly differentiate it from other editions like Home and Pro,” Microsoft informed me, although why they didn’t simply say it stands for “Students and Educators” as a substitute of being a very meaningless initialism is past me. (Yes, Microsoft, you’ll be able to steal that.)

Whatever the origin of its identify, the Surface Laptop SE we could take to be the platonic form or reference design of what Microsoft is hoping to attain right here: a $250 laptop computer with all of the fundamentals, however designed with the distant classroom and ease of restore in thoughts.

The specs received’t wow anyone, however that is meant to be a homework and distant studying machine, not a 4K VFX workstation. Let’s simply have a number of bullets right here:

  • Intel Celeron N4020 or N4120 sequence with built-in graphics
  • 4 or 8 GB of RAM
  • 64 or 128 GB of storage in an eMMC (and due to this fact not expandable)
  • 720p webcam with “improved facial awareness”
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • 1x USB-A, 1x USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack

There’s a missed alternative to make use of the USB-C for charging (there’s a separate port for an old-school cylindrical energy connector), but it surely’s roughly what you’d count on from a machine at this worth.

Image Credits: Microsoft

Except for the 11.6″, 1366×768 show. Of course that is meant for teenagers, however nonetheless, Chromebooks at this worth have 1080p screens, which is a giant enchancment for textual content readability and video high quality, two belongings you wish to optimize for in a laptop computer like this.

The firm did say that it’s bringing the stable keyboard from its nicer laptops all the way down to this gadget, which is nice information. And the concentrate on repairability is welcome as properly: “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 wrote.

Other units are on the way in which from Acer, ASUS, Dell, Dynabook, Fujitsu, HP, JP-IK, Lenovo and Positivo, with each Intel and AMD choices and little question a little bit of variance in specs. They’re not essentially new (Dynabook’s E10 got here out earlier this yr, as an example) however are suitable with the brand new OS.

To wit, all these laptops will likely be operating Windows 11 SE, a model of the OS that’s meant to be straightforward for colleges to deploy en masse. It has been optimized for the {hardware} famous above and could be provisioned shortly and easily, with Microsoft 365 and different generally used apps and companies pre-loaded. School IT can also be the one one that may add and take away apps, and might management internet entry as properly. Automatic updates, cloud administration, the entire enchilada.

Microsoft’s Windows 11 SE exhibiting two apps pinned aspect by aspect. Image Credits: Microsoft

In the announcement publish, Microsoft notes that web entry at residence shouldn’t be essentially one thing that each scholar can depend on. So they made certain that the built-in apps don’t need to cellphone residence to work. 365 apps will work offline and OneDrive will retailer modifications regionally, syncing them as soon as it connects to Wi-Fi.

Microsoft has had combined luck with these restricted forks of its flagship OS. Windows RT was essentially the most well-known flop, however 11 SE could be very totally different — certain, it’s made to run on particular {hardware} and locks down quite a lot of primary options, but it surely’s meant for a selected market that really needs these issues.

Netbooks, too, have been one thing of a flash within the pan and never a lot good to anyone, however these days you are able to do much more with a barebones PC and a browser. Hopefully these modest notebooks will make it into the arms of scholars and do a bit to enhance the slightly uneven current state of affairs with distant studying.


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