The market share for Chromebooks has skyrocketed in recent years, thanks to the adoption of distance learning fueled by the coronavirus pandemic. While Chromebooks have carved a niche for themselves with Google’s lightweight Chrome OS, Microsoft has now announced that Windows 11 SE will compete with Chrome OS in the education sector. In this article, we’ve covered everything you need to know about Windows 11 SE and how it differs from Windows 11. Aside from discussing Windows 11 SE vs. Windows 11 in terms of the feature set, we’ll also look at compatible laptops, pricing, and whether Microsoft can rival Google’s Chrome OS with Windows 11 SE?
- Windows 11 SE vs. Windows 11: Differences Explained (2021)
- What is Windows 11 SE?
- How is Windows 11 SE different from Windows 11?
- Windows 10 vs. Windows 11 vs. Windows 11 SE: Feature Comparison Chart
- Windows 11 SE System Requirements
- What apps can I install on Windows 11 SE?
- Can I install Windows 11 SE on my PC?
- Can I switch from Windows 11 SE to Windows 11 Home or Pro on my laptop?
- Windows 11 SE Compatible Laptops
- Is Windows 11 SE a Chrome OS Killer?
- Windows 11 SE explained
Windows 11 SE vs. Windows 11: Differences Explained (2021)
What is Windows 11 SE?
Windows 11 SE is Microsoft’s new cloud-first operating system for students in the K-8 classroom (8th grade or up to age 14). It’s essentially a stripped-down version of Windows 11 built with students and educators in mind. Strategically positioned as a Chrome OS alternative, Microsoft hopes to win over audiences in the education sector with the launch of this OS variant.
Contrary to what you might naturally assume, Microsoft says that the SE in Windows 11 SE does not stand for Student Edition. Instead, it’s not meant to be shorthand for anything and is just a means of clearly distinguishing the operating system from other Windows editions.
Other than that, Windows 11 SE is Microsoft’s latest attempt to offer a watered-down version of Windows after Windows 10 S, Windows 10 in S mode, and the now-cancelled Windows 10X. While Windows 10 in S mode is also available to consumers, Windows 11 SE is for educational use only.
How is Windows 11 SE different from Windows 11?
Windows 11 SE vs. Windows 11: App Availability and Installation
An important difference when we compare Windows 11 SE to Windows 11 is the availability of apps. Unlike the standard Windows 11 desktop operating system, Windows 11 SE does not come with the Microsoft Store. In addition, you can’t manually install most of the native Win32 third-party apps either. As a result, you don’t have the option to install native apps like iTunes or Spotify on your school laptop. While you cannot install apps manually, Windows 11 SE supports selected authorized Win32 and UWP apps.
Windows 11 SE vs. Windows 11: Snap Layouts
Microsoft improved the multitasking experience on Windows 11 with the new Snap Layouts feature. While you get six handy Snap Layout options in Windows 11, Windows 11 SE simplifies this by offering just two Snap Layouts. They let you use two apps side by side on your laptop at the same time. Speaking of app snapping, it’s also worth mentioning that all apps start in full screen mode by default in Windows 11 SE. That seems right, because most budget laptops with Windows 11 SE come with smaller screens.
Windows 11 SE vs. Windows 11: Widgets
With Windows 11, Microsoft has added a widget panel with the latest news, weather, photos, sports scores and more. This Windows 11 feature is not present in Windows 11 SE, which is a good thing. Microsoft wants to keep it light with this education-focused version of Windows 11. Meanwhile, if you’re not a fan of Windows 11 widgets, you can follow our guide to disable widgets on Windows 11.
Windows 10 vs. Windows 11 vs. Windows 11 SE: Feature Comparison Chart
Microsoft has published a handy comparison chart to give you a quick idea of what to expect from Windows 11 SE. As you can see below, notable omissions include the option to run all Windows apps, limited availability, and the option to upgrade from your existing Windows 10 PC or laptop. And as should be clear, you can only upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11 and not to Windows 11 SE. Why? Well, we’ve explained that below.
Windows 11 SE System Requirements
Despite being a cloud-first OS, Windows 11 SE has the same system requirements as Windows 11. Microsoft says this is because Windows 11 SE is built on the same core. You can check the Windows 11 SE system requirements below:
Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC)RAM: 4 GB RAM Storage: 64 GB or more Graphics card: Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driverSystem firmware: UEFI, Secure BootTPM: TPM Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0Display: High-definition (720p) display, larger than 9-inch and 8 bits per color channel support Internet connection and Microsoft account
What apps can I install on Windows 11 SE?
As mentioned before, Windows 11 SE lacks Microsoft Store and installation of third-party Win32 apps. Being a desktop operating system for the education sector, the apps you can install on Windows 11 SE are limited in design. As a user, you will mainly have to rely on web apps in Edge or other supported browsers such as Google Chrome.
App installation on Windows 11 SE is managed through Intune for Education. Intune for Education is Microsoft’s cloud-based Mobile Device Management (MDM) service for schools that allows administrators to manage student devices. Therefore, your IT admin can choose to deploy approved apps like Zoom with Intune for Education. In addition, Azure Active Directory (AAD) and Microsoft Account (MSA) are the only identity verification tools supported on Windows 11 SE devices.
Windows 11 SE supports Win32 and UWP apps in the following categories that are curated for education:
Content Filtering AppsTesting SolutionsAccessibility AppsApps that Facilitate Classroom CommunicationEssential Diagnostics, Management, Connectivity, and Support AppsBrowsers
Can I install Windows 11 SE on my PC?
Another doubt that many of you may have is, how can you download the Windows 11 SE ISO? Well, unfortunately, you can’t. Since Microsoft does not publish Windows 11 SE images, you cannot install Windows 11 SE on your PC at this time. Microsoft states that Windows 11 SE is unlikely to be available to retail users.
Given the restrictions in place and the same system requirements, you don’t gain much by choosing Windows 11 SE over Windows 11. Microsoft claims the same in a official support document† It says that “most customers who buy personal devices don’t want the app and management restrictions that these devices come with, so stores probably won’t sell them.”
Can I switch from Windows 11 SE to Windows 11 Home or Pro on my laptop?
The answer is no. You can’t move from Windows 11 SE to Windows 11 Home or any other version of Windows 11 on a laptop provided by an educational institution.
Windows 11 SE Compatible Laptops
Microsoft has listed the first set of compatible laptops that come standard with Windows 11 SE. Check out the list below:
Surface Laptop SELenovo 100w Gen3Acer TravelMate B3Dell Latitude 3120Asus BR1100CLenovo 14w Gen2Lenovo 300w Gen3Dell Latitude 3120 2-in-1Acer TravelMate Spin B3Asus BR1100FDynabook E10-S
Is Windows 11 SE a Chrome OS Killer?
While Microsoft already has education-focused offerings like Windows 10/11 Education and Windows 10/11 Pro Education, they’re not as popular as Google’s Chrome OS. With Windows 11 SE, Microsoft is taking a restrictive approach to give IT administrators more control over student devices. While it’s a welcome move for IT administrators, Microsoft will face some serious competition from Chrome OS.
Unlike Chrome OS, Microsoft is late to the party with Windows 11 SE when it comes to targeting the K-8 education sector. At the moment, peak demand has stabilized and is even starting to decline as more and more schools open around the world. According to market research firm IDC’s November reportChromebooks posted the first drop in shipments in the third quarter of 2021 since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Microsoft plans to undermine Chromebooks by offering Windows 11 SE with management features like Intune for Education, along with full versions of Microsoft Office and Minecraft: Education Edition at the price that’s just for managing the Chromebook. On the other hand, schools using Chromebooks have to pay separately for managing all subscriptions and services. While it’s an attractive benefit, enticing schools and educational institutions to switch from Chrome OS to Windows 11 SE will be a tough hill for Microsoft to climb.
Windows 11 SE explained
Windows 11 SE is a promising offering from Microsoft that doesn’t cut corners much in the education sector. It removes all the unwanted complexity that Windows 11 brings and provides better management tools that IT administrators would appreciate. That said, the success or failure of Windows 11 SE lies in how Microsoft manages to partner with schools and educational institutions. And well, that’s something we’ll have to wait and find out. So, what do you think of Windows 11 SE? Share your thoughts in the comments below.