Microsoft Announces $249 Surface Laptop That Runs a New Version of Windows 11 for Schools

  • Microsoft's Surface Laptop SE computer will start at $249.
  • It runs a new version of Windows that's meant to be easy for students to use and easy for schools to manage security.
Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella talks at a Microsoft news conference October 26, 2016. in New York.
Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images
Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella talks at a Microsoft news conference October 26, 2016. in New York.

Microsoft said Tuesday it will release Windows 11 SE, a version of its recently released Windows 11 operating system that's meant for school use. Computer makers such as Dell and HP will release new PCs featuring Windows 11 SE. Microsoft also announced its own Windows 11 SE computer, the Surface Laptop SE, which starts at $249 and will launch in early 2022.

The moves show Microsoft intends to defend its market-leading Windows franchise, by launching lower-cost computers. That might help counter the threat from Google's Chrome OS, which held 10% share of PC unit shipments in 2020 compared with almost 83% for Windows, a representative of technology industry research company Gartner previously told CNBC.

Students quickly bought Chromebooks, often at low prices, to learn online after schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. With teachers still holding classes online, Microsoft is launching a version of Windows that's designed to be easy for students to use and less expensive than many general-purpose Windows computers.

When people open the File Explorer in Windows 11 SE to find programs and files, it will open in full-screen mode, so students don't need to worry about adjusting the size of the app window. And instead of having six options to choose from when snapping app windows to different parts of the computer screen, there are just two, to keep things simple.

Not all students have reliable connections at home, and the new offerings are meant to accommodate that reality. PCs running Windows 11 SE with Microsoft 365 productivity-software licenses will be able to save files locally, so students can open them while they're offline. When students get internet access again, the operating system will sync the changes.

And Windows 11 SE machines will be locked down for improved security. "To help ensure the device and students stay secure, only IT admins can download and install apps and services directly to the device," Paige Johnson, vice president of education marketing at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post.

The base-model Surface Laptop SE contains an 11.6-inch display, an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Microsoft is ensuring that the computers will only have one version of an app such as OneNote or PowerPoint installed, so students won't have to choose.

Microsoft expects most of the Windows 11 SE devices that PC makers have planned to become available for schools to order later this year and into 2022, Johnson wrote.

WATCH: Microsoft unveils Windows 11 — Here are the key takeaways

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