Microsoft takes aim at Chrome OS with launch of Windows 11 SE

Windows 11 SE on a laptop
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft has launched Windows 11 SE, a Chrome OS competitor that will make its debut on a handful of laptops aimed at schools.

The new version of the operating system, which was first revealed in November 2021, will be available globally on laptops built by Acer, Asus, Dell, Dynabook, Lenovo and HP. It will also feature on devices from Fujitsu and Positivo, which are set to arrive sometime later in the year.

Windows 11 SE is only being made available on low-cost devices aimed at the education sector. The tech giant tried a similar tactic with Windows 10 where an 'S Mode' was used to lock the OS down to just Microsoft Store apps, but it never really had much success due to the lack of apps available.

Microsoft says that Windows 11 SE is built for teachers that need a "simple, distraction-free environment" for their students, but it's also aimed at school IT admins who need secure devices that are easy to both deploy and manage.

The operating system on Microsoft's new Surface Laptop SE

(Image credit: Microsoft)

It is a somewhat watered-down version of the tech giant's flagship OS. Windows 11 SE is still optimised for Microsoft Edge, Office and its other cloud-based services, but not simply restricted to just Microsoft apps.

Apps will always launch in full-screen mode on Windows 11 SE as the multiple Snap Layouts function have been removed in favour of a single-mode that allows users to place apps side by side. The Widgets section on Windows 11 has also been removed, as it is also deemed a distraction in the classroom. It will also ship with a new multicolour Bloom wallpaper as the default, rather than the deep blue the original OS has.

Schools can get Windows 11 SE on a range of low-cost laptops that will be launched in the coming weeks, while certain manufacturers will be repurposing existing machines to ship with Windows 11 SE pre-installed. These included Acer's TravelMate Spin B3 laptop, the Asus BR1100F laptop, Dell's Latitude 3120 and Dynabook's E10 laptop series.

Microsoft has also unveiled a $249 Surface laptop SE, which will be sold exclusively to schools and students later this year.

Bobby Hellard

Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.

Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognize him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.