back to article Microsoft touts Windows 11 SE: A locked-down OS to give Chromebooks a run for their money in schools

Microsoft has prepared a version of Windows 11, dubbed Windows 11 SE, primarily for schools and their students, and has crafted a $250 Surface SE laptop to go along with it. To us, it seems the OS is Windows S but with a twist. While Windows 10 and 11 in S mode only allow users to install applications from Microsoft's official …

  1. kvuj


    Violating my privacy as an adult that can tweak my Windows settings or install whichever OS I want such as Linux, *BSD, etc is one thing.

    Violating the privacy of my children when they completely unaware of such modern computing issues is unacceptable.

    I seriously hope they will be making a stronger stance on privacy or tweaking their privacy policy on this specific version considering the legal problems with handling marketing data of children.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Privacy

      It seems that unless you're in a country like Germany or NL, schools are about as aware of privacy issues as a slug is of the Hubble space telescope.

      Thankfully my kid's school deigned to leave the Linux container accessible on its administered Chromebook bought at my expense, so at least I could install Firefox and LibreOffice (point your ARM-based Chromebook to the RPi repository first).

    2. TonyJ

      Re: Privacy

      So what's the privacy on a Chromebook? I've never used one personally as I am not in the target market but given it's Google-owned I'd suggest "non existent"?

      1. Lon24

        Re: Privacy

        Most Chromebooks have an effectively locked BIOS so you can't replace it with an OS of your choice when the 6 year ChromeOS support expires. That's from first launch of the model so you may only get 2-4 years.

        Built in premature landfill.

        Whereas us Linux lovers are salivating our lips at the prospect of all those decent pre-TPM 2.0 Win 10 machines flooding the s/h market at exciting discounts by folks who can't or won't escape the MS Win 11 ecosystem.

      2. J27

        Re: Privacy

        Chromebooks are much worse than Windows, ditto for iOS and Android. Mac OS is about on par. But for some reason the greybeards always get hung up on Windows when we really should complaining about the lack of privacy in ALL the major OSes.

    3. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Privacy

      In what way is this violating your child's privacy?

    4. karlkarl Silver badge

      Re: Privacy

      God forbid Microsoft ever releases an "open" hardware *and* and "open" bootloader.

      Those days have passed. Landfills now need to be.. err, filled!

  2. joed

    this should be as successful as their 10S attempt. Same privacy concerns as on Chromebook with uglier interface (though 11 brings some hint of color to soc-really flat landscape of W10).

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These things will be as smooth as a bear's


  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    I bet...

    you can't boot any of them from a USB stick.

    Or install a compiler of some flavour.

    Or change the OS...

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: I bet...

      If you can get a remote desktop running, then does it matter?

      Looks like a half decent thin client, potentially.

    2. Lazlo Woodbine

      Re: I bet...

      Would you really want to do those things?

      The laptops are running Atom processors, they're designed for schoolwork and Teams.

      Considering the last batch of laptops we bought for pupil use cost us close to £600 and are way over spec for the job at hand, I see these as a real boon for schools.

      Their popularity will depend very much on the Apps available to deploy via InTune...

      1. X5-332960073452

        Re: I bet...

        Teams on an Atom processor, good luck with that !!!!

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: I bet...

      I think you probably can. They're X86 machines for now, which means it's probably a pretty standard firmware. I'm sure the default configuration will include Secure Boot, but that probably can be turned off so the device can be reflashed.

      As for installing a compiler on the locked-down Windows, I don't think they'll have included a full toolchain in their list of allowed software, but they probably will have some dev environments for people studying programming. They could probably also use VSCode, as it's an MS product. Not at all enough for a serious user, but it will all come down to whether the school admins want software which isn't on the Microsoft allowlist.

  5. redpawn

    My chair has a short leg

    Its perfect if you love sales hype more than getting assignments done. Might make a good shim but probably lacks sufficient rigidity.

  6. Howard Sway Silver badge

    get kids hooked on Microsoft 365 for life

    That's the dismal vision. The true limits of their ambition. To want to teach kids that computers are completely locked down machines that restrict what you can do with them to approved software lists created by Microsoft, tied into clouds owned by Microsoft. That some big higher authority dictates what you can do with your computer.

    The excitement of being able to do anything you can get it to do, inspiring you to expand your knowledge, creating the next generation of enthusiasts? Nah, let's forget all that stuff. We want the Chromebook market and we'll suck all the possibilities and joy out of computing to stop this little loss leader ever enabling anyone to do anything more than familiarise themselves with our products............

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: get kids hooked on Microsoft 365 for life

      Maybe look at it from a techies or teachers point of view.

      If you don't lock machines down they'll be full of viruses, games, torrenting software, streaming video and the like in no time.

      Time and again I've allowed games websites on my network because the students should be mature enough to not go onto them during lesson time, and can access them as a reward or in their spare time. But in the real world it doesn't work like that and the sites end up being blocked.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: get kids hooked on Microsoft 365 for life

        Raspberry Pi, monitor, keyboard, mouse.

        Single server running a network boot server.

        So during the lesson everyone is using the class image, and out of class time (or in specific classes) an SD card can be used for a different persistent environment.

        Heck, you could reasonable just have two different Pis... But it is slightly less portable (within the school) than this.

        1. captain veg Silver badge

          Re: get kids hooked on Microsoft 365 for life

          Pi400, don't even need a separate keyboard.


        2. hoola Silver badge

          Re: get kids hooked on Microsoft 365 for life

          I see where you are coming from and for specific lab-based teaching where stuff is hard wired it could work. The down side is actually getting a techie who can set these things up. From what I have seen (wife is a primary school teacher), the schools have very limited technical support. What they do have costs a fortune from some third party service that really does not add much value but is still cheaper than employing their own resource.

          It is easy to see how things should be done from a position of knowledge and expertise but very difficult to get buy-in from over-stretched staff who barely have enough budget to buy paper and pencils.

          It would need a very IT astute head who is prepared to take a lot of flack to go down this route.

          They are very unlikely to get criticised for buying a Chromebook or Windows Laptop.

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: get kids hooked on Microsoft 365 for life

            It also depends if they have a dedicated computer room.

            My kids' primary school doesn't, so they need laptop style devices since they have to be cleared away between uses.

            Fo anything with a dedicated room the likelihood is that they'll have monitors, so it's a really small step to try a handful of pies... and the network server doesn't even need to be that beefy, it's not like you're having a dozen people scrubbing through 4k video footage in an editor...

        3. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: get kids hooked on Microsoft 365 for life

          This isn't much different from when they were using desktops. It works fine for most situations as long as you don't have stuff that doesn't run well under Linux. Admin requirements are similar. Repair is easy. However, you still have desktops at the end of it. Schools and a lot of people tend to prefer laptops because they really do have a versatility bonus, can be moved to other places, can be loaned out for children to take home if necessary, etc. That's why schools have been buying Chromebooks instead of Pis.

          Also, whatever solution you use, you still have to lock the machines down to some extent. I assume your proposed Pi solution wasn't going to give the students sudo rights. You might even have intended not to let them execute binaries from their home directories for a similar reason.

      2. andy gibson

        Re: get kids hooked on Microsoft 365 for life

        During the first lockdown I had to run a "laptop clinic" for parents / students at my school who were unable to use O365 and Teams effectively at home.

        Without exception, every single home device was clogged and badly maintained - no updates run, crammed full of manufacturer bloatware running at startup, numerous anti virus systems (most expired after their free trial).

      3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: get kids hooked on Microsoft 365 for life

        Most schools don't have the resources to manage kids hardware anyway and much of it is obsolete when it finally arrives. And this is basically for MS Office? Where's the IT skills in that? Shirely, running some kind of remote desktop is both easier to adminster and more useful.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: get kids hooked on Microsoft 365 for life

      This complaint is a little weak. The computers aren't locked down because MS is evil and wants to jail all its users; their normal Windows machines don't restrict installations at all. These are locked down because they're being used by children and provided by schools. The schools want to ensure the children don't install untrusted software onto the school machines, everybody wants to ensure that the students don't get malware or something creepy on the machine, so they lock them down. For the same reason, a lot of business machines operated by people outside IT have restrictions on what can be done with them. If students do decide that, because the school had Windows, they too will have Windows, they will leave school to an open environment on which they can install whatever they like. If Microsoft changes normal Windows to remove that, I'll join you and we can complain about it for hours, but until then, your attack is basically incorrect.

  7. johnnyblaze


    Anyone care to guess how a gimped Windows 11 will run on paired-down, low as you can go gimped hardware? I'll tell you, it will be B-A-D. You'd have thought MS would have learned there lesson from previous attempts like this (remember Netbooks or Windows 10S, WoA even). If you've even attempted running Win10 on a Celeron with 4GB and eMMC storage you'll know what I mean. The elephant in the room is obviously the 'curated' list of apps MS (and only MS) will allow you to install on them. Yes, this is just one more attempt by MS to take on ChromeBooks that's likely to go extremely badly - again.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Gimped

      Or you could look at it the opposite way round: Windows 11 as standard is bloated. I bet the optimised version runs even better on an AMD Ryzen 7 with 16GB etc. ...

      However, optimising for Atom rather than ARM, should cause people to shudder: Not only is Windows being crippled, but so is the hardware. Which means we're in for another round of parent/taxpayer funded landfill.

      Mind you the support for Atom really is an own goal - demonstrates MS's processor/platform cut off is 100% marketing and zero technical.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lock in revenue stream

    Ummm. It's like the school uniform thing, or the printer ink. One supplier, no competition. Somewhere down the line someone's going to get gouged - is it the taxpayer or the parent?

    1. Lazlo Woodbine

      Re: Lock in revenue stream

      Did you see the bit were other manufacturers are producing these things as well?

  9. captain veg Silver badge

    have they though this through?

    "Since children aren't the best at protecting their kit, the Surface Laptop SE is designed to be taken apart using standard tools"

    Great. So the blighters can smash up the insides too.


  10. captain veg Silver badge

    not really

    "people tend to stick with the operating system they grew up with, or least spent their school years with"

    Hmm. In my case that would be Sinclair Basic, TOPS-10 and CP/M.

    And I for one am sticking with them.


    1. eswan

      Re: not really

      You'll get my TRSDOS6 from my dead, cold floppy drive.

    2. Oh Matron!

      Re: not really

      I'm at BlackHat today at eXcel: Had to stop and say hello to a guy wearing a ZX Spectrum t-shirt.

      1. Duffy Moon

        Re: not really

        "Had to stop and say hello to a guy wearing a ZX Spectrum t-shirt."

        There was only one?!

        1. captain veg Silver badge

          Re: not really

          That's the usual way with T-shirts. They're not designed to be shared.


  11. Oh Matron!


    Great, so with no 3rdparty MDM support, schools will be forced to use Intune, which I'm guessing with be $$$$$ on top of the cost of the devices.

    Way to go, Micro$oft.

    1. localzuk Silver badge

      Re: Intune....

      Nah, included with your licensing these days. Well, if you opt for yearly licensing anyway such as OVS-ES or EES.

  12. Thomas F Thurlow

    Microsoft 365 changes the cost of Windows 11 SE for individuals / Connect to Ethernet?

    Microsoft 365 is a very nice product, but it is not cheap. One has to pay for a yearly subscription.

    Schools will probably be able to get deals on licenses. Businesses can get deals on licenses.

    But an individual using a Windows 11 SE computer may have to pay quite a lot for a Microsoft 365 license.

    Alternate products to Microsoft 365 that are free are not likely to be offered by Microsoft for Windows 11 SE laptops.

    Can one connect an Ethernet cable to a Windows 11 SE laptop? While no Ethernet interface

    is mentioned, some USB connectors ( USB-C ?) may connect to Ethernet through a converter cable.

    At home it can be nice to connect to the internet with an Ethernet connector rather than Wi-Fi. Chromebooks don't

    have an Ethernet connector, but Chrome boxes do.


    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft 365 changes the cost of Windows 11 SE for individuals / Connect to Ethernet?

      I don't think they expect non-school users to be running 11 SE. And I'm certain you can use an Ethernet cable with an adapter, as long as you don't need some custom driver for the adapter. It's a basic driver and Windows has supported it for a decade, so it'll work fine on this too. They still have all of Windows in there.

  13. Long John Silver

    Device vendors and sofware providers in an unholy mix?

    According to the article there are several hardware options available to schools. Yet, these, certainly with Microsoft, are tied into a software provider. No only that, but Microsoft, it being a (the?) major supplier of proprietary software, a vendor of in-house designed equipment, and highly influential over independent hardware manufacturers' specifications (e.g. 'secure boot' and TPM), is setting the pace for ever tighter control of users' devices with, for example, TPM offering chip-level DRM. Conceivably, 'consumer' devices shipped with Windows 11+ will for all intents and purposes be locked into Windows products for all users apart from the technically savvy. Similarly, business users will notice tightening of licencing enforcement.

    Not all the matters raised above need have immediate impact upon how schools use computers to support teaching. However, they exemplify a complicated commercial backdrop with priorities not necessarily consonant with those of education. For instance, Microsoft operates a mode of business akin to Tom Lehrer's "The Old Dope Peddler" viz. -

    "He gives the kids free samples

    because he knows full well

    that today's young, innocent faces

    will be tomorrow's clientele".

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Device vendors and sofware providers in an unholy mix?

      "Conceivably, 'consumer' devices shipped with Windows 11+ will for all intents and purposes be locked into Windows products for all users apart from the technically savvy."

      As opposed to? Because they're no worse than the devices that came before. With an updated TPM module and secure boot, when you want to boot to a Linux install disk, you select it in the boot list same as always. The TPM could be used to implement something that would block you, but it hasn't. Secure Boot could deny non-Windows the right to boot, but it hasn't. If it did, you could turn it off, but you don't have to. Nothing Microsoft has done here has made it any the harder to boot to something else which can then replace Windows for you. They haven't even announced that they're going to take any action that could lead to that.

  14. localzuk Silver badge


    So, their goal is to compete with Chromebooks but they've produced a device that is lower spec but more expensive? For that same price, you can get a nice 2 in 1 convertible Chromebook with a touchscreen... Not so sure it directly competes.

  15. Is it turned on?

    Google Crapbooks v Microshaft Surface

    In the world of COVID school IT labs are (or should be) dead as a Dodo, no shared devices and all that.

    We scraped ours September 2020 and made everyone buy a device over that summer. - Where I am schools have been fully open and functional since mid-Sept 2020 despite the country having one of Europe's highest adult infection rates.

    We produced a base spec which the parents ignored and now have an unholy mix of Windows laptops, Apple laptops and Chrome books. The only requirement was they had to install a school supplied and monitored anti-virus program (expect obviously on the crapbooks). So far, touch wood, no problem.

    The reality of all the fanboi infighting of MS v Google v Apple clans is it doesn't really make much difference as long as similar tools are available on the students device, and they can do the tasks required. My only job is to manage the commercial grade firewall and Wifi network we have. If one of the little darlings breaks their device I simply point them at their mother and the shop where they bought it !

  16. Blackjack Silver badge

    Microsoft will be surprised by the low sales since Chromebooks have saturated the market so much their sales are down. Schools and parents recently invested in Chromebooks, they do not want to switch to something else so soon, more so if the kids can't take the things out of school or is the parents who decide.

    Then again schools in the USA who have extra money may go for it anyway if Microsoft offers discounts.

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