As reported by Windows Central, Microsoft is working on what could be dubbed the “Surface Laptop SE” and it’s apparently being designed to compete with Chromebooks in the education market. Codenamed Tenjin, it will have an Intel Celeron N4120, and be low cost. It will likely ship with Windows 11 SE pre-installed. Back when we first heard that Microsoft had canceled a version of its OS that was meant to go head to head with Chrome OS in terms of universal simplicity, user experience, and ease of adoption, I had a feeling and ended up being right that the company would focus on 11 and make it as universal and accessible as Chrome OS.
Windows 11 SE is being developed to run on low-end hardware and is geared towards the education market. According to Tom’s Hardware, it’s actually being created and aimed toward children. For this reason, it will feature a stripped-down version of the OS without any advertising. The News and Interests widget will be removed, it will have full Win32 app support with S Mode disabled, a blocked by default Microsoft Store, and a Settings app that has removed all mentions of Edge and Bing. Oh, and phone integration will also be cut out.
SE is not meant to replace Windows 11 Education Edition, but instead to run alongside it in the marketplace. While we don’t yet know much about the new simplified version of the OS, we do know this – Microsoft is gunning for Google Chromebooks. In the Education space, the company lost its footing years ago, and yes, while Chrome OS entered that space because no one wanted it on the consumer end at that time, it took root and is now the dominant classroom experience.
Because of this, Microsoft has a long road ahead of them. It’s been attempting to reclaim schools for years with budget-friendly hardware, but Windows 10 was just too open and complex for kids, and its entry-level hardware was cheap and crappy compared to the premium aluminum, glass, and 4-in-1 features that came with mid-range Chromebooks. Putting a Surface-branded machine into children’s hands and making them affordable will help the company’s strategy, but I foresee five to ten years before they see massive success at scale. Yes, Windows is still the household name, but Chromebooks are just dominating that space nowadays.
Do I think that Windows can overtake Chrome OS in the education space? Maybe. It would be stupid to claim it’s not a possibility. I mean, it’s a trusted name, and they have decades of staying power in the minds and hearts of generations, but the new generation uses iPads and Chromebooks in school, and they will grow up deferring to these new technologies and brands as they age. Google has done a great deal to get where it is today, and they won’t easily be dethroned.
Even if that does happen, and I believe it’s always a possibility, I don’t think Google would be too broken up about it. Schools are a vital piece of its business, but over the past five or so years, Chromebooks have become a key piece to success for millions of business owners, corporations, families in their homes, and even individuals who want something new, exciting, and simple.
Add to this the fact that web applications are the new normal, and PWAs are on the rise – not to mention the fact that neither of these experiences are core to the Windows way, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for both operating systems co-existing for many years to come. Google had a hard-fought battle to get where they are now, and just because the OG of computing (one of them) comes in and decides to do things differently based on Google’s influence over the past decade, doesn’t mean that millions of Chromebook users, both in schools and out, are going to up and buy a Windows device again immediately.