Microsoft’s new offensive in education

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Microsoft presents a new version of Windows 11 intended for education. With Windows 11 SE, the American firm intends to walk on the platforms of Google’s Chrome OS. The new light version of the OS is accompanied by a Surface Laptop SE.

Education was disrupted for many months by the health crisis, which in fact led to worsening inequalities. In a column published by The world a year ago, Jean-François Cerisier, professor in information and communication sciences, considered that the health crisis invited “To rethink schools in the digital age”. The giants of the sector, for their part, did not wait to position themselves in this market which is of particular importance, in particular in the United States. The battle is raging and Google has taken the ascendancy with its Chromebooks under Chrome OS, its operating system. The Mountain View giant’s recipe consists of the firm’s tools, a solution cloud first operating mainly online and from an affordable machine. The initiative is hitting school systems, and Chromebook sales have skyrocketed throughout the health crisis.

This observation has not escaped Microsoft, which is also targeting this sector with Windows 11 SE and the new Surface Laptop SE. “The last 18 months have fundamentally changed the educational landscape. Schools are relying on technology in an unprecedented way, highlighting the fact that solutions that were once ‘enough’ for learning are no longer up to scratch., explains the Redmond firm to justify its new offensive in education. A little over a month after the launch of Windows 11, Microsoft formalizes the arrival of Windows 11 SE. The name will bring back memories to those who knew Windows 98, an operating system which had known a “Second Edition” (Second Edition or SE in English) in 1999.

Microsoft applications are present in Windows 11 SE. © Microsoft

An OS only focused on education

Twenty-two years later, it is a “Student Edition” that the publisher offers with the ambition to oppose Google’s ChromeOS. The differences with Windows 11 are ultimately quite slim and mainly concern the way of managing applications. Microsoft ensures that Windows 11 SE is optimized for the most common educational experiences and the OS will also be reserved for the education sector. It relies on safety and offers fewer distractions than its big brother thanks to several adjustments to promote concentration.

The Verge site notes for example that the Snap Layouts function – which allows you to organize the display of windows – is simplified to display only two applications side by side, against four on Windows 11. In addition to limiting the sources Of classroom distraction, the initiative aims to provide users with the ability to maximize space on small screens. Additionally, apps automatically open to full screen in Windows 11.

This light version also skips the Widgets section, and the Microsoft Store is conspicuous by its absence. The American giant indeed seems to have learned from the failure of Windows 10 S, a light version of Windows 10 which was limited to applications from the Microsoft Store.

Microsoft has lightened some features in Windows 11 (here the Snap Layouts feature). © Microsoft

With Windows 11 SE, Microsoft is adopting a different approach by touting its in-house tools (Edge, Office, etc.) and its cloud-based services, without however limiting itself to its applications alone. The OS supports some third party applications, “Including Zoom and Chrome” as Paige Johnson, head of education marketing at Microsoft, explains. It is also specified that only IT administrators can install applications. Regarding the Edge browser, it is configured by default to accept Chrome extensions, which is not the case with Windows 11. According to The Verge, this decision is explained by the fact that many schools in the United States are support Chrome extensions. Finally, this SE version saves documents in the cloud by default with OneDrive.

Surface Laptop SE: Microsoft’s answer to Chromebooks

Winodws 11 SE is expected on laptops dedicated to the education market. The usual partners of the firm, such as Acer, Asus, Dell, HP or Lenovo will offer machines in the coming months. In the meantime, Microsoft is setting the tone with the arrival of the Surface Laptop SE at $ 249. This laptop PC, more affordable than the Surface Go 3 or the Surface Laptop Go (see our guide), is intended for schoolchildren or college students and is positioned against machines under Chrome OS. Its configuration is basic with the presence of an Intel Celeron N4020 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of eMMC storage and an 11.6-inch screen (1366 × 768). It is possible to opt for a Celeron N4120 (quad core), 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of eMMC storage. A 720p webcam is also present in this machine whose design and plastic chassis – far from high-end Microsoft devices – betray the orientation.

The Surface Latop SE, an affordable PC to oppose Chromebooks. © Microsoft

The goal is elsewhere for the manufacturer, who prefers to evoke its announced autonomy of 16 hours and the repairability of the Surface Laptop SE. “The Surface Laptop SE offers the same punch (…) as the rest of the product line, but offers new levels of repairability for IT administrators, specifies Microsoft. This means that vital components like the display, battery, keyboard – and even the motherboard – can be easily repaired on-site, saving IT administrators and schools time and money. “

Bounce back from Windows 10X failure

American schools are the target of Microsoft, which hopes to come and titillate Google’s Chromebooks. In addition to hardware, this offensive also involves the development of the necessary tools and support such as Windows 11 SE. An important project for the American giant, which has always struggled to impose a “light” Windows, as evidenced by the difficulties of Windows 7 Starter, Windows RT or Windows 10S. Even Redmond’s latest attempt hinges on a failure, that of Windows 10X, which was abandoned even before its launch.

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