Rumors have surfaced that Microsoft is working on a new operating system called Windows 11 SE, which will be aimed at children and students and could be launched with a budget Surface laptop.
It looks like Windows 11 SE will be designed for teaching environments and geared to work on low-end hardware. This is something Chromebooks with their lightweight ChromeOS operating system stand out for. That’s why many of the best laptops for students are actually Chromebooks, and Microsoft is obviously keen to win some of that market back from Google.
But if the news about Microsoft trying to make a version of Windows for students and low-end hardware sounds familiar, it’s because, that’s it. The company already tried it with Windows 10 S (later known as S Mode), and it was – to be blunt – a bit of a disaster.
So if Windows 11 SE really comes along, then Microsoft will have to really pull the stops to prevent it from becoming another flop. But how will it do that?
Step one: do not half ass it
The biggest flaw with Windows 10 S was that Microsoft did not go all in on it. Instead of making a new operating system designed for students and children and running on low-end hardware, it instead just made Windows 10 S the full version of Windows 10, but with certain limitations, such as not being able to download applications from sites other than the Microsoft Store.
The problem was that it felt like a minimal attempt. If a low-end PC was struggling to run Windows 10, it would also not be able to run Windows 10 S since it was the same code. There were no efficiency gains to make it run better on low-powered hardware or to extend battery life.
This resulted in Windows 10 S being the worst of both worlds: a limited operating system that performed poorly on cheap hardware. No wonder ChromeOS and Chromebooks were much more successful.
Step two: Learn the real experiences from ChromeOS
When we talk about ChromeOS, the reason it’s so popular with students and parents is because it’s designed specifically to work really well on budget hardware. That’s why the best Chromebooks for students can come with incredibly low prices, as they do not need powerful (and expensive) hardware.
That’s why we could recommend a Chromebook under $ 200 with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, as it would still work well enough for students for everyday use, such as writing documents and researching online.
We would, however never suggests that you get a Windows laptop with only 4 GB of RAM. It would be more expensive than Chromebook and perform worse. Windows 10 (and Windows 11) also need a lot more storage space to install – you will need a minimum of 256 GB of storage these days if you want to install Windows 10/11 and has room to spare for other things.
ChromeOS ‘ability to run well on low-energy devices also offers another benefit: battery life. Because ChromeOS is not as resource-intensive and runs on low-power hardware, it means that Chromebook’s battery life can easily survive Windows laptops in the same price range.
While Microsoft claimed that limiting Windows 10 S users to only run apps from the Microsoft Store can help extend battery life, we did not really see that happening. If the operating system had been built from scratch to be as conservative as possible when it came to resources, battery life would have been much better for Windows 10 S devices.
Because ChromeOS ran so well on budget devices, people could overlook some of the shortcomings of the operating system. So when emulating ChromeOS, Microsoft should not just think that offering a reduced version of Windows 11 will do the job. It should make sure that the rumored Windows 11 SE makes up for any limitations by running excellently on cheap devices and offering outstanding battery life.
Step three: understand what students want and need
This is perhaps the easiest, as Microsoft has had a long and famous history of education, so there will not be many companies out there that have a better understanding of what students need.
This is why it was amazing that Microsoft confused Windows 10 S when it came to student devices. Restricting app downloads to the Microsoft Store, while understandable from a security and safety perspective (assuming all apps in the Microsoft Store have been checked for viruses and properly tested to ensure they are appropriate), ended up being annoying students and children who could not use their favorite applications or games.
This was especially annoying for applications that students needed for their school work. If Microsoft wants to limit people to the Microsoft Store, it must ensure that the Microsoft Store is actually good. If it lacks popular apps, a common complaint about it since its launch as the Windows Store back in Windows 8, then people will look elsewhere.
So Windows 11 SE must of course make sure that students and children are safe, but it must also make sure that they have all the tools, apps and yes, even games that they need. The good news is that the Microsoft Store in Windows 11 gets a lot of improvements, and many Android apps will also come to the store in the future, which can give it a big boost when it comes to its app library.
Back in June, Windows Latest reported a Windows 11 SE leak that gives us some hopeful hints of what’s coming.
First, it seems that Win32 apps, which are pretty much any normal program you run in Windows 10 or Windows 11, will not be blocked. This should give students more choices over the software they use.
The leak also suggested that Windows Widgets would be disabled, ads for Edge and Bing removed, and the popular Your Phone app disabled.
This is promising as it removes many of the distractions that can interrupt a student while working. Unfortunately, with many classrooms banning smartphones, it also makes sense to disable your phone, as it would allow students to continue to receive messages, notifications, and calls from their phone, but in Windows 11 SE.
So it feels like there is a step in the right direction here in terms of what the students actually need.
Step four: Install Windows 11 SE on budget units
Finally, if Microsoft really wants to beat Chromebooks, it’s going to have to get Windows 11 SE devices out there that’s just as cheap – or even cheaper – than Chromebooks. It will be a struggle, but if it ensures that the new operating system can run well on budget hardware and follows the other steps we outline above, then Windows 11 SE devices may have a good chance of winning people who lead after a laptop or tablet for children and students.
According to Tom’s Hardware, it looks like we could see Windows 11 SE and the new Surface device-designed training options by 2022. Hopefully, this gives Microsoft enough time to build a good operating system for students and avoid the bugs in Windows 10 S.