Microsoft Surface Laptop SE aims to take on Chromebooks' education dominance

Microsoft Windows 11 SE running on a Surface Laptop SE against a dull white background
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft just unveiled its latest surface product, the Surface Laptop SE, a K-8 educational laptop that takes direct aim at Google Chromebooks' dominance of the education technology market.

The new Surface Laptop, which will be released sometime early next year, will sell for  $249 and will only be available through education sales channels, so it won't be something you can buy at a retailer like a Chromebook.

To save cost, the new Surface laptop will have less powerful specs than the main line, featuring a 1366x768p 11.6-inch display with a 720p front-facing webcam, lower-powered Intel Celeron processors, and either 4GB or 8GB RAM.

At the heart of the new Surface Laptop SE is Windows 11 SE, a more simplified Windows 11 OS environment for young students. Apps run in Windows 11 SE will automatically open in full-screen mode and students can snap two apps side-by-side so they can work on an assignment while keeping a website open for reference purposes.

Windows 11 SE will also let school administrators push out apps to the OS, which will help ensure that all students have the tools that they need for their classes. Microsoft Office apps will also work on Windows 11 SE without needing an internet connection.

And while Microsoft will offer its Surface Laptop SE, Windows 11 SE will not be limited to just Microsoft products. Other manufacturers can and are already working on new laptops powered by the new OS for the education market, so we can expect a lot more innovation on this front in the years ahead.

Analysis: things are about to get interesting in the education market

One of the things that makes Chromebooks so ubiquitous in educational settings is their low cost and practicality. It does what you need it to do and not a whole lot else.

What makes Windows 11 SE so interesting though is that it will feature a lot of the same apps like Microsoft Office that students will rely on as they move onto high school, college and university courses, and into the workforce after graduation.

That is a pretty huge differentiator from the Chrome OS experience, which offers apps through the Google Play store, but these are more lightweight Android OS apps, not the full-fledged productivity software in Microsoft Office or the Microsoft Visual Studio IDE which are widely used in software development.

While Chromebooks will always have a place in the education market, it's great news for students and educators that they now have choices beyond just Chrome OS, and the resulting competition should make both Chrome OS and Windows 11 SE better products as a result.

John Loeffler
Components Editor

John (He/Him) is the Components Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY. 

Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.

You can find him online on Threads @johnloeffler.

Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 (just like everyone else).