Microsoft serves up a Google Chromebook rival with $250 Surface Laptop SE for students

Microsoft’s new Surface SE laptop will compete against Google Chromebooks in schools. (Microsoft Photo)

Microsoft unveiled its lowest-priced Surface Laptop to date, the new Surface Laptop SE, starting at $249.99. It’s designed for students, with an 11.6-inch screen and up to 16 hours of promised battery life.

Running a new version of Microsoft’s operating system for education, Windows 11 SE, it’s the company’s most aggressive attempt yet to counter Google Chromebooks in the education market.

Microsoft’s timing doesn’t look ideal. Chromebook shipments fell 37% year-over-year in the third quarter, according to recent Canalys report.

While the Chromebook market “has grown tremendously since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as students have been forced to adapt to new learning settings,” the trend is waning, as “education markets such as the US and Japan reach saturation point, with public sector funding of digital education programs slowing,” the Canalys report said.

Windows 11 SE opens apps full-screen, to reduce distractions, and controls which apps can be installed.

Maybe the teachers to whom @Microsoft is targeting these new @Surface devices could give the company a lesson in proper rounding. This is a small thing, but it's frustratingly common, and deceptive.

— toddbishop (@toddbishop) November 9, 2021

Surface Laptop SE runs on an Intel Celeron Processor, with a 720p camera and USB-C and USB-A ports, in addition to a headphone jack.

Machines running Windows 11 SE are also coming from Acer, ASUS, Dell, Dynabook, Fujitsu, HP, JP-IK, Lenovo, and others.

The new devices and operating system will only be available through education channels, not sold at traditional consumer retail outlets.

Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet dug into the fine print of Windows 11 SE and the Surface Laptop SE, and has more details here.

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