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Microsoft to try again to reach the K-12 market with a new low-cost Surface laptop: Report

According to a new report, Microsoft may be readying yet another Surface laptop aimed at the education market and running a new Windows 11 SKU called Windows 11 SE.


Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft may be readying yet another Surface device aimed at the education market. This time, according to an October 26 Windows Central report, the new, low-cost, 11.6-inch Surface laptop will include an Intel Celeron N4120 processor and a plastic exterior and be meant to go head-to-head with Chromebooks.

Microsoft has pursued a variety of strategies as part of its Chromebook-compete efforts for the past several years. It introduced the Surface Go in 2018, with the EDU market as one of its primary audiences. Because the Go wasn't truly "low-cost," -- as it started at $400 without a keyboard or pen (both costing extra) --  it's not clear how much success it has had in that market. Microsoft also planned to try to win over the education market with its Windows 10X operating system, which it dropped before it ever came to market.

Also: The best Surface PC: Which one is right for you?

Microsoft officials have said that Windows 11 includes a number of the features that were meant to be part of Windows 10X. Microsoft just recently took the wraps off the third-generation Surface Go running Windows 11 , but it starts at $400 (before volume discounts) again, minus the keyboard and pen. The Surface Laptop Go , a Surface Go with a real keyboard, also is fairly expensive and starts at $550.

Earlier this year, a new Windows 11 SKU called "SE" was discovered by a number of testers. Microsoft officials have declined to say what SE is/was. But according to Windows Central's report, the coming new Surface Laptop for education, which is codenamed "Tenjin," could be running Windows 11 SE, which potentially could stand for "Student Edition" or "School Edition."

Microsoft has touted its PC-maker partners' low-cost laptops aimed at the K-12 market. But Microsoft and partners haven't had a solid way to manage these devices, with simple provisioning, wiping and re-provisioning service.

Earlier this month, Microsoft introduced a new Microsoft 365 A1 per device plan that costs $38 per device and is good for six years. A number of customers in the education space have said Microsoft hasn't explained for whom this plan is meant and how the new per-device license will dovetail with Intune to improve Microsoft's PC-management solutions in the education market.

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