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posted by janrinok on Friday November 12 2021, @11:33AM   Printer-friendly

Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:

Microsoft is taking the fight to Chromebooks in schools with the $250 Surface Laptop SE, but inexpensive hardware is only part of the equation. One reason Chromebooks have succeeded in education is because of Chrome OS, which is well-suited for lower-end hardware, easy for IT administrators to manage, and hard to break with errant apps or malware.

Microsoft's answer to Chrome OS is Windows 11 SE. Unlike past efforts like Windows in S mode (which is still its own separate thing), Windows 11 SE isn't just a regular version of Windows with a cheaper license or a cut-down version that runs fewer apps. Windows 11 SE defaults to saving all files (including user profile information) to students' OneDrive accounts, and it has had some standard Windows 11 features removed to ensure a "distraction-free" learning environment that performs better on low-end devices. The operating system also gives IT administrators exclusive control over the apps and browser extensions that can be installed and run via Microsoft Intune.

If you're a school IT administrator with a fleet of PC laptops or desktops, you might wonder if you can buy and install Windows 11 SE on hardware you already have so you can benefit from its changes without buying new hardware. The answer, Microsoft tells us, is no. The only way to get Windows 11 SE is on laptops that ship with Windows 11 SE. And if you re-image a Windows 11 SE device with a different version of Windows 10 or Windows 11, it won't even be possible to reinstall Windows 11 SE after that.

[...] Microsoft has published documentation (PDF) that more fully explains the differences between Windows 11 SE and the other editions of Windows (including Windows in S mode).


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by turgid on Friday November 12 2021, @12:41PM (5 children)

    by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 12 2021, @12:41PM (#1195609) Journal

    Microsoft's new mission statement: "We don't want your business."

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by DannyB on Friday November 12 2021, @04:14PM

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 12 2021, @04:14PM (#1195647) Journal

    Microsoft's plan: You can't reinstall, you need to get a new computer.

    --
    Out of control 3 yr old grabs steering wheel of limosuine and throws food against wall in temper tantrum.
  • (Score: 2) by Marand on Friday November 12 2021, @08:35PM (3 children)

    by Marand (1081) on Friday November 12 2021, @08:35PM (#1195745) Journal

    Hey, it's better than the alternative. When I saw the headline while skimming through, I first thought it said "Can't be removed once installed" which is the kind of behaviour one historically expects from Microsoft. Sounds like they only want to see Windows 11 SE used on school-managed notebooks and nowhere else, and they're taking steps to keep it that way. They probably figure that letting other people install it would lead to morons trying to use it instead of the real thing and then eating up support time/budget trying to get help running normal software.

    I'm more interested in the technical details than the reasoning or whether it's a good idea or not, though. Are they just not providing images to the public, or is there some kind of technical barrier they'll be implementing to prevent installation even if images leak? Could someone dump the drive contents and create their own installable image, or are they going the full disk encryption route like ChromeOS to prevent tampering and the like?

    I'm somewhat curious, but not enough to go digging for the info myself since knowing doesn't really benefit me at all beyond satisfying idle curiosity.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by sjames on Friday November 12 2021, @08:56PM (2 children)

      by sjames (2882) on Friday November 12 2021, @08:56PM (#1195752) Journal

      The problem is, these things are intended for SCHOOLS and if the factory install gets hosed or blown away (maliciously or accidentally) by a student there is no way back. The device is essentially no longer fit for the school's use and cannot be reimaged.

      This in contrast to chromebook or Apple products where it's dead simple to return the device to factory defaults.

      If any schools actually fall for this, I would advise working out installing Linux on them because there will probably be a firesale on the hardware with borked OS images in the near future.

      • (Score: 2) by Marand on Friday November 12 2021, @10:37PM (1 child)

        by Marand (1081) on Friday November 12 2021, @10:37PM (#1195769) Journal

        The problem is, these things are intended for SCHOOLS and if the factory install gets hosed or blown away (maliciously or accidentally) by a student there is no way back. The device is essentially no longer fit for the school's use and cannot be reimaged.

        That's making a huge assumption: that the devices won't be locked down and keep some kind of baseline image for recovery.

        The quote from the article says:

        if you re-image a Windows 11 SE device with a different version of Windows 10 or Windows 11, it won't even be possible to reinstall Windows 11 SE after that.

        which to me implies that it's going to behave like a Chromebook with the usual kinds of protections, but if you decide to completely re-image the disk and wipe all of that out, you'll have no way to download 11SE to fix your mistake. That's reasonable enough, and is in line with how ChromeOS works: if you fuck up your install (or an update breaks) you can always reset it because it keeps two copies of itself at all times (current and previous), and it's locked down in a way that prevents changing that without some serious effort. And if it's a managed chromebook it's even more locked down, so you won't be doing that at all. But if you take your personal Chromebook and completely wipe out the partition table to start fresh, well, you're on your own because nobody provides ChromeOS images for their hardware. It sucks from a user freedom standpoint, but it's the status quo for these kinds of devices and use cases, because they're for situations where someone doesn't want a general-purpose, open system.

        It's fun to hate on MS for being MS, but it doesn't seem any more likely that these devices will become unsuitable, unusable bricks any more than ChromeOS already does. Microsoft is just copying Google here in a desperate attempt to not hemorrhage users long-term due to kids never encountering Windows and growing up solely using alternatives.

        • (Score: 2) by sjames on Friday November 12 2021, @11:50PM

          by sjames (2882) on Friday November 12 2021, @11:50PM (#1195795) Journal

          First item [google.com] in a google search is how to download a ChromeOS recovery image, put it on a USB and restore a totally wiped out Chromebook.

          On an iMac, if the recovery partition is hosed, start it with shift-command-r held down and it will find a network connection and download a new copy.

          So no, The new Win 11SE is uniquely unrecoverable.