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Windows 11 SE Set To Debut As 'S Mode' For Microsoft's Next Big OS Upgrade

Microsoft is gearing up to launch the next major upgrade for its PC operating system — tentatively called Windows 11 — on June 24, but it appears that an ecosystem-locked version called Windows 11 SE is in the pipeline too. Now, this is not a new direction for the software giant, as the company already offers a product called Windows 10 S (or Windows 10 in S mode) on its Surface portfolio.

In Microsoft’s own words, Windows 10 in S mode was designed with security and performance in mind. And to achieve that, this gated version of Microsoft’s operating system only allows app installation from the Microsoft Store to ensure that they have been thoroughly vetted for malware and offer the smoothest computing experience. While Windows 10 in S mode is ideal for deployment in the enterprise and education segments, it can prove to be quite limiting for folks who rely on third-party productivity solutions that are not available on Microsoft’s app repository.

Related: Windows 11 Leaked Screenshots Show Interface & Start Menu Changes

Now, it appears that a corresponding S Mode for the upcoming Windows 11 upgrade is on the way too. Details about Windows 11 SE have surfaced online via the Dev channel that Microsoft runs for preview testing. Just like Windows 10 in S mode, Windows 11 SE will reportedly make its debut as an SKU of Windows 11 that is restricted to Microsoft’s in-house services.

Interestingly, as reported by XDA Developers, the leak mentions that Microsoft Store access in Windows 11 SE is blocked, but this is an early test build, which means the limitation might be lifted when it is officially released. Additionally, it appears that Microsoft will let users upgrade to other SKUs such Enterprise, Education, or Pro mode of Windows 11 following the public release. This is not a novel strategy, as Windows 10 S also lets users switch to the regular Windows 10 experience that lifts the first-party app install restrictions. However, leaving Windows 10 in S mode is a one-way route, and once the SKU has been upgraded, there is no way to switch back. It is worth noting here that Microsoft has already revealed the timeframe when official support for Windows 10 ends, hinting at an imminent arrival of its successor.

But what is really interesting is that the leak shows Windows 11 SE running a game called Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code. And that is because the aforementioned game is not listed or distributed from the Microsoft Store, and is available from Steam and a few other third-party websites. This contradicts with the whole premise of an ‘S mode’ of Windows OS, which limits app installation to the Microsoft Store. Is Microsoft going to loosen the policy for games with Windows 11 SE to make it a more appealing package for folks who enjoy a casual gaming session every now and then? It is too early to predict, especially when the inference is being drawn from a leaked build running inside a virtual machine. But the core experience of using Windows 11 SE will likely remain similar to Windows 11, at least when it comes to using Microsoft’s own suite of productivity apps and those distributed via its eponymous app storefront. The best parallel that can be drawn here is how Apple restricts all app installs on the iPhone to the App Store.

However, the leaked screenshots suggest that Windows 11 SE might be even more restrictive than Windows 10 in S mode. For example, a few pages have been omitted from the native Settings app, and the system set-up process requires a Microsoft account to begin with. Moreover, the workaround for using a local account without an internet connection available in Windows 10 appears to be missing from Windows 11 SE. Windows 10 users (both in the vanilla Home and S mode SKUs) are already pushed by the OS to rely on a Microsoft account during the setup process, so it isn’t surprising to see the same being carried over to Windows 11 SE. As far as design goes, Windows 11 SE will look almost identical to all the Sun Valley redesign details leaked in the past few months.

Next: Everything Apple Is Bringing To Mac With macOS Monterey

Source: XDA Developers, Twitter/@fakirmeditation

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