Microsoft’s taking aim at Chromebooks and Mac Books alike with Windows 10 S, a new version of Windows 10 designed foremost for educational use. But schools alone aren’t Microsoft’s target audience, and while the new operating system shares the same underlying bones as the standard version of Windows 10, there are some differences too.
What is Windows 10 S?
Windows 10 S is a version of Windows 10 that can only run apps from Microsoft’s Windows Store. Traditional desktop software will work on Windows 10 S, but only if its developer packages it up as a Windows app in the Windows Store first. Microsoft screens Windows Store apps, and Windows 10 protects things even more by running those apps in secure containers that can’t access other parts of the operating system. That keeps software from mucking with your registry or spawning tons of processes, which helps the system run fast and boot as quickly on day one-hundred as day one. The startup process should take less than 15 seconds, and the login process less than five seconds.
What if I want to run desktop software?
You can’t, unless it’s been packaged as a Windows Store app. trying to run other software will prompt a pop-up telling you it’s banned, and a suggestion for a similar app in the Windows Store.
Most notably, Windows 10 S restricts your browser to Microsoft Edge, and your search results to Bing. You can of course navigate to, say, Google’s search page in the browser if you want, but you can’t change the default browser, and all system interactions that point to a browser will always point to Edge. The point’s a bit moot, however, as major browsers like Chrome and Firefox aren’t in the Windows Store anyway. You may also run into issues connecting hardware to your device—probably more so with older hardware. “Many hardware peripherals (such as printers) that work with Windows 10 today will work with Windows 10 S, but may have limited functionality,” Microsoft warns.
Look for Windows 10 S laptops to arrive over the summer, perhaps starting with the Surface Laptop, which will hit the streets on June 15. It’s unclear if PC makers plan to sell many Windows 10 S laptops to consumers, or will instead focus on direct sales to schools.
Locking these devices to the Windows Store makes sense for school solutions, and Windows 10 S could finally weaken developer resistance to the Windows Store if the push proves successful. Selling Windows 10 S devices directly to consumers feels tricky, however. If people start buying these low-cost laptops at stores and get angry at the idea of paying $49 to use “real” software like Steam and Chrome, the reputation of Windows 10 S could go downhill fast. Par for the course!