What exactly is different about Windows 10 S?

What exactly is different about Windows 10 S

Currently, Microsoft has 5 editions of Windows 10 available; ‘Home’, which is aptly named for home users, ‘Pro’ for small businesses and enthusiasts, ‘Enterprise’ and ‘Education‘ which are volume-license based products for education and larger corporate environments and now Windows 10 S.

So what exactly is it? Windows 10 S is essentially a stripped down version of Windows 10. Basically it has all the same features of Windows 10 but with the limitation of being only able to install applications from the Windows App Store. Microsoft is pitching this as a ‘Security feature’, consumers are unable to install unscreened applications and are therefore much less likely to find themselves infected with malicious code tied in with said applications. Unfortunately, another limitation of Windows 10 S appears to be that it is only capable of using the Microsoft Edge web browser preventing its popular competitors Chrome and Firefox.

Microsoft Surface Laptop running windows 10 S

So how useful is Windows 10 S?

Well, In a world where most people just need a computer for the basic tasks of social media, E-mail, web browsing and YouTube videos Windows 10 S appears to be a good choice. However, if you require bulkier more specialised applications such as Adobe Photoshop or you’re a gamer and want to install the Steam or Origin game store clients then Windows 10 S could be highly limiting to you. With such limitations however comes improved performance as less resources are required to run the operation system and Microsoft claims that Windows 10 S can run at a boot speed of 15 seconds or less on most current hardware. The price-point of current laptop hardware is falling significantly and for less than $350 you can purchase a system that is easily capable of running this bare bones operating system. We have seen this concept before with Googles Chrome Books which are tailored to run Googles custom Chrome OS (operating system). It’s a concept that appears to be growing in popularity mainly due to its price point and with more and more applications moving to web and cloud based mediums it’s very likely we will see much more of this from other companies in the future.

It seems there are numerous pros and cons to running this operating system. On the one hand you are limited in the range of programs that can be installed but on the other you have a reliable tested platform that is capable of Bit locker drive encryption, domain support and remote management which can be key features particularly for those who are security conscious or need to connect their systems to their larger networks.

Microsoft does offer an upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro that will allow users to run any windows 10 compatible application for a small fee. Surprisingly Microsoft have recently unveiled their new Surface laptop (over $2000) that only includes Windows 10 S and it seems odd that they would make this upgrade optional when limiting such hardware to only the Windows App Store on such powerful hardware seems rather pointless.

In a lot of ways it seems Windows 10 S is very similar to Microsoft’s Windows 10 RT which was only capable of running on ARM hardware as opposed to commonly used x86 and x64 based processor hardware and as a result was incapable of executing x86 x64 software. This operating system was created because ARM hardware was cheaper but offered much lower performance and therefore a bare-bones operating system was required that would mean that it could run only the essentials and still do it well. Unfortunately when Windows 10 RT was released the Windows App Store had far fewer applications than it does now and coupled with the poor performance of the ARM processors this is likely why these systems did not do very well and is also likely what caused the unpopularity of the Windows Phone which relied on the same store compared with it’s rivals apple and android who’s stores had far more content. Fast-forwarding to today Windows 10 S and this OS is now based on x86 and x64 architecture and the store is much more populated with applications of all varieties. Microsoft’s approach now also appears to be to make it easier for developers to port their existing applications to the windows store which should mean we’ll be seeing even more great applications arriving soon.

Windows 10 S

Terry Myers the vice president of Windows at Microsoft said:

“Windows 10 S is streamlined for simplicity, security and speed, so that it runs as well on day one as it does on day 1,000. But the full Windows peripheral ecosystem is available, meaning you can still plug things into Windows 10 S, from STEM tools and lesson plans to robots.”

It’s only my opinion, but lately updates on Windows 10 Home and Pro editions appear almost constant, it’s nearly every day we see some new update being released for better or worse.  If this is anything to go by it seems unlikely Windows 10 S will remain unchanged for the suggested 1,000 days and likely that its performance will alter over time despite these claims, but in the end time will tell.

Written by Gavin Piliczky
IT Consultant
G-Wiz Tech Support – Computer Repairs Adelaide

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