Microsoft finally announced the Surface Laptop, which strays from the popular 2-in-1 form factor of its older brother, the Surface Book (not a predecessor per se). At its time of release, the laptop was unveiled alongside Windows 10 S, which fits in between Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro. The Surface Laptop is the first device that runs Windows 10 S, although other OEMs are already in work to out more devices that will utilize the newest OS from Microsoft. Starting at $999, the Surface Laptop will have similar hardware additions from the likes of Acer and HP at cheaper cost.
So, what is Windows 10 S?
To best understand the provisions of Windows 10 S, it is important to know what Windows 10 Home (which majority of us are probably running) and Windows 10 Pro offer. Summarily, Windows 10 Pro augments Windows 10 with more features such as BitLocker, an encryption software that protects users from intrusion by malicious hackers and Remote Desktop Connection (Home and Pro can start the feature, but only the Pro can be remotely controlled). Windows 10 Pro also supports Enterprise Mode Internet Explorer, Group Policy Management as well as 2TB of maximum supported RAM.
Windows 10 S incorporates Windows 10 Pro features, but configurations have been toned down to boost performance, battery life and security.
Ideally, Windows 10 S aims to tackle security concerns by running apps that will be only available in the Windows Store. This means that non-Windows Store programs will not run on this configuration, which reduces the risk of installing malware-ridden applications from questionable sources.
How about performance? Well, since Windows 10 S will not run desktop apps that are sourced from third-party clients, manufactures will not sneak in bloat that has been known to hurt performance. It also promises less background tasks as well as faster loading of user profiles at 15 seconds.
If the use of Store-only apps rings a bell, you are right. The same approach was used in Windows RT, which basically was Windows 8 but for ARM processors. RT did not take off because of its restrictive nature that stipulated the use of Store apps, which were quite few and of inferior quality. Additionally, there was no easy way of migrating popular apps to the Store without building them from scratch.
The interpretation here is that some popular desktop applications are not going to be available for use with Windows 10 S. However, Microsoft hopes to solve this concern by allowing the installation of applications that are built using the Universal Windows Program (UWP) framework and ordinary Win32 applications ported to the Store with the help of the Desktop Bridge. Unfortunately, Win32 applications that employ custom installers are out of luck.
Who is the target customer?
There is no denying that Windows 10 S is geared toward conquering the demography that chooses Chromebooks based on their pocket-friendly costs and satisfactory performance on low-end hardware. This is the same path that the newer addition to Windows 10 Home and Pro follows; offer an OS that is not resource intensive at cheaper price (hardware will start at $189, which is Chromebook zone).
Windows 10 S aims to serve education-based functions on account of its lightweight and performance-oriented nature. Target groups include education institutions that use computers as a shared resource. The OS supports multi-user systems for quick logins, which is why security has to be air-tight in the first place. Similar to Windows 10 Pro, educational institutions will be able to manage their machines with Intune, a cloud-based device management system.
Generally speaking, the OS will play a major role in standardizing the use of Windows-based machines in a school setup.
Also, it is not restricted to institutions – any person is free to dive in and explore its usefulness.
Can your upgrade to Windows 10 Pro?
While Windows 10 S aims to serve people and institutions that want low-cost computers with minimal maintenance, there are cases where it may prove restrictive. On the bright side, Windows 10 S can be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro for free for educational establishments, and $50 for everyone else.
Also, moving from Windows 10 to Windows 10 S will be considered as an upgrade. Ironically, you will not be able to run any Win32 apps once you do that (there is a plan to include Office 365 apps in the near future.), but you will get to enjoy some goodies such as Intune, better performance and security – all at $100 price tag.
When will it be available?
Availability will kick off in June from several PC manufacturers.