Microsoft is tired of getting beat in the education market, so it’s pulling out the big guns: A custom version of Windows 10 streamlined for students.
And they call it Windows 10 S.
If you can leave aside the nagging question of why Microsoft didn’t go for “Windows 10 E,” this new operating system flavor makes a lot of sense.
Over the last half decade Microsoft (and Apple) have watched as sub-$300 Chromebooks running Chrome OS and cloud-connected to Google Docs have swallowed up more than 50 percent of the education market.
Microsoft, which makes the most popular desktop OS in the world, Windows, has had no answer for it. It only recently started building its own PCs — which tend to be on the premium side of pricing — and Windows is, well, Windows, a $120 product that relies on sometimes expensive, large third-party applications that you download and install. It has a good cloud game in One Drive, but there hasn’t really been a marriage between platform, price and cloud accessibility.
Windows 10 S is at least part of Microsoft’s answer.
Unveiled on Tuesday in New York City during Microsoft’s education-market-focused event, Windows 10 S is still very much Windows (and not a cloud-based service as was recently predicted), including the latest Creators Update versions of Cortana and the Edge browser. However it’s also engineered for an audience, like teachers, administrators, and students who don’t have time to worry about application curation, OS updates and system security.
To do all that, Microsoft is narrowing the list of Windows 10 S-approved apps to those Microsoft curates in the Windows Store. This will, obviously, include Office 365, which is also getting an education-focused update, specifically in the Teams for Education group collaboration component.
If a student or educator needs an application that isn’t in the Windows Store, they’ll have to switch their system to Windows 10 Pro — at no extra cost — and then download and install the required app. They won’t be able to switch the system back to Windows 10 S.
Microsoft contends that not only will Store-only apps simplify management of these systems, the managed app list could improve system performance, as well. Web-downloaded apps launch processes during install and subsequent boot-up that often don’t ever turn off. These services can also be duplicative, further slowing down the system, and even consuming battery life.
Windows 10 S’ managed set of apps will not, according to Microsoft, launch those services. This might also be a way of improving performance on affordable systems that may not have the most powerful components or longest battery life.
In order to make the systems a little more cloud-friendly, Windows 10 S will default to saving all documents in the cloud. You can do this in standard Windows 10, but it’s not the default.
Windows 10 S will also help promote coding for kids through a new Minecraft programming component that will let them manipulate their favorite world-building environment.
This move by Microsoft isn’t particularly surprising. When I spoke to Microsoft Corporate VP in Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group Joe Belfiore a few weeks ago, he made it clear that Microsoft would not be ceding the education market and they wouldn’t approach it with thin clients and cloud-based apps.
This latest flavor of Windows will arrive inside new, low-cost laptops from Microsoft Partners and Microsoft itself in time for the back to school buying season. Microsoft hasn’t specified standalone pricing since it expects Windows 10 S will ship with low-cost systems.
This story is developing…