With Win­dows 10 S, Mi­crosoft shows its hand for the fu­ture.

HWM (Malaysia) - - THINK - by Ng Chong Seng

Many peo­ple branded Mi­crosoft’s Win­dows 10 S and Surface Lap­top event in May as the start of the com­pany’s clash with Google in ed­u­ca­tion. I don’t see it that way. I view it as both a cul­mi­na­tion and a brief respite of the Red­mond-quar­tered com­pany’s long on­go­ing ed­u­ca­tion ef­forts. If any­thing, Google’s threat with its Chrome OS and Chrome­books has provided Mi­crosoft the im­pe­tus to push more ag­gres­sively into ed­u­ca­tion.

Suc­cess in ed­u­ca­tion isn’t as sim­ple as re­leas­ing a new op­er­at­ing sys­tem and/or a prod­uct or two. It’s a long play that re­quires a lot of plan­ning and sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ments. Win­dows 10 S may be get­ting all the head­lines, but let’s not for­get that in the past year Mi­crosoft has also un­veiled Mi­crosoft Class­room, a dig­i­tal plat­form for sim­pli­fy­ing the grad­ing of as­sign­ments and stu­dent com­mu­ni­ca­tion; School Data Sync, an on­line class­room au­to­ma­tion so­lu­tion; and In­tune for Ed­u­ca­tion pre­view, a cloud-based mo­bile de­vice and ap­pli­ca­tion man­age­ment ser­vice.

Mi­crosoft’s Win­dows and De­vices Group chief Terry My­er­son called Win­dows 10 S a stream­lined ver­sion of Win­dows 10, with a spe­cific fo­cus on per­for­mance and se­cu­rity. That’s mainly due to the fact that it can’t run apps that aren’t from the Win­dows Store.

Now, we all know how the re­liance on the Store caused Win­dows RT its life. Is Win­dows 10 S Win­dows RT round two? Not ex­actly. For one, Win­dows RT only worked on ARM de­vices, but Win­dows 10 S works on both ARM and x86 pro­ces­sors.

In terms of lin­eage, it’s also closer to Win­dows 10 Pro than the short-lived RT or even Win­dows 10 Home. It sup­ports Azure Ac­tive Direc­tory Join, En­ter­prise State Roam­ing via Azure AD, full Bit-Locker en­cryp­tion, Win­dows Up­date and Win­dows Store for Busi­ness, and plays nice with mo­bile de­vice man­age­ment poli­cies. If this isn’t enough, you can un­lock Win­dows 10 Pro on a Win­dows 10 S de­vice. At the mo­ment, Mi­crosoft is mak­ing this up­grade free un­til the end of 2017; af­ter which it’ll cost US$49.

A few things have also changed since the Win­dows RT days. Key amongst them is Mi­crosoft’s Desk­top Bridge, a tool­kit that helps de­vel­op­ers port their desk­tops apps to the com­pany’s Univer­sal Win­dows Plat­form and Win­dows Store. Alas, sup­port for it re­mains weak at the mo­ment, so I’m un­der no il­lu­sion that the avail­abil­ity of Win­dows 10 S will au­tomag­i­cally cause, say, Ap­ple and Google to have a change of heart overnight and re­lease iTunes and Chrome in the Win­dows Store.

So, yes, while Win­dows 10 S’ tar­get of base­line per­for­mance for the low-cost 'ed­u­ca­tion PC' makes a lot of sense in an anti-Chrome­book nar­ra­tive, that won’t be the story for­ever. The Surface Lap­top, a de­cid­edly pre­mium lap­top that runs Win­dows 10 S, is a hint to that. Pri­mary schools won’t buy this lap­top in droves, that’s for sure, but ter­tiary stu­dents who of­ten pre­fer to have their own per­sonal lap­top and cloud-con­nected work­ing pro­fes­sion­als may just lap it up. Win­dows 10 S for busi­ness isn’t a strong nar­ra­tive now de­spite its many pro busi­ness fea­tures be­cause of the whole app sit­u­a­tion, but no one should deny its po­ten­tial.

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