Never mind schools: Win­dows 10 S could be the OS for us all

PC Pro - - News - Tim Dan­ton Ed­i­tor-in-chief

“THAT’S AN IN­TER­EST­ING pat­tern,” I said, my at­ten­tion half on a ten­nis match on the TV. My son rolled his eyes. “It’s not a pat­tern, dad. Some­thing’s wrong with the screen.” “Have you tried switch­ing it on and off ag–?” “Yes, dad. I think it’s bro­ken.” Those por­ten­tous words fi­nally trans­ported me from the rust-coloured courts of Roland Gar­ros back to my own front room. I took a closer look at my son’s lap­top and saw the tell­tale lines criss-cross­ing the screen. “That’s cracked,” I told him, ge­nius that I am. He paused for a beat. “I need a new lap­top.”

It’s a sce­nario reg­u­larly played out in homes, schools and busi­nesses. One bash against a door is all it takes to crack a screen; one drop can de­stroy a hard disk.

The sit­u­a­tion is par­tic­u­larly acute in schools. Class­room floors are un­for­giv­ing sur­faces for dropped lap­tops, and chil­dren do have an odd habit of let­ting ob­jects slip from their hands. Lit­tle won­der that cheap, easy-to-re­place Chrome­books are now sell­ing so well to schools.

As our fea­ture on Win­dows 10 S ( start­ing on p30) shows, ed­u­ca­tion is one of the mar­kets Mi­crosoft is eye­ing with its new oper­at­ing sys­tem. It’s aim­ing to make ad­min­is­tra­tion eas­ier and cut lo­gin times, so that kids can get work­ing within 15 sec­onds of open­ing the screen on a new lap­top.

But schools are hardly the only en­vi­ron­ment need­ing cheap, easy-to-main­tain lap­tops. As a PC Pro reader, it’s likely that you “in­for­mally” sup­port friends and fam­ily with their com­put­ers, from adding prin­ters to clean­ing up the mess af­ter mal­ware in­vei­gles its way onto their sys­tem.

In­deed, part of the rea­son tablets are so pop­u­lar is their ease of use, se­cu­rity and cheap­ness com­pared to a tra­di­tional lap­top. But we do all still love our key­boards and mice, not to men­tion the fa­mil­iar­ity of Mi­crosoft Word. What if we could have it all?

The ar­gu­ment doesn’t stop at homes and schools. Den­nis, the com­pany that pub­lishes PC Pro, has just switched its sales­floor from hulk­ing Dell lap­tops to sleek HP Chrome­books, and hap­pier sales­peo­ple are the re­sult. With one stroke, it’s slashed sup­port costs – af­ter all, a Chrome­book is es­sen­tially a web browser in­car­nated into hard­ware, and ev­ery­one knows how to use Chrome. Bro­ken screen? No prob­lem: just nip down to Ge­orge in the base­ment and he’ll hand you a new lap­top.

Surely this is the fu­ture of main­stream com­put­ing. Of course, en­thu­si­asts will still want to tin­ker – just this month we re­veal our 19 favourite com­mand prompt tools ( p38) and ex­plain how to in­stall Linux on Win­dows ( p42) – but that doesn’t mean we want to re­motely log into a fam­ily mem­ber’s sys­tem at 9pm on a Satur­day be­cause Ex­cel has stopped work­ing.

Trou­ble is, Mi­crosoft keeps try­ing to sup­port the old even as it at­tempts to en­able the new. You can see this in the “rip­cord” for Win­dows 10 S, whereby you can pay $49 at any time to up­grade it to Win­dows 10 Pro.

That’s why the next three years will be piv­otal. If Mi­crosoft gets it wrong, we’ll reach a tip­ping point as busi­nesses fol­low schools and choose Chrome­books for their cheap­ness and sim­plic­ity. If it gets it right, those busi­nesses will look at Win­dows 10 S and won­der why on earth they’d choose Google’s more lim­ited of­fer­ing.

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