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