FAQ: Win­dows 10 S

Win­dows 10 S is Mi­crosoft’s an­swer to Chrome­books in school. BRAD CHACOS rounds up ev­ery­thing the soft­ware gi­ant has un­veiled

Windows Advisor - - Contents -

Mi­crosoft is tak­ing aim at Chrome­books and MacBooks alike with Win­dows 10 S, a new ver­sion of Win­dows 10 de­signed fore­most for ed­u­ca­tional use. But schools alone aren’t the firm’s tar­get au­di­ence, and while the new op­er­at­ing sys­tem shares the same un­der­ly­ing bones as the stan­dard ver­sion of Win­dows 10, there are some stark dif­fer­ences too. Over the fol­low­ing pages we re­veal ev­ery­thing you need to know.

What’s the S for?

Win­dows chief Terry My­er­son claims it stands for four dif­fer­ent as­pects of the op­er­at­ing sys­tem:


Su­pe­rior per­for­mance Stream­lined for sim­plic­ity “The soul of Win­dows 10”

And sure, those all ap­ply. Even the last one. But re­ally, the S could stand for ‘Store’.

What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween Win­dows 10 and Win­dows 10 S?

The key change in Win­dows 10 S over stan­dard Win­dows 10 is that you can down­load and in­stall apps only from the Win­dows Store, which helps to keep the ma­chines ul­tra-se­cure. Apps then run in a safe con­tainer that pre­vent them from af­fect­ing over­all per­for­mance of the ma­chine. Mi­crosoft says Win­dows 10 S lap­tops will of­fer the same per­for­mance on their first day out of the box as they do their last day of life.

If nec­es­sary, teach­ers can switch to Pro mode to in­stall other apps, but chil­dren will not have this lux­ury. Upon at­tempt­ing to in­stall a pro­gram from an .exe file a warn­ing pops up that says the app can­not be in­stalled, of­fer­ing al­ter­na­tives within the Store.

While Win­dows 10 S can run any web browser found in the Win­dows Store, the com­pany specif­i­cally pointed to some Mi­crosoft Edge fea­tures that were de­signed with stu­dents in mind, such as an­no­ta­tion and shar­ing for re­search pur­poses.

Win­dows 10 S ma­chines can sup­port de­vices and pe­riph­er­als in the same way as can stan­dard Win­dows 10 de­vices in­clud­ing, for ex­am­ple, the Oh­bot Ar­duino ro­bot de­signed to help chil­dren learn cod­ing and VR head­sets. The set­tings for a group of Win­dows 10 S lap­tops can be cen­trally man­aged, al­low­ing you to quickly make changes on every ma­chine. Teach­ers can also set up a pre­con­fig­ured en­vi­ron­ment in as lit­tle as 30 sec­onds by plug­ging in a USB stick to each ma­chine.

Mi­crosoft also an­nounced that Of­fice 365 Per­sonal will be com­ing to the Win­dows Store soon, while Of­fice 365 for Ed­u­ca­tion will be free with Mi­crosoft Teams. Mi­crosoft In­tune for Ed­u­ca­tion is also avail­able now, the com­pany an­nounced. An added bonus for stu­dents us­ing Win­dows 10 S is a one-year sub­scrip­tion to Minecraft Ed­u­ca­tional Edi­tion.

What does the S stand for?

Ac­cord­ing to Mi­crosoft, the S in Win­dows 10 S stands for three things:

Stream­lined for sim­plic­ity Se­cure

Su­pe­rior per­for­mance

Re­lease date

Mi­crosoft says Win­dows 10 S will be avail­able on new lap­tops from its part­ners this sum­mer, which means they will be in stu­dent hands for the next school year.

What if I want to run desk­top soft­ware?

You can’t, un­less it’s been pack­aged as a Win­dows Store app. Try­ing to run other soft­ware will prompt a pop-up telling you it’s banned, and a sug­ges­tion for a sim­i­lar app in the Win­dows Store.

If you re­ally need to run desk­top soft­ware,

Mi­crosoft makes it easy to up­grade from Win­dows

10 S to 10 Pro. (There’s no ap­par­ent way to con­vert to Win­dows 10 Home.) A link at the bot­tom of the afore­men­tioned pop-up will bring you to the Win­dows 10 Pro up­grade page in the Win­dows Store, where an ad­min­is­tra­tor can start the in­stall process. No, school­child­ren won’t be able to do it them­selves, and that’s a good thing – this is a one-way process. Once you’ve switched to Win­dows 10 Pro, you can’t go back to Win­dows 10 S.

Depend­ing how where your Win­dows 10 S de­vice came from, how­ever, that Win­dows 10 Pro up­grade may or may not cost you money.


For schools al­ready run­ning Win­dows Pro PCs the new op­er­at­ing sys­tem is free. New lap­tops run­ning Win­dows 10 S will be avail­able from $189 (£TBC).

You won’t be able to buy Win­dows 10 S by it­self, only on de­vices that come with it pre­loaded.

What Win­dows 10 S lap­tops are there?

Mi­crosoft im­me­di­ately mud­died the mes­sag­ing wa­ters with the Win­dow 10 S flag­ship de­vice, the £949 and up Sur­face Lap­top, which has much more in com­mon with Ap­ple’s MacBook Air than the le­gion of Chrome­books most Win­dows 10 S com­put­ers will com­pete with.

Look for Win­dows 10 S lap­tops to ar­rive over the sum­mer, per­haps start­ing with the Sur­face Lap­top, (page 4). It’s un­clear if PC mak­ers plan to sell many Win­dows 10 S lap­tops to con­sumers, or will in­stead fo­cus on di­rect sales to schools.

Other things to look out for

Not many – Win­dows 10 S is largely just Win­dows 10. It of­fers Cor­tana, Win­dows Hello bio­met­ric au­then­ti­ca­tion, and all the other usual Win­dows perks. But there are a few things to watch out for.

Most no­tably, Win­dows 10 S re­stricts your browser to Mi­crosoft Edge, and your search re­sults to Bing. You can of course nav­i­gate to, say, Google’s search page in the browser if you want, but you can’t change the de­fault browser, and all sys­tem in­ter­ac­tions that point to a browser will al­ways point to Edge. The point’s a bit moot, how­ever, as ma­jor browsers like Chrome and Fire­fox aren’t in the Win­dows Store any­way.

You may also run into is­sues con­nect­ing hard­ware to your de­vice – prob­a­bly more so with older hard­ware. “Many hard­ware pe­riph­er­als (such as print­ers) that work with Win­dows 10 to­day will work with Win­dows 10 S, but may have lim­ited func­tion­al­ity,” Mi­crosoft warns.

What’s in it for teach­ers?

This ar­ti­cle fo­cuses more on Win­dows 10 S from a con­sumer stand­point, but Mi­crosoft is sup­port­ing the Win­dows 10 S push with nu­mer­ous ben­e­fits for schools.

Most no­tably, Win­dows 10 S sup­ports a slew of ad­vanced fea­tures found in Win­dows 10 Pro, but not Win­dows 10 Home, like mo­bile de­vice man­age­ment, BITLOCKER en­cryp­tion, Azure ac­tive di­rec­tory do­main join, and the cru­cial Win­dows Up­date for Busi­ness, which al­lows ad­min­is­tra­tors to fine-tune ex­actly when they want fea­ture up­dates to roll out, and de­fer nor­mal up­dates for up to 30 days. It can all be man­aged through the cloud

In­tune for Ed­u­ca­tion

with Mi­crosoft’s new In­tune for Ed­u­ca­tion (tinyurl.com/y7eomxk8), and ad­mins can con­fig­ure a sys­tem im­age us­ing a wiz­ard, then slap it on a USB key that can be used to in­stall that cus­tom­ized ver­sion of Win­dows 10 S on any PC in un­der 30 sec­onds. Not too shabby.

There are ben­e­fits for stu­dents, too. Mi­crosoft’s in­clud­ing a one-year sub­scrip­tion to Minecraft: Ed­u­ca­tion Edi­tion with Win­dows 10 S lap­tops and mak­ing Of­fice

365 for Ed­u­ca­tion free to schools. What’s more, these lap­tops are con­fig­ured to save files to stu­dents’ ONEDRIVE ac­count by de­fault, mak­ing it easy for them to pick up where they left off while hop­ping from class­room to class­room and PC to PC.

Is this Win­dows RT re­born?

That’s the mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion. Win­dows RT launched along­side Win­dows 8, was also lim­ited to Win­dows Store apps and died a quick death amid con­sumer con­fu­sion.

There are some key dif­fer­ences be­tween Win­dows 10 S and Win­dows RT. Since these lap­tops are pow­ered by nor­mal PC pro­ces­sors rather than Win­dows RT’s mo­bile ARM chips, they can run tra­di­tional desk­top soft­ware found in the Win­dows Store, as men­tioned pre­vi­ously. That may be split­ting hairs for ev­ery­day users, though. Be­ing re­stricted to the lack­lus­tre Win­dows Store is still be­ing re­stricted to the lack­lus­tre Win­dows Store, though Mi­crosoft now of­fers a bridge tool to help de­vel­op­ers quickly port tra­di­tional desk­top soft­ware over. Another key dif­fer­ence: Win­dows RT had Win­dows 8’s dread­ful tablet-first in­ter­face. Win­dows 10 S is de­signed for PCs, though it can still switch into tablet mode if de­sired.

Lock­ing these de­vices to the Win­dows Store makes sense for school so­lu­tions, and Win­dows 10 S could fi­nally weaken de­vel­oper re­sis­tance to the Win­dows Store if the push proves suc­cess­ful. Sell­ing Win­dows 10 S de­vices di­rectly to con­sumers feels tricky, how­ever. If peo­ple start buy­ing these low-cost lap­tops at stores and get an­gry at the idea of pay­ing to use ‘real’ soft­ware like Steam and Chrome, the rep­u­ta­tion of Win­dows 10 S could go down­hill fast. Time will tell.

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