What it is: Microsoft recently released Windows 10S to target the education market.
At one time, Windows PCs dominated schools. Some schools still offered a handful of macintosh computers but for cost reasons and greater compatibility, most schools purchased truckloads of Windows PCs and stuck them in the classroom. The theory was that since people used Windows PCs in work, it only made sense for students o learn what they would likely use in the real world.
Then schools started to shift to iPads when Apple first introduced the iPad. The iPad was simpler to use by requiring far less maintenance. Some schools switched to iPads but then Google released Chromebook, which were extremely cheap laptops. Once Chromebooks appeared, most schools simply skipped both Windows PCs and iPads and chose Chromebook for the much lower cost while still retaining the simplicity of an iPad.
Now Microsoft has decided to fight back by releasing Windows 10 S, low-cost version of Windows designed for the education market but also for low-end computers. The main limitation of Windows 10 S is that it can only install and run software from the Windows Store. This prevents rogue programs (or students) from loading a school PC with unapproved software.
Windows 10 S also comes with simpler maintenance settings. Just define settings on a USB flash drive, plug that flash drive into a Windows 10 S PC, and you can simply and easily transfer settings to PCs just by plugging in the flash drive. Windows 10 S aims for the low cost of Chromebook with the simplicity of setup as well. At the teachers’ discretion, a Windows 10 S PC can also load non-Windows Store software.
The main target is the education market but Windows 10 S could also compete against Chromebook in the consumer market. Given a choice between using familiar Windows software or a Chromebook, many people will likely chose Windows 10 S. The big warning flag is that people who buy a Windows 10 S PC need to realize the software limitations restricting you to Windows Store software. For an added price, you can upgrade form Windows 10 S to Windows 10, but people must understand this option costs money before they rush to get a cheap Windows 10 S PC, only to get annoyed that they can’t install Windows software on it through a DVD or file downloaded from the Internet.
Windows 10 S looks attractive from a technical point of view. The big problem may simply come from people expecting Windows 10 S to give them the same freedom of software choice as Windows 10. That’s a huge potential for confusion. Just as people bought Windows RT Surface laptops, only to discover it couldn’t run ordinary Windows software, so might people get confused and upset when they buy a Windows 10 S laptop for the low price, only to find out that they can’t install non-Windows Store software on it.
Windows 10 S is Microsoft’s attempt to keep Windows dominant in the desktop operating system market by taking back the education market from Chromebooks. If Microsoft limits Windows 10 S to schools, their strategy may work. If Microsoft allows the sale of Windows 10 S PCs to consumers, be ready for some consumers to get confused that Windows 10 S won’t give them the same amount of choice as Windows 10.
The education market is crucial for any company. Windows 10 S is Microsoft’s attempt to keep Windows relevant. Whether manufacturers can offer Windows 10 S laptops for a competitive price to Chromebook remains to be seen, but if the price can be equal to Chromebook, Windows 10 S has a good chance of offering the familiarity of Windows with the low cost of Chroembooks, and that’s a combination most schools will find hard to resist.