The unveiling of Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop also introduced the brand new operating system that comes with it – a lightweight OS called Windows 10 S, aimed specifically at students and the education sector.
Windows 10 S is a streamlined and locked-down version of Windows 10 Pro with a focus on consistent performance, reliability and security. Think of it as the Microsoft equivalent of Google’s Chrome OS, an optimized lightweight OS that can run efficiently even on low-powered machines.
Microsoft touts 10 S as “the best Windows ever for schools.” With 10 S computers starting at just $189 and by offering it free for schools already running Windows 10 Pro computers, Microsoft clearly has its sights on cornering the education market.
This all sounds great for kids, students and teachers, but is Windows 10 S a good thing for the average consumer, as well?
The first major difference between Windows 10 S and other versions of Windows 10 is the restrictions on what apps and software you can install.
Non-Windows Store applications cannot be downloaded nor installed on a Windows 10 S computer. This means all the legacy software and desktop applications you download straight off the web (or disks) will not work. Everything will have to go through the Windows Store.
Microsoft’s reason for this restriction is for improved security and performance. Since apps are required to pass Microsoft’s standards (as with other OS-specific app stores), malicious software and resource-hogging applications can be screened more effectively, drastically lowering the chance of malware infections.
This will be especially great for people who would rather install trusted apps all the time without the need for extended scrutiny. It will also be a good thing for kids who, oftentimes, need supervision on software and files they download online.
Microsoft’s app selection on the Windows Store may be a bit sparse right now but we expect it to expand soon, especially with the introduction of Windows 10 S.
Another major restriction is that you can’t change your default browser to anything other than Microsft Edge. Although you can download and install alternative browsers from the Windows Store, Microsoft Edge will always be your primary browser. This means each time you are directed to a link on Windows 10 S, Edge will always be used to open it.
To further streamline the browsing experience, add-ons and extensions can’t be installed on Windows 10 S’s Edge browser. Additionally, Bing is the default search engine in Windows 10 S and you can’t switch it to anything else (Google, Yahoo, etc.).
This may sound like a very restrictive policy but limiting the browser is in line with Microsoft’s focus on efficiency and performance in Windows 10 S. (Note: Google’s Chromebooks are also locked down with Chrome as the default browser.)
Upgradeable to Windows 10 Pro
If you want to get Windows 10 S for your existing computer, well, you can’t. It’s only available pre-installed on new computers (such as the Surface Laptop and other upcoming laptops from HP and Acer) and it is not available as a standalone OS.
In case you purchased a Windows 10 S device and found out that the app and browser restrictions are a bit too much, you can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for a $49 fee. The Surface Laptop itself includes a free Windows 10 Pro upgrade offer until the end of this year.
Instant logins and faster boot times
If you dread Windows 10’s long boot times, then you’ll appreciate Windows 10 S’s optimized boot times and fast logins. Microsoft claims that it will only take around 15 seconds for a Windows 10 S machine to be ready for use. Since the system is streamlined and optimized, expect apps to run faster too.
So what do you think? Is Windows 10 S something you’re looking forward to? Are its restrictions actually good things for the end user? Drop us a comment!