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article imageMicrosoft abandons Windows 10 S after less than a year

By James Walker     Feb 5, 2018 in Technology
Microsoft is to abandon its Windows 10 S variant and replace it with an optional "S Mode" for Windows 10 Home and Pro. The "S" version was devised as a more secure Windows that only runs Store apps. In practice, it's a restrictive platform for many users.
Escaping the sandbox
Windows 10 S launched last year on Microsoft's Surface Laptop. Primarily aimed at businesses, schools and non-technically savvy light users, Microsoft claimed the operating system offers greater security because it only runs sandboxed apps from the Windows Store. This prevents users from accidentally installing malware from the web.
While in principle this is a good intention, the execution has left a lot to be desired. The reality of the Windows Store is it's still a poor substitute for the scores of classic desktop apps written over the past two decades.
File photo: Surface Laptop
File photo: Surface Laptop
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Most people still reply on desktop programs that aren't available in Microsoft's walled garden. This particularly impacts creatives, gamers and power users but also affects average users who just want to install their favourite web browser. Microsoft's store policies ban all web browsers which don't use its own EdgeHTML rendering engine, so apps like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox aren't available.
The lack of desktop app support restricts Windows 10 S' capabilities and makes it difficult to manage. As described recently by ZDNet, troubleshooting or managing a Windows machine without desktop apps remains a struggle. Contrary to its supposed benefits, users are likely to find Windows 10 S restrictive and hard to control.
Making Windows modern
Less than a year after launch, Microsoft's now understood to be throwing out Windows 10 S in its current form. Over the weekend, Microsoft news site reported the company will no longer provide Windows 10 S as a separate variant. Instead, Windows 10 Home and Pro will soon get a new optional setting to enable "S Mode." The sandbox will become a feature, rather than an entirely different operating system distribution.
This aligns S Mode with recent reports about Microsoft's wider architectural aims for "modernising" Windows. The company is moving to strip out legacy components of the platform, removing support altogether for desktop apps in favour of the Store.
Surface Laptop
Surface Laptop
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This clearly conflicts with the idea of S Mode as a separate operating system. Microsoft's vision would see Windows 10 transformed into a form of S Mode anyway, so removing the dedicated variant paves the way to future development.
Figures obtained by Thurrott suggest usage of Windows 10 S may be higher than expected but still not a great success. According to internal figures seen by the publication, 60% of Windows 10 S users remain on the platform after purchasing a new device. However, 60% of those who switch do so immediately, signalling a lukewarm reaction to the restricted OS.
Since most Windows 10 S devices have been low-end education devices, the figures may not reveal the whole story. General consumers may be more likely to upgrade to the full Windows experience than enterprises and schools intentionally purchasing the locked-down devices. S Mode could help make it easier for consumers to make their own choice and get the platform they want, while reducing the options for OEMs.
More about Microsoft, Windows, windows 10, windows 10 s, Devices
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