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article imageMicrosoft goes after classrooms with $189 'Windows 10 S' laptops

By James Walker     May 2, 2017 in Technology
Microsoft has announced a new version of Windows 10 designed to compete directly with Google's Chromebooks. Aimed at classroom environments and younger users, Windows 10 S is a cut-down Windows that only supports apps from the Windows Store.
The variant's existence was first reported a couple of months ago when rumours of a new "Windows 10 Cloud" edition started to circulate. Today, Microsoft officially announced Windows 10 S as part of its ongoing #MicrosoftEDU event.
Windows 10 S hearkens back to the days of Windows RT, the unpopular and often confusing ARM-based Windows version launched alongside Windows 8. Windows RT was built to enable low-power, low-cost Windows devices, offering Windows 8's Start screen experience and the complete selection of apps available in the Windows Store.
HP ProBook x360 11 Education Edition
HP ProBook x360 11 Education Edition
HP / Microsoft
Windows RT couldn't run desktop apps but did retain Windows' desktop interface. Microsoft ported its headline Office suite to run on the RT desktop though, along with Windows accessories like File Explorer and Calculator. Ultimately, customers found this conflicting approach confusing and were left questioning why third-party programs couldn't also be installed.
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With Windows 10 S, Microsoft is having a second attempt at the RT concept. It's still built with the same goals in mind: affordable devices for users who don't need access to every Windows program ever written.
Out of the box, Windows 10 S products only support apps from the Windows Store. Desktop programs are blocked from installing. Unlike RT, it is possible to upgrade 10 S to support desktop apps though, allowing users to remove the limitation. It will cost $50 to change Windows 10 S into Pro, cheaper than the $99 fee for Home to Pro. Educational establishments will get the optional upgrade for free.
HP ProBook x360 11 Education Edition
HP ProBook x360 11 Education Edition
HP / Microsoft
Microsoft is hoping these customers won't feel the need to make the switch to Pro. Alongside today's reveal, the company made the long-awaited announcement that it'll be adding its full Microsoft Office 2016 suite to the Windows Store. Combined with the work of third-party developers to port their existing programs to the Store – using Microsoft's Project Centennial conversion tool – many popular desktop apps can already be downloaded on Windows 10 S products.
While Microsoft's wisdom in reviving its ill-fated Windows RT could be questioned, 10 S is a much more considered and usable approach to the idea. It also crucially has a defined target audience, something RT always lacked.
If the hashtag for today's event isn't clear enough, Windows 10 S is all about schools. While the meaning of "S" hasn’t been stated, it probably stands for "School" or "Store."
HP ProBook x360 11 Education Edition
HP ProBook x360 11 Education Edition
HP / Microsoft
As Google Chromebooks continue to make strides forward in the education market, Microsoft has devised Windows 10 S as a way to start winning back classroom customers. Schools can lockdown their devices to approved Windows Store apps, reducing the risk of malware or inappropriate applications being installed.
App updates are unified and IT admins can control every aspect of the device. While the power of Windows desktop programs remains a must for professionals, it also creates a broad surface where things can go wrong or be exploited by more technically minded students.
With Windows 10 S, Microsoft has a sandbox to rival Google's Chrome OS, allowing it to convince schools who've traditionally used Windows to stay in its ecosystem. Microsoft is also making sure pricing will be on its side: the first Windows 10 S devices from brands including Asus, Dell and HP will start at just $189.
More about Microsoft, Windows, windows 10, windows 10 s, microsoftedu 2017