On May 2nd, Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 S (“10 S”) alongside their new Surface Laptop. 10 S is exactly what Microsoft needs. It’s the iOS equivalent of a performance operating system. With iOS, users cannot download and execute applications that have not been acquired through Apple’s Play Store. This is both lucrative for Apple and also more secure for users. Ultimately, this is where we are headed for operating systems at the consumer level. And Microsoft has taken a positive step in that direction.
10 S is thought to be for educators and students - think elementary school, not necessarily college. But it’s also for mom and dad - end users that don’t understand the dangers of side-loading applications from what Android calls “unknown sources.” If you’re not familiar with trojans, they are the most common method of infecting end users with malware or viruses. A user is browsing the web, sees an attractive link and clicks it. They download an application they think will help them or their PC, and in reality it’s a virus. By blocking every app except those from the Microsoft App Store, trojans become impossible to transmit to the device. While this may sound brilliant, there are some challenges Microsoft will have to overcome.
Have you browsed the Microsoft App Store lately? It’s barren, when compared to Google’s Play Store or Apple’s App Store. Yet the library of compatible Windows applications is actually vast. Anyone can create a Windows application and put it on their website for free distribution. Windows 10 may warn you before you install it, but a quick click to bypass that warning and away you go. Some companies make their fortune on creating a single Windows application that acts as a distribution method for thousands of other applications. They are in themselves, secure app stores. For example, Valve’s immensely popular Steam platform. It’s the #1 way to buy and play games on Windows. At this point, Steam is not supported in 10 S. That’s a problem for gamers - no doubt. But gamers, as a whole, don’t care about Steam. They care about their games and will play them wherever they can find them. Since the dawn of Steam we’ve seen great competitors such as Good Old Games (GOG Galaxy), which is DRM-free, Green Man Gaming and Origin. Alternatives exist because users care about the games, not the platform. If Microsoft can figure out how to get modern games onto their app store, they’ll grow the 10 S installed base to a point where it’s relevant. What will likely happen is Microsoft will release an XBOX laptop with 10 S and it’ll be capable of running XBOX games. That would be fantastic but we need more than just Microsoft’s games.
So gamers and professional content creators drive Windows 10 sales, but educators and students do not. They’re buying Chromebooks. This is the market Microsoft wants to hit with 10 S. They can’t do it with a $999 Surface Laptop and I’m excited to see what 3rd parties come up with. Lenovo, ASUS, Acer, HP, etc. They all have Chromebooks at the $199 level. I would expect their 10 S machines to be $49-$99 more.
Most corporations use Windows. I’m not in IT so I can’t comment on the viability of 10 S in a corporate network/VPN type environment. I can tell you that as a sales leader I would absolutely prefer my team use 10 S. In fact, the beautiful design of the Surface Laptop is the perfect cherry on top of 10 S. As a package I can trust my team is not littering the laptop with untrustworthy applications. Perhaps they can even survive on Windows Defender instead of the CPU taxing anti-virus software that we use. Furthermore, they’ll look professional and astute walking into a meeting with the aluminium-rich Surface Laptop.
You may be asking, “why hasn’t Apple done this? They already have a great app store and pretty laptops.” Who knows! My supposition is Apple would prefer to divide their market into casual and professional users. The casual buy iOS powered iPads and iPad Pros (I know…), while the professional users buy MacBooks and iMacs. It’s working - why mess with it?
When it comes time for my dad to replace his Chromebook, it’ll be a laptop powered by Windows 10 S. It’s more familiar to him and all he really wants to do is get onto Facebook, watch Netflix and play Solitaire. 10S has the ability to be a home-run for Microsoft and consumers.