Microsoft released Windows 10 S earlier this year. It will come ready installed mostly on lower-cost computers along with the Microsoft Surface laptop.
It sits more or less alongside the Google Chrome OS and Chromebooks, and works in much the same way, with similar limitations.
Windows 10 S in a Nutshell
Although Windows 10 S is a full, functioning version of Windows 10, with a user interface that Windows Home and Pro users will find identical, there are some major differences behind the scenes.
Microsoft claims the S in the name doesn’t stand for anything in particular. It could reflect this version’s faster speed, its enhanced security and its simplicity. Others claim it could also stand for ‘store’, since Windows 10 S machines won’t run programmes or applications other than those downloaded from the Windows Store.
While other versions of Windows 10 can run any third party software, this isn’t the case with Windows 10 S. If it’s not in the Windows Store, you can’t run it. This includes iTunes or full versions of the Creative Suite from Adobe, including Photoshop. That’s not to say Microsoft forbids third party apps, only that Microsoft must approve them. Developers must package them as Windows apps, then once in the Windows Store they’re available to Windows 10 S machines.
Keeping security in mind, there are other built-in limitations. Windows 10 S won’t run anything that depends on command-lines, shells and consoles, ruling out Linux Window 10 apps.
Games selection, for those who like to play (we know you’re out there) is also limited to those in the Microsoft Store.
So What About Businesses?
There are pros and cons for businesses who’d like to consider running Windows 10 S.
Dean Spencer, Eitex MD, explains, “Installing applications ONLY via the Microsoft Store is too limiting for many businesses, but using Windows 10 S also greatly increases security.”
The enhanced security, which Microsoft points out could be one explanation for the ‘S’ in the name, is achieved via containerisation. Basically, apps run in secure containers which means they can’t access other areas of the computer, such as your registry, which is a prime target area for viruses.
Containerised operation also helps to prevent the computer slowing down over time, since apps can’t generate loads of processes that insist on running at every boot up. Windows 10 S should always run just as fast as it does straight out of the box.
Some of the downsides of Windows 10 S might actually make it attractive for some business applications. The enhanced security on laptops, along with fast boot times, long battery life and simplified management are all plus points when you depend on mobile communications or data access. Examples include sales people or those in hospitality, retail or healthcare. There are others, of course — any industry where workers rely on web apps to get the job done.
So should you hurry to incorporate Windows 10 S machines in your enterprise? The answer is, ‘it all depends what you want to use it for’. If you intend to use it as a secure mobile alternative (it can join an on premise domain via Azure Active Directory and managed via Intune) it might fit the bill.
Don’t expect to run an entire enterprise on it though. That’s not its function.
As Dean Spencer comments, “The Windows 10 S operating system is impractical to use for many businesses, but watch this space. More applications are being added to Microsoft Store daily.”