Microsoft just introduced Windows 10 S, a new version of the operating system aimed at students of all ages that promises higher performance, better battery life, and tighter security.
Windows 10 S, which Microsoft unveiled at a Tuesday event in New York City, isn’t intended for existing PCs. Instead, expect Windows 10 S to debut on cheaper laptops and tablets from PC manufacturers that want to offer more affordable computers with more bang for their buck.
The S stands for “streamlined, significant performance, and security,” Microsoft Windows boss Terry Myerson said onstage at Microsoft’s event. Myerson said the S also stands for the “soul” of the operating system.
This new version of Windows 10 is a direct shot at Chrome OS, Google’s lightweight, browser-based operating system, which has led cheaper Chromebooks to unseat Apple as the No. 2 player in the global education market, behind Microsoft Windows, in only about five years.
But the perks of Windows 10 S come with a trade-off: You’ll be able to download and run apps from only the Windows Store, the app store built into Windows 10. That means, at the very least, that you’re stuck with Microsoft Edge, the browser built into Windows 10, since Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox aren’t (currently) in the Windows Store.
The full desktop versions of Microsoft Office are coming to the Windows Store “soon,” Myerson said.
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However, this approach has some ancillary benefits. Because Windows 10 S won’t let you run any software that hasn’t been vetted by Microsoft for the Windows Store, the chance of getting infected by nasty viruses or malware is greatly reduced. That’s a big deal for schools – and anyone nontechnical.
And the inability to install outside software also greatly reduces the amount of stuff running in the background. That means that, much like Google’s Chromebooks, Windows 10 S-powered PCs can boot up quickly and get snappier performance with less slowdown.
Finally, Windows 10 S has one big thing that Chromebooks don’t: If you decide the whole Windows Store thing is too limiting, you can pay a relatively small fee to upgrade to a full version of Windows 10 Pro, at which point it becomes your normal, everyday Windows computer – although you theoretically would lose out on better battery life and guaranteed higher performance.
Laptops running Windows 10 S will be available later this year, starting at $229, from a who’s who of PC manufacturers. Those new PCs will come with Office 365 for education and a subscription to Minecraft: Education Edition.