Microsoft’s Windows Phone was many things to many people. Some saw a fresh look at handling information on a mobile device and a way to break out of the ‘app silo’ of information. Others saw a last-ditch attempt to hold back Android and iOS and a lost chance to build on the US success of Windows Mobile… But almost everyone agrees that one of the biggest issues was the lack of third-party applications. As the other platforms picked up a critical mass of apps, Windows Phone was left behind.
So why is Microsoft risking the same fate with the ‘Windows Store apps only’ policy on Windows 10 S? Why is Microsoft bothering with Windows 10 S at all? I think it’s about setting a long-term goal.
While it looks and acts like the full-blown desk bound version of Windows 10, Windows 10 S is a much more limited operating system compared to the parent. But it’s also an operating system that is going to be updated as Microsoft works towards a distant goal.
The most notable machine with Windows 10 S is the Surface Laptop, but that machine also comes with an offer of a free (but one way) upgrade to Windows 10. Unlike Windows Phone, users are not going to be left in a restricted system. If they need to break out they can. That gets Windows 10 S out into the market, but it doesn’t leave power users with a crippled machine.
Windows 10 S is being pushed heavily in the educational environment. This is an area where Windows 10 S has many key traits that makes it attractive. The locked down browser, fully encrypted disk, the ability to only run apps from the Windows Store, and Windows Defender looking over the machine offers a secure environment. That will also have an appeal to the Enterprise market as well where secure machines are in heavy demand.
As for bringing developers into the system, Microsoft would love developers to use the Universal Windows Platform app system, which gets apps in the Windows Store and available on both Windows 10 and Windows 10 S (and arguably with a little push, Windows 10 for Mobile). But it will also be looking at the potential growth in progressive web apps and reminding developers that wrapping up a progressive web app in a standalone Edge web browser window is a very easy process.