Last year, Microsoft announced a new Windows 10 SKU called Windows 10 S, specifically aimed at educators and powering its very own Surface Laptop.
Windows 10 S is essentially the same operating system like Windows 10 Pro, with one major change: it’s restricted to the Microsoft Store, so except for the apps available for download here, users can’t download and install anything else. This means no Win32 software, so the software package basically comes down to UWP apps and core Windows 10 apps.
Recently, Microsoft announced that Windows 10 S would be renamed to Windows 10 S Mode, as it thinks this moniker makes more sense and eliminates the confusion that the original name created. Furthermore, the S Mode will be available for all Windows 10 SKUs, which means that pretty much anyone can enable it and thus restrict apps to the Microsoft Store.
Previously, Windows 10 S allowed the upgrade to Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Pro only, so Microsoft is trying to improve its offering in a way that aligns with its strategy for the entire market and targets more users at the same time.
Windows 10 S Mode might not sound too appealing at first for power users, but it is, in fact, a very clever product that Microsoft is launching to complete its operating system portfolio. It’s not only targeting the education sector, which Microsoft itself touted as the main one to benefit from such a mode, but also many other Windows 10 users who don’t need Win32 software.
“Blocking Win32 software installation is a good thing.”
Basically, by restricting the operating system to the Microsoft Store, Microsoft makes Windows 10 a more secure platform, simply because malware can’t compromise a system. You can’t download executables and other files typically used for spreading malware, and documents or other malicious content that can reach your system on different channels, like on mail, has a very limited to no impact at all.
Microsoft itself says Windows 10 S Mode is the most secure Windows 10 version that you can get, and this restriction is the one that makes this possible.
For many of us, not being able to install Win32 program is a deal breaker. This is the reason we don’t even consider ever running Windows 10 S Mode, especially given the current state of the Microsoft Store and the lack of apps that more or less still exists.
But there are many people who’d rather use a Microsoft Store-limited Windows 10 version without any problem. Many more than you’d think, actually.
My parents, for instance, use their computer to browse the web, read the news, send emails, and occasional video calls on Skype, which means that they really don’t need anything else than Windows 10 with S Mode enabled. Microsoft Edge, the built-in Mail app, and Skype are the apps they use the most, though I’d say they spend most of the time in the browser.
“It's a simple choice for people who want to keep it simple.”
This is exactly the kind of user profile that Windows 10 with S Mode enabled is going after: users who spend most of the time in the browser. Microsoft has put a lot of effort into getting Microsoft Edge right, and even though it still doesn’t match Google Chrome’s functionality, it does come with the essential feature package, the most popular extensions, and advanced security.
At the same time, these are also the users who’d benefit from enhanced OS security and who don’t mind not being able to install Win32 software. How many times did it happen to repair someone’s computer only to discover that they installed malware with apps they didn’t even need when the only thing they were trying to do was browsing the web?
Windows 10 with S Mode is a more secure and simplified operating system for people who like to keep it simple. Why have all that complex functionality that typically comes with Windows 10 Home and Pro when you actually don’t need it? Not to mention that having advanced functionality that people don’t know how to use could expose them and their data to hackers.
This is why Windows 10 with S Mode is a clever move from Microsoft. And the company doesn’t want to stop here. It’s believed that the company wants to push this concept even further with Windows Polaris, a lightweight Windows 10 version that would also be restricted to the Microsoft Store, but in addition, it would also come without all the Win32 legacy components. This means it’d be lighter, faster, and even more secure.
As I see it right now, Windows 10 S Mode isn’t a product that nobody needs. It’s a product that people don’t know they need. Yet.