Microsoft's Windows 10 S attempts to retake the classroom

Promising a more stable and safe experience, the new version of its PC software will come with heavy restrictions.

Aloysius Low Senior Editor
Aloysius Low is a Senior Editor at CNET covering mobile and Asia. Based in Singapore, he loves playing Dota 2 when he can spare the time and is also the owner-minion of two adorable cats.
Aloysius Low
3 min read

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at the company's education-focused event.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Your kid's next computer may say it's powered by Microsoft's software, but it may not be the Windows you're used to.

If it's running Windows 10 S, Microsoft's new software announced Tuesday at an education-focused event in New York, it'll feature more security and faster load times. It'll also start faster, its battery life will be better and its performance, Microsoft says, won't degrade over time.

But those improvements come at a cost: You'll only be able to run apps from Microsoft's app store. You won't be able to install your own apps.

The reason for this strict new rule is that these apps Microsoft offers through its store have been "tested and verified," unlike ones that come from other websites, said Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's corporate vice president of operating systems.

Watch this: Microsoft hopes classrooms welcome Windows 10 S

The new version of Windows is Microsoft's attempt to take back the classroom from rivals Google and Apple , who have steadily encroached on its turf with the iPad and Chromebooks. The latter, which run Google's Chrome OS, is designed primarily to surf the web, rather than to run all sorts of apps. This simplicity has attracted school administrators hoping to do away with the hassle of managing large fleets of PCs.

Belfiore became particularly interested in education-focused efforts after joining a 100-day "Summer at Sea" cruise ship that tours the world while hosting educators and undergrads onboard. When he got back, he signed up to help head Microsoft's education efforts.

"My timing was great," he added.

There are more people who could use Windows 10 S than schools though, said Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft's corporate vice president for its Windows and devices group. Small business owners who don't want the hassle of managing computers could benefit too.

Even family members who need just a basic, secure PC could be attracted to this. "They happen to always click on that wrong link," he said.

And unlike Chromebooks, these machines will still run Windows, meaning they can support optional touchscreens, pens and the ever-popular Minecraft game.

Windows 10 S will be available this summer, ahead of the next school year. The software will power PCs that are as cheap as $189, according to Terry Myerson, head of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft. Partners such as Acer, Asus, Samsung and Toshiba will make Windows 10 S PCs.


Get ready for a bevy of new Windows 10 S PCs.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The new Windows 10 S software will be easier for administrators to manage, Microsoft said. It also works with new features being added to the Microsoft Teams software found in the company's Office 365 productivity suite.

Success or failure of Microsoft's new walled-garden approach will depend on its curated apps, and the company says it will be making sure the top used apps will be available immediately, while an additional 200 more apps are on the way. Games such as Quantum Break, Forza Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4 will also run on Windows 10 S.

Teams will now have features designed for education, including classroom chat groups, assignment submissions as well as the ability to create sub-chat groups for students. Microsoft added that Teams will also feature moderation controls for teachers, allowing them to delete offensive posts as well as mute students who misbehave.

Other educational features include the ability for teachers to set quizzes, assignment due dates as well as allowing school administrators to automatically sync enrollment data to automatically create and manage Teams classroom groups.

"It's a really nice complete way for a teacher to handle all aspects of the class," Belfiore said.

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