Update

Windows 10 S review: Microsoft's OS for students is hard to love

Windows 10 S may be Microsoft's answer to Google's Chrome OS, but it's a poor introduction to the Windows ecosystem. (Updated to note that the Windows 10 S upgrade deadline has been extended to March 2018.)

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Because they’re limited in their choice of software, it’s likely that most university students will quickly switch over to Windows 10 Pro. Meanwhile, Microsoft seems to think that elementary and middle school administrators will be willing to wait until cheaper Windows 10 S hardware finally rolls out, then shift lesson plans designed for Chromebooks onto Windows machines. That seems unlikely. Within the K-12 environment, Windows 10 S seems like a 2018 play at best.

back to school apps Windows 10 S Microsoft Mark Hachman / IDG

Microsoft needs to do more work touting the education value of the Windows Store, and educational apps. (Hint: Netflix isn't one.)

Schools and teachers are always on the lookout for cheap, entertaining ways to supplement their own words and lectures with compelling ways to engage students. Computers, whether Chromebooks or Windows-powered machines, are a naturally enthralling way to do that, and capabilities like Windows Ink offer possibilities Chromebooks do not. Give kids enough to do, and they’ll happily remain inside the walled garden of the Store. Still, I’m a little skeptical that the company’s on the right track when the second app within Microsoft’s “back-to-school” section of the Store is Spotify, and the fourth is Netflix. 

I don’t think Microsoft has necessarily failed with Windows 10 S. But it should be handed back to the company with a scrawled note: “Must do better.” 

Updated on Sept. 5 to note that the deadline to upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro has been extended to March 31, 2018.

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At a Glance
  • Windows 10 S tries to minimize security risks by restricting app installations to the Windows Store. But the lack of app flexibility and available hardware significantly limits its appeal.

    Pros

    • If you can use Windows 10, you can use Windows 10 S.
    • Windows Store's app selection continually improves.

    Cons

    • Lack of apps chafe -- no other Web browsers allowed
    • Incompatibilities with some existing hardware is a real gotcha
    • Besides the Surface Laptop, there's a lack of hardware
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