The rumored Windows 10 Cloud is here in the form of Windows 10 S, and there were no big surprises. It’s a version that’s dedicated to the Windows Store, to the exclusion of traditional desktop apps—that is, unless you’re motivated to pay a $49 and take the security and performance risks. Microsoft says you shouldn’t, though. (Official Microsoft blog post | FAQ | press release)
Since this is going to be the talk of the EUC space during the summer conference season, I thought we should weigh in.
When news broke, Gabe and I were texting, and he said "This is all a big, giant MEH to me." Since that's not a very useful quote in an article, I asked him for clarification. He wrote:
“I'm trying hard to look at this separately from Windows RT, but I can't get that bad taste out of my mouth. If nothing else, Windows 10 S will answer the question, "Why did WinRT fail?" Was it because you couldn't run regular Windows apps? If that's the case, Windows 10 S won't be successful. If it's because WinRT was based on Windows 8 or because there were so few apps in the Windows Store, then times have changed enough to give Windows 10 S a fighting chance.
“Assuming there are enough apps that level the playing field with Chromebooks, it could make a dent in that space. I'm not sure there's a huge enterprise play (though I sense a "Could a cheap Windows 10 S device make the ultimate thin client?" article coming), but as time goes by and UEM picks up steam, perhaps it can catch on there, too.
“So basically I'm in a wait-and-see mode for this. I'll keep an open mind, but I want to see how good the execution of the platform is before going nuts celebrating its arrival.”
It seems that it’s accurate to say that I’m a bit more into all of this than he is.
I like the Windows 10 S idea, as I wrote back when it was in the rumor stage. I wholeheartedly think it has advantages as a Chromebook competitor, a thin client, and as a low or mid-range laptop, and of course I like all the MDM and modern management aspects. If Chrome ever shows up in the Windows Store, that will be the icing on the cake for prosumers, but in the meantime iOS has shown us that most users can live with a built-in default browser.
Real Office in the Windows Store via the esktop Bridge should eliminate the issues people have with the current Store versions, and this is a vote of confidence in Desktop Bridge technology. (Here’s Tim Mangan’s explainer.) And even though I think Windows could be successful in the future even if the Store stays stagnant, all of this is a step in the right direction.
As far as comparisons to Windows RT go, I think that there are so many things that are different with Windows 10 S that the comparison barely applies. It’s much more manageable, it will support real Office apps, it runs on x86, and most importantly, it’s not Windows 8!
This brings us to Windows 10 on ARM, but that’s still a ways down the road, and all signs indicate that processor architecture and Windows version will be independent variables.
Now for the Surface Laptop... eh.. I think of it like the Chromebook Pixel. I’ll be happy to borrow a demo unit, but it’s stuck in between cheap devices and nice, full-featured laptops, and really just a showpiece for the concept. I still expect to see a few at VMworld, though.
The wider device realm
Windows 10 S, Windows on ARM, and Office in the Windows Store are all good news for the future of Windows devices. But let’s zoom out and look at what else is going on.
Chromebooks with Android apps are coming—for now, I say “meh.”
Neverware, a Chrome OS alternative Gabe wrote about, could have a lot of legs in the enterprise, so we’re following that.
Then there’s Apple’s campaign to position the iPad as a laptop replacement. iPads actually have a few distinct advantages because the enterprise has been learning how to deal with iOS for a decade, while Windows 10 S (managed with MDM) is brand new. If Apple makes another good round of multitasking improvements in iOS 11 and adjusts the iPad hardware lineup right, then we could really get somewhere. (And of course macOS is doing well in the enterprise these days, even if people are frustrated with the hardware options.)
So there’s a lot going on with alternative devices these days. Sure, 80 or 90% of the enterprise is probably going to keep treating their laptops the same way they always have (hopefully bringing in various modern management techniques as they migrate to Windows 10). The good news is that thanks to EMM and cloud apps being much more settled in, all these new devices should be a lot easier handle than back when BYOD first foisted iOS and Android on IT.