Opinion by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Windows 10 S is crippleware

We now know more about Windows 10 S — and the more we learn, the more idiotic it looks. No Chrome? No third-party browsers at all? Rewrite all apps? Ha!

us 10s
SPUI (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

Opinion by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

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The best thing I can say about Windows 10 S is that it’s not Windows RT. RT ran on ARM processors, so you couldn’t run any of your existing applications on it. At least with Windows 10 S, you can run a few older Windows apps: Evernote, Slack, Photoshop Elements and Autodesk Sketch. But serious programs, such as Microsoft Office? Nope. Full Photoshop? Hardly! Full Autodesk? Don’t make me laugh! Heck, you can’t even run Office 365 on it — at least not yet, anyway.

This is not a small office/home office PC operating system.

So tell me, why would you ever want to run Windows 10 S?

Microsoft says its Windows 10 S target audience is schools. The idea is that Windows 10 S, which is a crippled version of Windows 10, is ideal to protect kids with a managed environment. It’s meant to be deployed with Microsoft’s Intune cloud-based device management program, using Azure Active Directory (AD) for authentication and Bitlocker and secure boot to provide security and a nearly zero-config experience.

There’s only one problem with this plan. If you want an inexpensive laptop that’s easy to manage, is simple to do authentication on and has excellent security, you’ve already got one. It’s called a Chromebook.

Chromebooks are great. They work well — and that’s the real reason for Windows 10 S. Chromebooks are eating Microsoft’s lunch on the low end. Chromebook shipments grew by 38% in 2016 compared to 2015. This, mind you, in a market where overall PC sales — that is Windows sales — declined.

Microsoft seems to think customers want Windows 10 crippleware. Crippled how?

First, Windows 10 S only runs built-in applications or programs from the Windows Store. It will not — I repeat, not — run any of your existing 32- or 64-bit software. If a program isn’t written in Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform (UWP), it will not run on Windows 10 S.

You can convert your existing applications to Windows 10 S via Desktop Bridge. But I wonder how many developers will bother? My guess is not many. Application conversion is never easy, often costly, and there’s no proof that there will be any Windows 10 S market to make it worth the time and cost.

Second, Windows 10 S will not be running Google Chrome or any other third-party web browser. Oh, technically it could be done. When it comes to porting software programs, browsers are pretty easy. But Microsoft has no intention of letting anyone compete with it on Windows 10 S. I quote from the Windows Store Policies:

10.2 Security
Your app must not jeopardize or compromise user security, or the security or functionality of the device, system or related systems.
Apps that browse the web must use the appropriate HTML and JavaScript engines provided by the Windows Platform.

A developer who tried anyway with a Chromium-based desktop browser was told by Microsoft, with I presume a straight face, that only “true” UWP applications were secure enough for Windows 10 S.

This is rich coming from the company that competes with Adobe for the title of most insecure software vendor of all time. WannaCry ransomware is running over Windows systems around the world. Sure, the malware makers get the real blame for that, and Microsoft isn’t wrong when it says the NSA is responsible. But this killer bug springs from bad Windows networking code that’s over a decade old.

No, if I want a secure desktop operating system I’ll use Linux or it’s easy-to-use son, ChromeOS. Windows never has been secure and never will be. That is not mindless Microsoft bashing; it is the voice of experience born of diminished expectations. Ever notice how Microsoft always says the newest version of Windows is more secure than the last one and then most of the same security bugs hit the entire Windows family?

So, Windows 10 S? Please. I need to get work done, not indulge Microsoft in a fantasy that it can control the horizontal and vertical of personal computing again.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was the cutting-edge PC operating system, 300bps was a fast Internet connection, WordStar was the state-of-the-art word processor, and we liked it!

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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