Microsoft Puts Bullet In Windows 10 S OEM SKU, Shifts To Optional S Mode

In May of last year, Microsoft introduced Windows 10 S as a dedicated fork of Windows 10 to combat low-cost Chromebooks running Chrome OS. Unlike other versions of Windows 10, the "S" variant is only capable of executing Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps available from the Windows Store. However, Microsoft is adjusting its strategy and dropping the Windows 10 S SKU.

In its place, Microsoft will make a new "S Mode" available to OEMs across Windows 10 Home, Pro and Education SKUs. While running in S Mode, Windows 10 will "act" just like Windows 10 S, limiting users to running UWP apps. Windows 10 Home S and Education S users would be able to upgrade to Windows 10 Home for free. Those running Windows 10 Pro S would be able to upgrade to the full-blown Windows 10 Pro (sans UWP restrictions) for $49. Windows 10 Pro S will be limited to Core, Value, Entry and Small Tablet models.

Windows 10 S Devices

It seems a bit confusing at first, but Microsoft is working with OEMs to ease the transition for customers. In the end, this also seems like a more palatable solution for customers who would typically buy low-cost machines that previously came with Windows 10 S installed. They can get Windows 10 Home for free (if they so choose) instead of needing to pay for Windows 10 Pro (which would likely be overkill) to gain full Windows app compatibility.

According to Thurrott, 60 percent of customers that purchased a machine with Windows 10 S installed actually stayed with the operating system. However, for those that did make the switch from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro, 60 percent of those customers did so within 24 hours of first booting the machine. It should be noted that the "premium" Surface Laptop was not included in these statistics.

"Microsoft says that there will be AV/Security apps in S mode," writes Thurrott, pointing out another peculiarity about this shift in strategy.  "Does this mean that traditional AV software from third-party companies will run in S mode? If so, doesn’t this break the entire premise of what S mode is supposed to be and undercuts the performance aspect of the mode?"

We hope that Microsoft can provide some clarity on all of these changes in the coming weeks, because all we have to go on now are leaks and speculation.