Too many Windows 10 Editions

Dear Microsoft,

Please reduce the number of Windows 10 Editions.  Please make the platform more consistent across the editions.  Today, you have Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 10 Education, Windows 10 Pro Eduction, Windows 10 Enterprise LTSB, Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 10 IoT, Windows 10 S, Windows 10 Team, Windows 10 Pro for Workstations.  Then there are the N and KN variants for Europe and South Korea.

How about this?  Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise, and Windows 10 IoT.  That is it.  4 editions are plenty. This covers home users, home super users, corporate users, and devices/embedded.

All of the editions have the following modes.  S mode locks Windows down (can only get apps from the Microsoft Store).  LTSB mode will stop updates, except security patches, disable UWP applications (if you must – I still think this is wrong).  Exclude multimedia, making it a separate Microsoft Store application(s) so N and KN can go away.

This will make your product more competitive, easier to support, and provide more value to users.  This will help IT folks talk to regular users about their needs and help them make choices.  This will help regular users when purchasing equipment.


Struggling to keep up

Windows 10 S

Think of Windows 10 S as the S-Edition of Windows 10 Pro.  Meaning, it is Windows 10 Pro, but locked down.  So it is a specific secured configuration.  When in S mode, it will only run applications that come from the Microsoft Store or are preinstalled.  So it won’t run a lot of applications, including Visual Studio, most Adobe applications, Google Chrome, many printer driver applications (although many printers will work, potentially with limited functionality), etc., until they are available in the Microsoft Store.

Windows 10 S can be unlocked and become a regularly functioning Windows 10 Pro through the Windows Store.  If a fee is required ($49 for Windows Pro), it is managed and collected with the Windows Store (or Microsoft Store for Education, which allows Windows S to be unlocked to Windows 10 Pro Edition for Education customers).  A valid Windows 10 Pro product key also works.  Once you switch to Windows 10 Pro, you cannot switch back to Windows 10 S.

The S mode is available for Windows 10 Enterprise and will be available for Windows 10 Home in the future.  So why use this S mode?  It will be less expensive, perhaps to compete with Google OS devices.  It will be more secure.  It will be more strict in that applications can’t just throw in startup applications that run in the background.  These consume battery, decrease reliability, and consume resources (CPU, RAM, etc.).

While S mode doesn’t allow joining Windows Active Directory, it does support Windows Azure Directory joining.  BitLocker is available as long as the underlying Windows 10 OS supports it (such as Pro, Enterprise).

This edition might drive developers towards PWA (Progressive Web Apps) or UWP, although it is unlikely.  Windows 2016 Server doesn’t support UWP (for running or developing).  While still much better than Windows RT, Windows 10 S hasn’t really taken off.  Low cost educational devices are not yet available.  It is ahead of its time in being overly aggressive in not supporting key non-store applications (e.g. Google Chrome), and there isn’t any development strategy in place that is obvious (inside of Microsoft or with partners/vendors/enterprises).  Many printer drivers with add-on utility programs simply won’t work and cannot be installed.

However, users who can take advantage of Windows 10 S, such as those that can find their apps in the Windows Store or use a web browser (well, really only Edge) to access their information, can benefit from additional security, less startup applications (no Windows Services, no scheduled tasks, no applications in the startup folder, etc.) which will speed up the experience and reduce CPU/RAM drag, and increase potentially battery life (presuming you aren’t just watching videos all day).

How does this compare to the iPad?  One could draw a lot of parallels with a reduced operating system (iOS versus MacOS and Windows 10 S versions Windows 10 Pro).  But it really depends how you use your devices.  Many could use either device if all they need is email, browser, Skype, Netflix, and so forth.  The Apple Store has a lot more applications,  And higher quality.  The browser experience may be mixed with mobile Safari versus Edge.  Windows 10 S has a mouse.  Windows 10 S can be changed to Windows 10 Pro and “unlocked” for the full Windows experience.  Windows 10 S has a much better Microsoft Office application experience.

In the end, time will tell and choice is good.  Microsoft is ahead of the game with Windows 10 S.  With Progressive Web Apps on the horizon, the potential for improved Microsoft Store apps, and a locked down system that feels more agile, there is a lot of possibilities to benefit users.

Windows 10 on ARM

Microsoft is releasing Windows 10 on the ARM platform.  It will start with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with devices initially being released by HP and Asus.  They will come loaded with Windows 10S, with a free upgrade (for a limited time after purchase) to Windows 10 Pro if desired.  Windows 10S supports built-in and Windows Store native 32-bit (x86) applications and UWP apps.

Due to the nature of the Snapdragon processor, it will support cellular connectivity and gigabit Wi-Fi.

All of this allows for significant battery life and brings the mobile device world into the traditional computing (e.g. laptop) world.  In short, it gives consumers more choice with another device dimension.  Through emulation, it can run native x86 Windows applications as well as natively run Windows UWP applications.  It appears there is no x64 emulator.  For the most part, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Specific top x86 applications are being tested (such as Google Chrome, Adobe Products, Microsoft Office, etc.  Hopefully (hint, hint Microsoft!), Visual Studio 2017 will be included in the mix to allow .NET Core and UWP apps to be developed.  While many, if not most, developers will still favor Intel-based processors for maximum device coverage (they could, for example, run Windows 10S in a Virtual Machine), there is a segment of the market that could benefit from a long battery life, less expensive device.  This includes students who can be influenced to make a career in the development industry.

Exciting times!

Windows 2016 without UWP

Microsoft would like greater UWP (Universal Windows Platform) acceptance.  Right now, only Windows 10 supports UWP.  One operating system out of many present.  Not so universal.

While it may be understandable to not go back and support older Operating Systems, such as Windows 8.1, 8, and 7, Microsoft has continued to bypass Windows 2016 (which was released after Windows 10).  Developers use Windows 2016.  Developers create UWP apps.  There is a desire to make UWP more accepted, but it doesn’t support the latest server OS.  The reasoning given is that UWP support is often updated, which is counter to server OSes.  Yet there is the push to use the most secure and fastest browser, which is Edge and not Internet Explorer 11 (talk about sending contradictory messages).

Windows Server 2016 only supports Internet Explorer from Microsoft (as well as Chrome, Firefox, Opera, etc.).  Yep, still scratching my head on this one.  And yes, still not developing UWP apps because of it.