Microsoft’s new Windows 10 S hopes to take on Chrome OS

Windows 10 S is targeted at classrooms, and top PC makers will ship low-cost laptops with the OS in summer

p1240491 19
Martyn Williams/IDG

Microsoft hopes a new Windows 10 operating system called Windows 10 S will usurp Chromebooks’ domination in education and provide a better way for students to learn.

The new version of Windows, announced today, is targeted at teachers, students, artists, and creators. It’s got features very similar to that of Chrome OS in Chromebooks, which dominates the education market.

It has a traditional Windows 10 desktop look, and will only run applications downloaded from the Windows App store. That means all applications will be verified and secure.

Windows 10 acts like a container that will run secure apps. A version of Microsoft’s Office Suite will also come to Windows 10 S.

The container model is similar to that of Chrome OS, which can use only apps available in the Chrome Web Store. Chromebooks populate classrooms in the U.S. and Sweden, and their adoption is growing in other parts of the world.

Acer, Dell, Asus, HP, and other PC makers will offer education PCs with the new OS starting at $189. The PCs will be available this summer. The OS is free for all schools, and Office 365 is also free for teachers and education providers.

Until now, education providers like the University of Phoenix—which is a big user of Surface tablets—were mainly using the regular Windows OS. But with Chromebook adoption growing, it remains to be seen if Windows 10 S could be a challenger.

The OS will be easy to use, it’ll be easy to log into, and apps will be tuned to students to promote learning, Microsoft claims. There is new content for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education for the OS. Microsoft also showed off a Arduino-based robot, created as part of a STEM lesson plan. The Windows 10 S OS will also support Minecraft Education Edition, which is popular with students.

Windows 10 S will run any browser available in the Windows Store, but Microsoft Edge has an advantage over others, said Windows chief Terry Myerson. During research, students can highlight parts of webpages and share them with friends. That will encourage collaborative learning, and the Microsoft Teams software will be the hub for collaborative learning, he said.

A Windows 10 S PC can be easily set up, Microsoft says. It involves setting up user accounts on USB keys, which can be plugged into any PC with the OS. The USB key is detected by Windows and in less than 30 seconds, the PC is then set up to the specifications in the USB key.

Related: