Windows 10 Cloud hands on: An edition of Windows for Store apps only

Windows 10 Wallpaper
Windows 10 Wallpaper (Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows 10 Cloud is an upcoming edition of Windows 10 that's aimed at low-end devices that take on the likes of Chromebooks. It's not an edition of Windows you'll be able to buy on store shelves, and will, for the most part be sold preloaded onto new low-end devices with the Creators Update.

One of the reasons why this edition of Windows is being sold on low-end devices is that it's limited in where you can download and install apps. Similarly to Windows RT, Windows 10 Cloud can only download apps from the Windows Store, meaning you'll be unable to install apps from outside the Store.

Yes, that means unless Google decides to put Chrome in the Windows Store, you can't use Google Chrome on Windows 10 Cloud. That's a big deal for some people as many users swear by apps like Chrome. But on Windows 10 Cloud, the goal is security and performance, meaning no apps from outside the Store.

It's also worth noting that although the name implies there'll be a heavy tie in with cloud services, there aren't actually any additional cloud-features outside of what Windows 10 already offers. It's essentially identical to any other edition of Windows 10, with the only difference being that you're locked to the Windows Store. It also has a slightly different wallpaper, which is nice.

Before you panic and freak out about being locked to the Store, keep in mind that this isn't an edition of Windows that won't be rolling out as an update, and it won't ever be pre-loaded onto gaming PCs, ultrabooks, or other mid-to-high end devices. It's literally for low-end or lightweight devices shipping with the Creators Update, where being locked to the Windows Store isn't so bad.

I've been using Windows 10 Cloud over the last few days, and I honestly like this edition of Windows. I've been using it on a Surface 3, and for me, the Windows Store has basically everything I need. It has Slack, it has Evernote, it has Twitter, it has everything I'd be willing to use on a device like the Surface 3.

I'm not a Google Chrome user, but even if I was, I'd much rather use Microsoft Edge on a low-end device anyway. Chrome is heavy on performance, and on these low-end devices using a browser that's less resource intensive is always beneficial for performance improvements and battery life.

What's interesting is that on Windows 10 Cloud, even built in apps like Regedit, CMD and PowerShell are blocked. This is likely to help with keeping everything secure, and forcing users out of being able to edit registry settings and change system functions.

The Windows Store on Windows 10 is far more accepting of different app types than the Windows Store on the old Windows RT. Developers are now free to put not only UWP, but Win32 apps in the Store too. This means apps like Slack and Evernote, both incredibly powerful Win32 apps, can be downloaded from the Store and work just fine on Windows 10 Cloud.

Hopefully down the line we'll see more developers putting their apps in the Store, whether they be Win32 or UWP isn't a concern to me. Again, on low-end devices you're not going to be running apps like Premiere Pro, so the Windows Store as it currently stands is actually pretty bearable, especially on Windows 10 Cloud.

You've got to remember as well, this edition of Windows is aimed at devices that'll be taking on Chromebooks, meaning the majority of users buying a Windows Cloud machine will be people who use the web browser for a lot of what they do. Email, YouTube, Twitter, Shopping, and basically everything else can all be done via Edge.

The Windows Store is just a bonus, especially compared to Chrome Store which houses mostly extensions and a few lightweight apps. The Windows Store can be home to full, powerful apps fit for desktops, so this puts these new Windows Cloud devices at an advantage.

The question is, will someone interested in a Chromebook want to use a Windows 10 Cloud device instead? Microsoft is expected to announce Windows 10 Cloud alongside the Creators Update this April. In the meantime, would you rather a Windows 10 Cloud machine over a Chromebook?

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

  • I can definitely see myself getting a new W10 Cloud device for my children. Thanks for the article and video!
  • "I can definitely see myself getting a new W10 Cloud device for my children." I hope your kids don't play games, especially via Steam!
  • There are plenty of games in the Windows store
  • Nice joke :D Comparing steam with WIndows Store..
  • Why would you be so ignorant as to compare the Steam Store vs. Windows Store? That has nothing to do with any of this. I am more worried about safety and productivity than what games they play. If they want to play games, we have other devices in our house they could use.
  • Im not an Ignonart. It is you who is ignorant towards the truth.. without any ability to instal non-store apps it will be same failure as Windows RT...
  • Who cares what games they play? If their parents buy them a cheap laptop, it won't make that much of a difference whether it runs W10 Cloud or W10 Home.
  • I think it would have been much more convenient if for example you tried to download Evernote from the Web, and launch the installer, it then would prompt you with the same dialog box, but also searches for that app in the Windows Store for the user. This would eliminate any confusion amongst new users who aren't familiar with this new version of Windows.
  • It already does that , I seen a screenshot showing windows giving a link to the vlc app after the user tried to install lm the desktop version.
  • What happens when you click the "See how" link under "Still want to run this unverified app?" when the dialog box pops up?
  • I am guessing nothing?  That may be carry over from the option to limit installation of apps in the upcoming Creator's Update in the regular version of W10.
  • It seems strange that they would bother putting that there if it did nothing. I don't have that specific dialog and link on my VM with regular W10 most recent insider build.
  • It allows you to buy Pro Windows if you want.
  • It's probably just a prompt to upgrade your edition of Windows
  • An interesting concept.  Hopefully Microsoft sees success with this idea.
  • Rebranded Windows RT. Hopefully Windows for ARM isn't going to be limited to this. If so, that will be a huge disappointment for most who were looking forward to Windows on ARM. At least if they offer an option to upgrade to full Windows it would be okay.
  • Well Windows on arm will be Windows cloud running x82 apps through emulation , given that these apps are available on windows store.
  • so... this is the new Windows 10 for mobile devices like the Surface phone?  
  • It might potentially end up that way. It's definitely geared for the more mobile hardware like budget tablets, notebooks and the like.
  • It's aimed right at Chromebooks for now, so US schools and certain enterprise markets.
  • 'Geared' might be the wrong word, it's suited for those areas down the line though.
  • So, could this not just be W10M with much improved Continuum / CShell thrown in and rebranded as Windows Cloud? I haven't read into it yet, but that is exactly what this sounds like to me.
  • With a composable shell, most likely. Regular Win32 programs on a mobile Surface device would 1. deteriorate performance 2. affect battery life 3. be insecure.
  • If there will be an ARM version of this, I hope it can be installed on my Surface RT, officially or not. I use it everyday and still love it.
  • I was just going to ask if anybody knows if this will happen. It would be nice for RT users to have an upgrade path.
  • RT users will never get an upgrade path. That ARM is so slow compared to current processors that it is what it is and the effort to make an upgrade path would be massive and not worth it. Sometimes you have to upgrade to get the latest technology.
  • Asphalt 8 ran like butter on my Surface RT 2.
  • I'll stick with my Chromebook instead as I prefer Google's services when I am on the go. Though this is a nice idea for those who want a Windows Cloud Machine, as they use all of Microsoft's services like OneDrive for example.
  • I visited a special needs learning center the other day where all the students were given chrome books. They're actually pretty snappy little netbooks and although I would still never intentionally go any where near one, I was surprisingly impressed with the ease of use and the productivity that could be achieved. You could also see these kids growing up without the need for a Windows machine, having got to grips with basically doing everything within a browser. There is most definitely a market out there for these kind of Windows machines. The only thing I can't really see is where they make the money... I can't see a very high amount of store purchasing... Maybe they are banking on Office licensing? That's the only real source of income I can see on these devices...
  • If it's similar to chromebooks, it would be advertising and influence peddling as a revenue source. Guiding, shaping, leading the minds of users towards an end goal ever so subtly, or not so subtly, has been quite profitable for many.
  • One thing I didn’t see mentioned for far that might interest people on limited power devices is that Win32 apps distributed through the store are contained in an isolated filesystem and more importantly registry.
    They can still access the rest of the filesystem and registry like a desktop app, but all their own dependencies and settings are not stored in the system’s registry and therefore are not loaded in the database memory when the app isn’t running. The goal of Centennial is to prevent the Win32 apps from generating system rot. The apps can still do it by touching the registry when first run, but they won’t do it as their standard install behavior. Locking down cmd and PowerShell seems like they really don't want you to tamper too much with the device. However, if they do allow all Centennial apps, you can use an alternate command-line shell.
    I have one based on JavaScript that lets you control COM components interactively, meaning you could probably do anything you want from there ( It wasn’t originally designed to target the Cloud version, but that seems like a great new use for it.
  • "It's also worth noting that although the name implies there'll be a heavy tie in with cloud services, it actually has nothing to do with the cloud at all." Very surprised to hear your say this Zac. You of all people should recognize that, when used with a Microsoft Account and services like OneDrive and Office 365 (as Microsoft clearly intends), Windows 10 Cloud offers the same functional cloud -centric benefits as Chromebooks: simplicity, security, ease of maintenance, reliability, and a roaming user experience.
  • My point there was there's no additional cloud-functionality over what Windows 10 already offers on other SKUs, not that it doesn't have any cloud-functionality at all.
  • If that was your point, you did not state it clearly, as "nothing to do with the cloud at all" implies something else. My sense is that few people recognize that Windows can be used this way, and Microsoft is not a very reliable purveyor of the most effective message, for obvious reasons. "Now Windows is just as safe and easy to use as a Chromebook, and with a familiar user experience!" I think if kind of falls on sites like Windows Central to interpret Microsoft's strategy and frame their intentions when potentially confusing new product initiatives like this one are launched.
  • Man, I just don't think this going to be successful and will confuse people like the whole RT debacle did.
  • Are people confused by Chromebooks?
  • People don't have a preconceived notion of what a Chromebook is and does. They most certainly do have a preconceived notion of what Windows is and does.
  • so you're saying that people in schools and business won't know anything about the OS and what it can/can't do?
  • They will think it is Windows. Will they understand the limitations? They didn't before. RT was a major flop.
  • If Windows 10 Cloud primary is school probably no problem as they might be never use Windows before.
  • Chromebooks have nothing to do with the statement I just made.
  • seeing as this is aimed at the same market, then yes it has.
  • Yes, actually people are confused about Chromebooks.  Every person that complains about how bad Chromebooks are because you cannot install Office or Photosohop is confused about Chromebooks. I'd bet money that when Windows Cloud comes out people will complain about how they cannot install programs like Google Chrome, iTunes, Photoshop or some other program and ignore all the conversations about how it only installes from the Apps Store.
  • Yeah, the issue is possible with both systems, but more prominent with Windows.
  • This happens with all devices respective of OS due to a combination of purchaser ignorance and marketing. If the price seems too good to be true...
  • Anyone who's been a Windows Phone user would feel perfectly at home with this OS.
  • But what if I'm trying to escape the phony cage?
  • Does it have a UWP version of File Explorer? I see the standard icon there
  • Hey, we got the same profile pic lol Edit: Was a bug
  • So far it doesn't sound very different than the failed Windows RT. installed on new hardware locked to store apps aimed for low-end hardware Or am I missing something?  Listing how it is similar to a Chromebook does nothing to distance it from Windows RT.  The target market may be different but the platform is the same (except htis time on Intel chips?). This is another missed opportunity.  Windows Cloud sold on low-end and locked-down machines will still be able to compete with Chromebooks.  The missed opportunity is in not offering it for free to individuals to install it on their own hardware.  This would be beneficial in a number of ways: Provide a means for people still running Windows 7 to finally upgrade (procastinators, people waiting for Windows 10 to shake out the initial bugs, waiting until they care comfortable, etc.). Provide an alternative to installing Linux on these computers.  Some people don't want to leave Windows but there is little alternative to spending $199 (on license) or more (for a new system) except for Linux (which is real easy to switch to these days). Provides curious people the chance to "try before you buy" and explore teh Apps offered from the store. Hobbyists and people who make their own computers would have an alternative choice for their OS. Of course the more people you get (from new devices, installing on their own devices, procrastinators, curious people) using the App store, the more likely developers will port their applications to. Let's face it, these devices are going to sell as secondary devices.  Maybe a few businesses, but the lack of Apps will keep a lot of them out except in certain circumstances.  It's a chicken-and-the-egg scenario and opening the cloud version, even though it is limited, to everybody is their best method to increase their App Store and possibly even reach "critical-mass".
  • You are absolutely right.
  • If people using Windows 7 haven't upgraded, why would a version of Windows that can't run any of their current programs be any more enticing?
  • Not everybody is comfortable upgrading to a new operating system while hearing reports of kinks and issues with the upgrade at the time. Nor are they necessarily the kinds of people to frequent a site like this and try to keep up on tech news. Procrastinators may have decided they wanted to jump to Windows 10, but it is possible they did not hear about it until close to the ending of the freebie period, or they held off until it was too late.  Maybe they held off until their family tech-guru stopped talking negatively about Windows 10 and says it's alright now. There are many different reasons why they did not install Windows 10 when it was free, and are interested now and it spans all of the age groups, so don't just think it's Grandma. If you are a person who just uses email and a browser to check social media, then hearing Windows 10 has a Facebook or Instagram or Twitter app may entice you to want to give it a try.    
  • Windows RT only run on ARM. Cloud can run both ARM and x86 processor. From the article Cloud can run x86 apps as long as they are Store apps while RT can't run x86 apps. And it seem Cloud has upgrade option to regular Windows (based on previous leak).
  • Please for RT devices. "Windows RT" meant nothing to anyone (except "crippled") while "Windows Cloud Edition" makes sense.
  • I am sorry but to my knowledge the main population that is using Linux are people who are into tech, such as software engineers or IT people and I think you do know that. I do not think MS is targetting them with the Cloud edition and I am not exactly sure that population they're targeting with wouldn't really be comfortable using the terminal to get basic OS functionality.
  • Linux has not required the terminal to get basic OS functionality for years. It has grown significantly since the early 2000s and you would be surprised how Windows10-like the installation and operation are like. I know a number of people who use Linux and are not necessarily IT professonals. People who are tech savvy, and who are not. Microsoft may not be courting them with the Windows Cloud but as I said, this is a missed opportunity that they COULD benefit from.  Can even argue that the people looking at using Linux are the kinds of people Microsoft should WANT to get involved with Windows Cloud, and provide feedback.
  • Going on low-end hardware means the memory issues for Edge bogging down, and Facebook taking a long time to load or even crash, will be laid out plain to see and being locked down to just Apps means you can't use an alternative that works. Without improvements in the Apps that ARE offered, this project could easily be DOA.
  • depends what your definition of 'low end' hardware is.
  • Hope it helps grow windows store
  • There really is no use case for a chromebook for me so if I had to choose, it would be the Win10 cloud version.
  • Wiil it run full office apps (not mobile)
  • I think they were putting office on the store with centennial
  • Would be great if we could load this on our RT devices
  • It's a different architecture, at least now only for x86/x64 devices
  • sounds the same as RT which i found great as long as you accept the restraint of store apps only, always fast on my xps10 and worked a treat, if this is also the os for mobile sounds good to me
  • I have an older netbook that I upgraded (for free) to Windows 10 pro. It just about manages to run windows with the hardware it has. When Windows 10 cloud comes out, is there a chance this will run better on it as this version is aimed at lower end hardware.
  • Will Office 2016 be in the Windows Store when Windows Cloud is released? Office 2016 have to be in the Store for Windows Cloud to be of any use! It can be just as is port and improved over time - showing oher developers of major applications how it can be done!
  • Now I ask would it perform better on low end pc? I mean atom-powerd pieces of $hit with 1 gb of ram?
  • Hmm, one of by devices I love is lynx tablet, atom 1gb of ram, its great fits into a jacket pocket runs full windows 10, I can even code on this thing. What I I really like is for £80 you get a pc in your pocket, not a fantastic pc but you can play games, media, brows the web and connect to larger screens and office 365 for a year. Now if your on a real tight budget that's a great deal.
  • My son loves his RT so ill definitely look to upgrade him to this.
  • I recently did a reset on my vivotabRT and it's running good again.  Not lots of storage space.  but it's fast for browsing and normal "computer work".
  • So is rt with the promise of windows apps if available from devs? Shame I thought it will be full win with a mobile launcher
  • I hope the low end devices they are referring to are Amazon Kindle Fire $50 cheap. I could see a use for this OS but not on anything that wasn't practically disposable.