Forget Windows 10 S — Microsoft needs a true 'lite' version of Windows

Windows 10 Cloud Wallpaper

Windows 10 Cloud Wallpaper (Image credit: Microsoft)

If Microsoft wants to get serious about competing with Google in the education market, it needs a version of Windows 10 that isn't just Windows 10 Pro with a virtual block on installing programs from outside the Store. Windows 10 S, while a nice idea, is not a true Chrome OS competitor. Microsoft needs a real, lightweight version of Windows 10 that removes the bloatware of Win32 and focuses primarily on being a web-first OS.

The beauty of Chrome OS is that it doesn't get in the way. It's a simple, straightforward experience that puts what you bought the thing for front and center: browsing the web. Microsoft's idea of a Chrome OS competitor is normal Windows with a block on installing non-Store apps, and while Windows 10 S is good for other reasons, it's not a viable Chrome OS competitor.

Windows 10 S Review


Chromebook (Image credit: Windows Central)

I think Microsoft needs a version of Windows 10 with a desktop environment that's true Universal Windows Platform (UWP)-only. That means no legacy Win32 programs, no classic Control Panel, and no ancient File Explorer. Microsoft needs a version of Windows 10 that's entirely modern while remaining familiar enough to be recognizable. Microsoft needs Windows 10 Mobile ... but without the Mobile part.

It wouldn't be for power users

I can already hear the power users in the comments ranting about why such a version of Windows 10 is a bad idea, but let me be clear here: This version of Windows 10 is not for you. It's for those in the education sector or casual users who do nothing but surf the internet.

In my life, I have bought or given Windows laptops to all kinds of people. Old people, young people, workaholics, casuals, you name it. While everyone's use case is different, I've noticed a trend amongst several of them; their use cases are using the web browser for accessing email, watching Netflix, and writing documents. These laptops often come with bloatware and extra crap that they're not ever going to use, killing performance, and it's overkill for a lot of people.

The fact of the matter is for a lot of people, Windows as a whole is overkill. Not everyone wants to customize every last setting available in the Control Panel. Not everyone wants to access the registry, manage connected domains or organize files in File Explorer. A lot of people just want to use the internet, and I think Microsoft needs a version of Windows 10 that gets out of the way and lets people do just that.

A version of Windows 10 that's true UWP-only, with a simple desktop experience that includes a taskbar, Start menu and windowed apps, is exactly what a lot of people need. Maybe not you or me, but people. Windows 10 S gets a lot right, but it's still the same old Windows under the hood. It still has the extra settings, functions, and capabilities that most people don't need.

As I showcased in my CShell video earlier this year, Continuum has been updated with windowed mode, which actually makes Continuum useful. Take that experience, build the hardware into a laptop rather than a phone, and you've got the exact scenario I'm imagining: A version of Windows 10 with a desktop experience that's UWP only, and runs on ARM-based laptops.

Edge needs to be better

Don't get me wrong, a true UWP-only version of Windows would come with its own problems. For example, UWP itself isn't exactly doing well when it comes to third-party apps, but again, a lot of these people just use the web browser on these kinds of devices. The only real problem with this is Microsoft Edge, which many would argue is still subpar compared to Chrome or Firefox.

While I personally disagree, I totally understand that argument. Microsoft needs to do more work to Edge before people will start taking it seriously, which is why a true UWP only version of Windows 10 today wouldn't work. Until Microsoft gets more extensions for Edge in the Store and improves Edge under the hood, the idea of a version of Windows 10 that puts the browser first falls flat. But Microsoft is serious about Edge, and I think Microsoft wants Edge to be the best browser out there.

And I'm not saying this version of Windows 10 should be installed on high-end machines. This would be a version of Windows 10 for Intel Atom or ARM-based devices that aren't all that powerful and are good at browsing the web or doing lightweight tasks. Too many times have I bought a sub-$300 laptop and found it to be incredibly sluggish thanks to Windows being so old and heavy, along with the added bloatware hardware makers like to pre-install. A UWP-only version of Windows 10 would improve the experience on devices like that dramatically.

What are your thoughts on such a version of Windows 10? Do you know anyone who would benefit from an OS like this? Let us know in the comments.

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 and Threads