Now that we all know Windows 10 Cloud is a thing in the works, I've been thinking about how useful the Cloud edition of Windows 10 actually is. It's a version of Windows 10 that can't run win32 programs from outside the Windows Store, essentially limiting users to the Windows Store for all their apps and games. At first, this sounds like a terrible idea, but after giving it some thought, I actually think it's a great idea. Here's why.
Let me clarify: It's a great idea for certain devices. I wouldn't be all too pleased if my $1000+ ultrabook couldn't run win32 programs from outside the Store, but on cheaper, low-end devices, I fail to see how this is anything but a good thing. Windows 10 Cloud's main goal is to protect users from dangerous software, and the best way to do that is to keep users locked to the Windows Store, where Microsoft can screen apps and make sure every app available is safe.
With that in mind, Windows 10 Cloud makes sense on devices like tablets. I own a HP Stream 7 and a few other small Windows tablets, and I've never really needed to download apps from the web on those devices. I've only ever used the Windows Store, because on a tablet the only apps I need are Office Mobile, Twitter and a few other lightweight apps, all of which are in the Store.
Windows 10 Cloud is secure and simple, especially for users that need the latter and can't be bothered by the former.
It also makes sense on Chromebook-like devices, with a smaller amount of storage that retail for a much lower price. Low-cost laptops running Chrome OS are aimed at consumers who only ever really use a web browser, and downloading apps is not of concern to them. Windows 10 Cloud is a step above that — there are apps, but only through the Windows Store. It's secure and it's simple for users that need the latter and can't be bothered by the former.
There's also the added benefit of being able to download programs from outside the Windows Store if you really want to by purchasing a Windows 10 Pro upgrade. Microsoft will actually offer this as an option when trying to launch Win32 programs from outside the store, meaning if you do upgrade you'll unlock the ability to run that program. It's a nice idea, but you can bet people will complain about Microsoft charging a fee to unlock programs from outside the Windows Store.
But what if Windows 10 Cloud was free? Not just for hardware makers, but for anybody. We're treading heavily into speculation here, but it's an idea I've been throwing about on Twitter and on the podcast and I'm curious to see what others think of the idea. What if Microsoft offers Windows 10 Cloud as a free version of Windows 10 for anybody to download and use?
In my mind, it'll work similarly to how you can download and install Ubuntu for free. Just go to the Microsoft website, download Windows 10 Cloud and install it. No activation required, it just works. It'll act as a sort of "appetizer" version of Windows 10 for those on old versions of Windows or even Mac users, introducing them to the Windows 10 ecosystem and offering the "full" experience through an unlocked Windows 10 Home or Pro license.
This would be beneficial for Microsoft too, as it encourages users to try out the new Windows 10 ecosystem before making the plunge. And if the user doesn't want to make the plunge and is fine with the Windows Store, Microsoft makes money from app purchases and other Microsoft services on Windows anyway. It's a win-win for everyone.
It looks like Windows 10 Cloud will be aimed at Enterprise and Education rather than consumers.
Unfortunately, this likely won't be the case. In reality it looks like Windows 10 Cloud will be aimed at Enterprise and Education rather than consumers. In fact, it's not even clear if Windows 10 Cloud will be offered to hardware makers as a version of Windows that can be pre-loaded onto consumer-facing devices. I hope so, and I honestly hope Microsoft do make it easy for already existing devices to be able to install Windows 10 Cloud, because I've got a few devices that I really think would make sense running Windows 10 Cloud.
My HP Stream 7, HP Stream 11 x360, Lenovo Yoga Book, and even the Surface 3 are all excellent contenders for Windows 10 Cloud, at least for me. I don't use programs from the web on any of those devices, because I don't need to. I've got a Surface Book and full desktop where I run Premiere Pro, Photoshop and Steam. I don't need or want those programs on my other devices, and would much rather have the added security.
Everyone is different, however. I know there are many who are completely against a version of Windows 10 that can't run win32 programs from outside the Windows Store. That's fine, though the vehement opposition is perhaps too much — you won't have to use it. But for the rest of us who do see its benefits, I hope it's more widely available than expected.
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