Windows 10 Cloud is a good idea and here's why

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.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

  • Limit users to the windows store apps....I ask myself, where are the apps??? This move doesn't make sense to me at all. I really wanna meet one of this decision makers at Microsoft.
  • Edge will be there, that's the only app 99% of people, along with Facebook and mobile Office apps will ever use.
  • What about us? Us as in you and I who need more than Facebook and edge and tend to buy a low end device along the line.
  • You either won't be buying devices with Cloud edition or will be upgrading them right from the start to a full license.
  • You like to torchure yourself with a low end device that is running a full win32 desktop?
  • Use W10 Home or Pro
  • You are aware that there is about 600 000 apps in the store, and that new ones comes in every day?
    Most existing old *.exe can be converted to apps that can be submitted to the store, with little or no work.
  • 600000 STUDENTS app, low quality apps. There was a time Ms gave lumia520 for free to students for 10 apps.....You can imagine the quality...
  • At least name some of the apps that 'us' would want to use then..??
  • As always it is just about the profit. If you are not a profitable user you can't ask the company to continue to loose the money on you. As it goes Windows will have to be free on low end devices to be competetive. On the other hand Microsoft can't earn almost anything if it doesn't lock you into the Store.
  • 5% of users user Edge. Not having Chrome will be an issue.
  • Not having chrome *may* be an issue, but not necessarily. Yes a lot of people use Chrome, but that doesn't mean they won't use something else if provided with some option. I mean, approximately the same amount of marketshare belongs to IE as well. If Windows 10 Cloud comes with IE, then we're already looking at the largest percentage of users. Plus, I use both Chrome and Edge. If I couldn't use Chrome, it doesn't harm me that much. So, while, yes, Chrome has a large marketshare, you provide no compelling reason why that is necessarily a problem.
    Moreover, again, its likely not to be targeted at consumers. It'll be targeted at folks who generally don't make those decisions. Like Firefox more than Chrome? A Chromebook really doesn't help you with that. If your school provides you with one, tough noogies. So really, I have to ask, what perspective are you looking at this from? I just don't think you're looking at it through the right one.
  • IE is under 20% and dropping. Edge and IE are only 25% total. Not being able to install Chrome will be an issue for the majority. Maybe they will get over it. I am curious to see how Microsoft positions W10C. I like the free for anyone idea and for institutions. New consumer devices might not be a great idea though. It is going to annoy those people.
  • Ah, sorry about the wrong statistics. I was reading top to bottom assuming the top was the most recent. My apologies for only rush-reading it.  In any case, as it stands, this isn't suppose to appeal to everybody, just as a Chromebook doesn't provide IE, Edge, Safari, or Firefox. I'm fine with people getting annoyed if they don't try to understand what they're buying. When I got an Android phone (waaaaaay back with the original Motorola Droid), apparently people were returning them because they couldn't get stuff off of the iTunes app store. I didn't view that as a problem with Android, and I don't view that as Microsoft's problem here. You can only dumb things down so much. If there are different versions of something, its stupid to assume they're all the same. You should actually find out the differences.
  • Your Motorola Droid story... Did that really happen? Cuz I face-palmed so hard that I knocked myself out.
  • If you truly can't do without Chrome than don't get the device.  No one is forcing anyone to buy these devices with Windows 10 Cloud.  I'm also sure there will be tons of options with regular Windows 10 on them.
  • plus still a google web browser in the store
  • The only time that I've been attacked by malware is when I used IE or Edge as a browser. Never a problem with Firefox or Chrome.
  • IE is a Win32 program and wouldn't work on Win10 Cloud version
  • Windows lovers hate Chrome. What are you even on about ?
  • Big enterprises won't join Google's cloud for 1 reason, security.  Google is behind in cloud security, thats why Chromebooks haven't had big impact in Big businesses, education sector doesn't need high security requirements as big Fortune 500 companies do, so that's why Google has not received complaints there, but any big company will benefit much more from Windows 10 Cloud than Chromebooks. Just my 2 cents.
  • Who said anything about Chromebooks?
  • Because that's the main competitor to Windows 10 Cloud...
  • We don't know that. We are not sure what Microsoft's plans are for it.
  • no matter what their plans are, its the closest equivalent. so they'll be competing whether they want to or not.
  • Some of the newest remote desktop services offered today take advantage of H.264 which will be supported by Windows 10 cloud (not sure if Chromebooks support this codec ) so remote sessions can take advantage of fast Internet connection and feel more close to a local environment, so that's something that Chrome browser doesn't support, you need Chromebook for that. 
  • Chrome will make their own UWP app.
  • Ha!
  • I have to agree with bleached on this one. It's unlikely that Google will release a UWP app of anything for that matter until there's a bigger market drive for it. I mean, if Windows 10 Cloud *does* take off, maybe that could help influence it, but it's unlikely to be that big of a seller that quickly. So unless windows 10 cloud takes off or some sort of windows mobile OS that calls for a UWP gains a lot of marketshare, i most definitely would not count on this happening, in fact, it's safer to count on it *not* happening.
  • I don't reckon so. People install Chrome on W10 because they can as an alternative. You give them W10 Cloud and they can't, so they make do with what is on offer (and might realise it's actually better than they thought). But then you might say you can't expect customers to 'just settle' like that... but you can with W10 Cloud, because it is essentially a budget, compromise W10. If you are a customer wanting more flexibility, you'd pay a bit more for a device with that flexibility - one running full W10. Similarly, the kind of people that go out and install Chrome are likely not what W10 Cloud is aiming for. Chrome installers would be a bit more particular about their W10 experience and maybe a bit more tech savvy. These cheap W10 cloud devices would be aimed at users who ultimately probably wouldn't care how they access the web, so long as they do. EDIT: pjhenry1216 beat me to it, damn! In a nutshell; what he/she said.
  • Yeah, I agree. Cloud users won't have a choice (business device) or won't care(noobs). I wonder if Microsoft will have consumer hardware available with it.
  • My guess is, Microsoft would probably leave it to the OEM's to develop the devices.  I can't see a high end Surface running Windows 10 Cloud happening.
  • Yeah, it doesn't seem to fit with the high-productivity, high-end approach the Surface line is currently excelling with.
  • you can get a google browser out the store
  • Well, our dear open minded forward thinking etc. Google will probably issue UWP Chrome to meet customer's requirements :-)
  • Google could always make Chrome an app too but it's too warm for that.
  • Chrome is a virus, Edge is perfect for me.
  • With that argument, Windows RT should have been a big success. It wasn't, for the same reason Windows Cloud is a problem. If Windows on ARM is limited to Windows Cloud, Microsoft will have again ruined what could have been a very good thing. They have a habit of that.
  • Paul, I am to the point I actually think one of the two is happening for the content(?) providers of this site 1.) they are getting paid to write the articles or indirectly they have to show everything in a positive spin to retain the cashflow  or 2.) they are trying to generate clicks based on crazy opinions/prediction/reviews.   The guy last week was trying to convince me that WP really isn't dead, doing his best to put up a huge spin.  LOL  I mean people in MS don't even use WPs.    As you pointed out, if this is such a great idea why was RT abandoned?   If one desires a more closed platforms there a few players that have more going for them than MS products.   What does this Cloud OS provide which is not being provided for by the other two big competitors?   (That is the problem, there are already very mature products which this won't replace)   Nice post btw.  
  • Re died because it had a desktop that couldn't run desktop apps, the start button was missing and generally people were just confused as hell. Windows 10 Cloud doesn't have a limitation of not running desktop apps, and it actually has a start button and start menu so it's less confusing for people. Personally for me it comes down to security, a locked down system is no good for me, but for my parents and my son it's perfect. That being said I agree with Zac, this will likely end up being a kind of "education edition" and people like me and you will never need to care about it.
  • Was RT's success linked to Windows 8?  Windows 8 was not as well recieved as Window 7. RT looked like windows 8 and had the same builds that others did not like. If RT was launched with Win 7 would it still have done poorly?
  • Robert, the users are not coming back... they certainly aren't coming back to run mobile apps on a desktop.  Mobile apps make sense on a mobile device, the don't make as much sense on a desktop or laptop with a full screen.   This is DOA just like RT.
  • @Paul Kinslow, while there are similarities there are also some pretty big differences. When Windows RT came out, there wasn't much of a Store and even less any familiarity with how to use one by traditional Windows users. There was also no UWP or Centinnial, which made it cost-ineffective for developers to create RT apps. Further, there was no upgrade path from Windows RT to full Windows -- it was a dead end. Also, RT wasn't really Windows -- it was only the Metro piece of it with a partial desktop for some very specific apps. This led to a hodgepodge UX that some were fine with, but many were not. Lastly, it was really only mainstream available on the Surface RT, which was very expensive for what it included. So if Windows RT had apps, ran standard Windows (from a UI/UX perspective), could upgrade to full Windows for access to other apps, and did all of that in a low-cost (sub $200, with some systems below $100) starter system, it too may have fared just fine. Also, note that Windows on Arm doesn't have anything to do with Windows Cloud, except that perhaps they will overlap in achieving some of those sub-$100 systems... if it's even available to consumers. Keep in mind that the main target for Windows Cloud systems are schools and businesses that currently consider and often buy Chromebooks. When you pit Windows Cloud against those, at a competitive or lower price, it seems like a slam dunk that MS would keep a significant % of those customers, rather than loose them to Chrome. Strategically, it's a smart play. If it works, it blocks Google from flanking MS as a computer OS maker and it will encourage more apps to be available in the store for access to those customers. Some of those apps will be UWP apps, which in turn makes it easier for MS to stride back into mobile w/o its current chief liability -- lack of apps. And if it doesn't work, there's little downside, beyond the cost of the R&D and initial release and associated marketing -- it's unlikely to cannibalize the higher end market where Windows already dominates.
  • You nailed it with that.
  • There is a difference though. Windows RT had target audience for consumers, while Windows 10 cloud has target audience for users that have a BYOD device they want to use at work in a secure manner.  Both Google and Apple have failed with ChromeOS and iPad as BYOD devices and most of these users need a 2 in 1 that is secure, runs apps like Office and integrates to SaaS apps in the cloud, that's where Windows 10 cloud is coming.
  • Windows RT didn't have Windows 10 though. Remember how well Windows 8 itself went over, let alone Windows RT. We're all forgetting that RT was a stripped down Windows 8. A stripped down Windows 10 is still a hell of a lot better than stripped down 8. Please keep this in mind when comparing Windows Cloud with Windows RT. Their base OS was *much* different.
  • you seariously are smoking something, you and all fanboys here. What on earth is different on this new RT version?? it relies on apps only, same as RT 1.0 was, apps that are even less than they were before! And regarding BYOD, who would be that stupid to use a tablet with a ghost app store that does nothing?? I will simply sit and laugh at you fanboys when this new crap RT 2.0 will fail and you will remain with the same sour feeling as many times before!
  • I always love it when folks start their crap with ad hominem attacks. You just KNOW there's nothing sensible to be expected
  • Windows Cloud is nothing like Windows RT. ​Windows Cloud can run the same Windows Store apps as the regular Windows 10. Windows RT had to had its own apps and store. Totally different scenario. With Windows Cloud, developers are still targetting the same UWP platform.  
  • which developers? :)) those that never got interested in uwp? :))) devs don't give a damn about uwp and MS's pathetic unified platform concept.
  • That 99% will only ever use Edge because there won't be many real apps in the store.  Developers have resoundingly rejected having their code projected into UWP.
  • thats a lame excuse.
  • What "so important apps that you can't live without" are missing?
  • Snapchat probably :D
  • Anything for work. Let's face it, if one important app is missing on one device over another, the other device will be chosen. Otherwise, a person will need to pack a second device just for that one work app. This was the problem with RT. Why get one if a person will need to drag along their laptop for that one non-compatible and seldom used app? If it's necessary, there is no choice in the matter. Without win32, a device becomes worthless for many.
  • I agree 100% Paul. Add to that the likely inability to run RDP. How do you get IT policies enforced?
  • I can run RDP on my phone. As for policies, I would be shocked if domain join and GPO are not supported. Even Azure ADDS supports GPO. In the least, there is MDM.
  • why is it unlikely? Remote Desktop is available from the Store. If you're talking about some sort of more advanced usage of the protocol, yeah, that's probably unlikely. But they'd probably use GPO for IT policies instead anyway.
  • I don't agree. This is not ment for enterprise users who need work-based apps, VPNs etc. At shool they just need basic apps to 'teach' how to make use of MS office tools like word, excel or powerpoint. Outlook, MS access, OneNote etc. will all be there too. For browsing, Edge is there. You can't have Chrome or Firefox but I don't see it as a 'deal-breaker' for most budget users. If they opt for chromebook, they will be compromising on a far greater set of things which can't be done there. I agree, that it is not perfect, but it still will be a full blown OS with all features. Everything except the ability to install your own software. But you can't really do so on Chromebooks either. Google only makes you believe you do, becuase it shows you a vast playstore to install apps/web-extensions. Ultimately you are still inside a web-browser and you can't really compare that to working on a proper full fleged OS. So to shoot down MS for not giving you just one thing, and support Google for providing with you with far more restricted set of features is not at all fair in my view.
  • There are many ways to solve that problem. First, Microsoft has never said that it would only support their store. Windows 10 supports third party stores through MDM management with deep linking as well. Windows 10 Mobile supports that. I see no reason to believe that the same wouldn't be true for Windows 10 Cloud. Secondly, I would be surprised if it doesn't support Centennial. More than likely, the demo for Windows 10 on ARM was using the Centennial bridge to run PhotoShop. If they are doing that on ARM, why would it be any different for this version of Windows 10? Lastly, in an enterprise environment, they can use RDS RemoteApp, Citrix XenApp or an equivalent to make those applications available. Running a native app is not inherently a requirement to access the same GUI and functionality. At this time, we know very little about Windows 10 Cloud. Comparisons to Windows 8 RT are only natural but Windows and the industry has evolved significantly since it was released. Windows 10 Cloud is just another SKU for Windows 10. It is just another option among a myriad of options. Pick the one that works and go from there.
  • RT had another major issue over the lack of applications... RT devices from Microsoft and other OEMs like Asus were just way too expensive. You could actually buy a cheaper laptops and tablets running the full version version of Windows.
  • In my opinion, RT was released before it was fully baked. When I got my hands on one, I was surprised to see full file system access available through Explorer. I literally expected it to be a thin runtime version of Windows. Explorer was convenient but it I can see how people confused RT for the full version of Windows. Going with NVIDIA over Qualcomm was also a problem for the Surface RT from a performance perspective. There were also huge question marks around enterprise management. Communication was equally poor and Sinofsky didn't help matters by pretending to be Steve Jobs. Windows 8 was a better OS in every way once you were able to adjust to it but I sympathize with those who felt that it was jarring and inconsistent. In other words, there were so many problems with Windows 8 and RT that went WAY beyond the app store. Windows 10, of any flavor, is in a much better position to execute on a runtime model much more effectively than they could have before. Organizationally, they are like a different company now. They behaved like they were on their heels in 2011 / 2012 and frankly, they were.
  • Obviously Windows cloud would not be aimed at the typical office worker.  This is for schools who are currently choosing Chrome books.  That's all.
  • Windows 10 cloud is great idea for companies that want to get their employees secure access to software apps and web applications running on the cloud.  As you probably know Google and Amazon are both Microsoft's Azure cloud competitors, and what Microsoft wants to do with Windows 10 Cloud is to have a competitive advantage that AWS and Google cloud don't have and that is the security of Windows in the cloud thanks to Single Sign On via Azure Active Directory, Kerberos cloud authentication and two factor authentication mobile app which can be installed on Android, iOS or Windows Mobile 
  • It does make sense to offer on low end devices. Though it needs to be clear that it is not win32 compatible. The only way to really do this is to drop "Windows" from the name. Just call it "CloudOS" or something. You can keep Microsoft in there, it just need to be differentiated from Windows completely, rather than being an arm of it. Since you don't want to have to put big warnings on packaging explaining that you can't install win32 apps on it, and it's not targeted towards people that actually read up on these things.
  • or just don't sell it to the general unwashed in the first place so the poor dears don't get confuse