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Microsoft must manage consumer expectations of Windows 10 S to avoid PR nightmare

Windows 10 S is a new version of Windows which is initially being targeted at the education sector. Microsoft hopes that in time it will become the default mass market version of the OS.

Windows 10 S and the Surface Laptop take on Google and Apple

Here's the issue: Unlike the Windows we know, this version does not run Win32 apps. In the lingo of "Joe Consumer," it won't run familiar programs such as the popular Chrome browser. Instead, it's locked to the Windows Store where users can download the more secure Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps that have features such as Live Tiles, Cortana integration, and access to other app services.

Why Windows 10 S?

This new OS has some perks. By keeping Win32 apps at bay, a host of drawbacks that Windows users have grown used to enduring are also kept away. Lead Program Manager for the Windows Developers Platform Group, Stefan Wick, put it this way:

In today's world, Win32 has a lot of problems in terms of user confidence, privacy, battery life, etc. We don't want to bring those problems into UWP but want to provide the functionality that the user wants - and make sure the user is in control at the same time.Win32 apps can run code at any point in time at full privileges without the user's intent, drain your battery, read your files, etc. UWP creates a much higher level of user confidence and control.

Windows 10 S offers many benefits. The modern desktop experience it provides, as well as the potential for increased Store traffic, are reasons Microsoft deems the OS good for users. It also benefits UWP, the company's positioning in the modern app-ecosystem-driven market, and the company's bottom line. Microsoft has many incentives to aggressively push Window 10 S.

Though most early Windows 10 S PCs will be targeted at schools, some consumers will buy them. Furthermore, the Surface Laptop running Windows 10 S is targeted at college students. These early customers and a possible growing number of users will buy these new Windows PCs that won't work like their old PCs.

The question is, how is Microsoft planning to communicate to consumers that the Windows PC they may be buying will work differently than the Windows they know? And getting to the Windows they know will cost an additional $49 after they get their new PC home.

Communication must be intentional

Windows has been on the market for decades, and users are comfortable with it. History has shown that when this staple in personal computing changed too radically or in unexpected ways, users rebelled. (Think Windows Vista.)

Many of us grew up on Windows, so it's both personal and familiar. Even with updates and evolutions to the OS we expect things to fundamentally work the same. When they don't our responses are visceral. The backlash to Windows 8 was profound, for example.

Changes that came with Windows Vista frustrated users, and the Live Tile UI of Windows 8 angered them. Imagine how users will respond when they are surprised by a requirement to pay $49 to do what they have always done on any other version of Windows.

Microsoft's Windows S strategy and the company's vision for that OS are the future of Windows. I'm not arguing for or against that strategy. What I am addressing is Microsoft's need to ensure that the limits of the platform are broadly and clearly communicated to the entire market.

If consumers knew these limits beforehand, they likely wouldn't mind Microsoft's positioning a version of Windows that won't allow traditional programs. Especially since they don't have to buy those PCs, and if they do, the option to upgrade is there. What consumers will mind is ignorantly buying a Windows 10 S PC and being surprised by its limits and the cost to upgrade.

Good will

With Windows 7, Microsoft overcame the general bad will of the Vista debacle. Windows 10 is helping the company recover from the more recent Windows 8 flub. With UWP, Microsoft is attempting to establish a strong footing in a personal computing paradigm that has shifted away from the desktop toward a mobile and app-based model.

Windows 10 S is key to the company's strategy to make UWP and its app ecosystem relevant. It is also foundational to the company's long-term mobile plans to bring an ultimate mobile device to market that via Continuum can be a PC.

Widnows 10 Mobile Continuum

Widnows 10 Mobile Continuum (Image credit: Windows Central)

Windows 10s and Project Centennial are critical to Continuum's success

Failure to communicate the limits of Windows 10 S to unsuspecting consumers can create a PR nightmare for Microsoft in the critical early stages of the platform. Rather than marketing the merits of the OS, Microsoft may find itself in the uncomfortable defensive position of assuaging angry users.

Though the numbers of Windows 10 S users outside of the education arena (where the limits of the OS would be known) will initially be small, the effects of negative experiences are exponential. One user's negative experience will be compounded as he shares his opinion within his circle of friends and family.

Failure to communicate can have broad and long-lasting effects.

Several hundred bad experiences become echoed by the thousands, and potentially millions, with the additional support of social media. Mainstream media may pick up the story with the slant that Microsoft failed to communicate the limits of its new OS and required consumers to pay $50 to do what they "expect" to do with Windows.

Getting ahead of the story

I know that Microsoft is offering the Windows 10 Pro upgrade for free to students, teachers, and administrators. But how does the company plan to communicate the Windows 10 S story to the masses?

Will there be a television ad campaign? Will Microsoft rely entirely on retail associates and store displays to tell the story? Is Microsoft assuming that there will be an "unassisted" natural progression of the Windows 10 S story from the education sector to the mainstream? Is Microsoft relying on the "tech experts" (like you) to communicate the story?

Microsoft can't assume consumers will "know" what Windows 10 S is, and it needs to make every effort to ensure they know.

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

126 Comments
  • Thanks for reading folks! There are few things more angering and disappointing than unmet expectations. If Microsoft does not proactively ensure the limits of Windows 10 S are broadly communicated and the necessary upgrade to Windows 10 Pro will cost $49 for those who want "traditional" Windows, MS may once again find itself on the defensive, especially during a time it should be marketing the benefits of a new OS. What are your thoughts. Well folks LET'S TALK!!!
  • What are the few things more angering and disappointing than unmet expectations? Genuinely curious...(for my profession... You may teach me something new) Great article. Microsoft must strengthen what it's Achilles heel has always been... MARKETING. They need to stop trying to mimic strategies for other companies and create one that natively tends to their target audiences
  • but... how would you explain Windows 10S to people without IT knowledge? Its a downgraded Windows 10 = thats all what non IT people see and they will be like: What? Downgraded? What does it mean? It wont work as a normal W10? It does not have the same app as a normalw W? Oh no, I dont need it. I will buy a full W10 thats how random people think and Microsoft can not change it. The only solution is to let them upgrade to W10PRO.. but than the question is: Why would anybody use W10S? Its not even free... if it would be free than ok, no problem  
  • Microsoft wants to really move over to UWP fully and carry everyone (devs, consumers, and the media along). That is their future path. Maybe they *should* make it free (as you suggest) for a while, to seriously drop the price of the OEM hardware and get it in as many users as possible as part of a signal to devs to at least consider the journey to UWP.
  • That's the power Microsoft will have with those ARMs chips with devices on the lower end thru to the high ended power threshold with Intel/AMD. That's practically an unlimited range of devices and choices all in the hands of the OEMs to create, design and manufacture and perhaps start the next tech boom.
  • Do we know it's not free to OEM's? It may not be. I've not heard it is, so maybe that means it's not. But MS has offered full Windows 10 Home licenses for devices with smaller screens for free some some time. It seems like this makes a lot more sense as the only free OS to OEMs, becaues unlike Home, MS can make money on subsequent Store purchases or the $49 upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. I'm not really concerned about it being free to consumers, because the majority of people who build their own systems won't want 10 S anyway, and the benefits of improved battery life and security are most relevant in the tablet world where people aren't likely to install a non-native OS. The whole point is to attract customers with those lower-priced systems. If this has been stated publicly, I missed it. For me, this is key open question in their strategy: will it be free to OEMs and will there be any other constraints on that (e.g., maybe free for systems sold for under $500 or for systems with full pen support, etc.)?
  • This is a business it doesn't have to be free but the licensing can be far cheaper like they have always been.
  • The answer to your question is clear. First: No sales or marketing person who isn't insane would ever describe a product as "downgraded." Second: It isn't. Windows 10 S isn't "downgraded." It's another try at starting a better Windows. The way you sell it, while making sure people know the limitations would be like this: ------------- Windows 10 S is the future of Windows, the software that brings PCs to life. For work, play, and creativity, Windows 10 S enables new experiences while ensuring your online safety and security. Windows 10 S runs new, modern apps from the Windows Store. Designed with your PC's security and performance in mind, these exciting new apps will bridge the gap between your new PC and all your other devices. Don't worry, though, there's a growing number of your favorite Windows software being added to the Store, like Spotify, Apple iTunes, Adobe Photoshop Elements, and Microsoft Office. -------------- Like that.
  • You're correct.. The future is ARM, and that future involves "Mobile" apps (UWP apps), and NOT Win32 emulation... Emulation is just a bridge, a temporary necessity, until the store is sufficient with all the legacy apps that have been modernized with the new API's... At that point emulation will be irrelevant.... So, you're right, WS is the future, and the ENTIRE industry knows this. ARM is the future.....
    The name "Windows S" is just arbitrary.
  • That future doesn't require Windows at all. Microsoft really should be working on something new to replace Windows. It had a good run, it is time for a change. It cannot last forever. Would the iPhone be so popular if it was running OSX?
  • The future doesn't require Windows, OSX, Linux, iOS, Android, air, water, time, corn, gasoline, light, shoes, school, sex, traffic, orchids, music, hot, cold, friction, plutonium, or most things humans can think of.. The universe will be here no matter what...
    .......
    The fact is that at least for the FORESEEABLE future, for humans, all these things will be here, and that's all that matters.. Quit making up negative arguments just to disagree.
  • The forseeable future do not require desktop systems. As I see it only two things makes Windows of desktop rule, at home it is games and att work it is Office, specificly Excel. Windows would lose most of it office users would someone manage to port Excel with 100% compability to say Android. Most of the rest tools is going towards diffrent cloud solutions accessed by web browser. So Excel and dx11 is Microsofts hold on the common users. Not a very secure hold for the future.
  • What?... The foreseeable future includes now.. Y'all, just stop over analyzing this. Things aren't going to change overnight.
  • Just saying, that without Win32, would you really have a reason for Windows? A new app platform isn't the future of Windows. Microsoft would be better served by creating a replacement for Windows. It would be easier to market and could really be great if they were able to really start from scratch. It would be crazy for them to not be working on such a thing. Windows could still stay as a niche platform for pros.
  • Yes, if all W32 apps were switched to UWP apps Windows would carry on as usual, and definitely have a future... Where else are people gonna get these programs? They aren't running on iDroid... No matter how you spin it UWP, or W32, it's running on Windows for THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE. I'm not talking about "what ifs", or theoreticals, I'm talking about reality... Like I said, the foreseeable future includes now, the near future, and beyond.. There's just no arguing about this.
  • What mainstream programs are only available on Windows? Only niche, professional software is still exclusive to Windows. That isn't the future. There is definitely a place for it, but that space is shrinking. Without a mainstream, popular platform, Microsoft is going to have a tough time staying relevant with consumers. XBox alone isn't enough.
  • Dude... Snapchat isn't the future... AutoCAD, and similar programs are the future...
    Tell, me where else (besides OSX) you are gonna run those programs in the foreseeable future?
    And, you're talking about having a mainstream, popular, modern, program that can run it all.. Well, damn man. You're saying that's what MS needs to be working towards, and we're telling you that is the point of WOA. That's the point of WS.. What do you think they're doing? Will it work? Who knows, maybe so, maybe not, that's really up in the air. As a matter of fact, that's exactly what this article is about. Making things work. Marketing things the right way. That's what we're all talking about!... I don't get what your hang up is... Where your block is... Microsoft builds a driverless car, or at least attempts to, and you complain that they need to build a driverless car.. It doesn't make sense. You're just mad at MS, and it's obvious that you're being unnecessarily negative.. Why don't we just wait, and see, what transpires? I mean, it's a fact that MS is making huge changes with Windows... We can't say that all this stuff MS is doing with W10 is just some typical incremental update to Windows. It's different, and it's never been done before, so give credit where credit is due, at the very least. I'm not saying that MS isn't stupid, but.. 😂😂😂
  • I do not realy agree with you here Rodney as what I see is that more and more applications are moved to be web based services. Also alot of common application are on Android and iOS these days. But at least you do keep an proper conversation up instead of the tedious down votes so big tumbs up for that and a proper up vote :-)
  • Lol. Well, like I said, we don't know what will happen. MS is making moves. Let's just wait, and see, what happens... You can disagree with me, and that's fine. I just hate when people say others are stupid for their opinion. I believe one day MS will make a Surface Phone, and others may not. Big deal. Life goes on.💜💜💜💜💜💜🎈🎈🎈🎈
  • Microsoft has built a new platform, its called 10S
  • more fanboys downvoted you :)) Windows 10S is a way for MS to force devs to go uwp. It will not work! Just because Apple brings itunes to the store and whatsapp desktop as well, it does not mean that devs have suddenly embraced uwp. This is nothing but a delusion.
  • Yeah, but who is saying that it has worked?... Who is making the claims that you're prematurely trolling?
  • @bleached; They are changing by adding ARMs to the equation. I myself will continue to buy an Intel/AMD device and as of this time I have all three phone(ARMs/Android), Windows7/10; Laptop(AMD), Desktop(Intel). Future wish is a Windows Phone!
  • Your typical BestBuy salesman isn't going to pitch it that way, instead they're going to be blunt, "You don't want Windows 10S, you can only install apps from the WIndows Store, which honestly doesn't have much of what you want". Windows 10S seriously makes no sense outside of schools. It shouldn't even be offered directly to consumers, especially considering any Windows 10 Home owner can go into the settings and limited installations to "Trusted Windows Store" apps.
  • No delete on this app..
  • No delete on this app. Poor developer support from Windows Central... 😂😂😂
  • Exactly. That's the point of Jason's article... See.
  • You're mad, I want 10 S, I want my family to have 10S, it makes tons of sense and IMO is a very smart solution for the new generation.
  • @TheCudder; It's really not Microsoft who has been clear even with RT. Microsoft made it perfectly clear what RT was and had said it for practically a year before consumers bought and attempt to run software that an ARMs processor can't handle and blamed it on Microsoft. I think Microsoft is doing it right but nothing it can do if the consumer don't take the time to research a product before purchasing.
  • But would those users go for 10 S or just go for the Pro or home versions?
  • Why does anyone use Chromebooks. Chrome is has similar limitations. Only web and app store. In fact the play store wasn't a thing initially. Consumers seem to really like Chromebooks. Why? Simplicity. And they don't have all the apps and many don't work well either.
  • Even without Win32, is Windows that simple?
  • Chrome sounds NOTHING like Windows, and thus consumer expectation is already set the moment they choose to go for a Chromebook. Windows 10 S is a confusing name to average consumers just like Windows RT, and it'll suffer the same faith if Microsoft doesn't educate consumers very well via ads.
  • Truth
  • Very well said! Frankly, this Windwos 10S should simply be a switch in Windows 10 Home/Pro that's enabled by default on Windows installation/setup. Requiring additional payment to make a "new" PC (which you yourself already paid for) to work as your "old" PC did is just stupid, and microsoft would get the same response as they did with WIndows RT.
  • Or - one could say it's an upgraded Windows that is mostly imune agains malware, WannaCry and run mostly faster that the speck should suggest.  But maybe Microsoft should consider at free downgrad to regulare windows for the first year after purchase?
  • We can only hope MS can get it right. W10S is really great, especially for those who use a PC for the browser. More apps need to come to the store though, thats the biggest draw back. Alot of niche programs out there that will probably never come to the store
  • I quote: "Here's the issue: Unlike the Windows we know, this version does not run Win32 apps." I think this is a wrong statement as is. I wouldn't nag about this but this article is meant to paint a clear picture I suppose.... Windows 10 S CAN run Win32 apps when they are published through the windows store. The point is you cannot install any app which was not published through the store. It will of course all depend if and how they can persuede companies to use "Project Centennial" and do the publishing (of their Win32 app) through the Windows Store. That part is up to Microsoft doing a good job selling this. It is however also up to news sites like this to understand and communicate the same instead of stating things which are just wrong...  
  • Quite right. It's about the only thing Jason really gets wrong in this article. Looking at it from the POV of so many self-styled experts and power-users - aka nerds :D The fact that it can't install garbage apps from the internet is actually a plus, not a minus. The only reason that detractors can say, "BUT JIIMEY! TEH MILYUNS OF WINTHARTYTOO APPPPPZZ!!" is because for every "good" legacy app, there are 50,000 turds. I mean, seriously. How many "system checkers" and little apps to add nine terrible toolbars to the Explorer are truly needed? I dare say zero. Am I saying that the Store doesn't contain trash? Oh hell no. There's a lot of junk in there thanks to MS just allowing whatever in during the Windows 8 days, and still not curating it the way they should even today. But there really is an obscenely high number of absolute trash legacy apps.
  • Well, that's not entirely true. Per Jason's interview yesterday, MS states that a Legacy applications installer must be recompiled using project centennial, which will technically make it a UWP app.. That is the only way it can come through the store. So, there's a little work to be done to get legacy apps in the store.. Not a whole lot unlikely a developer will use resources to do this, but least likely than if a developer could simply offer their legacy app "as is" in the store. So, technically WS does not run legacy apps, until it is unlocked to do so.
  • So just to be sure, you say "the legacy application's installer"..... Is it the installer that needs recompiling or the application itself?  
  • I'm not totally sure, but I'm pretty sure they are talking about the old, legacy application installer that we're used to seeing evertime we install apps on Windows. Not the layer that we see on the screen, but the actual processes that are there to make installation of W32 apps possible on Windows..... It makes sense that MS would say that is the first, most basic, and necessary step, to convert a W32 app to UWP applications... Of course, I could be wrong, but that's my perception of information that was presented in yesterday's Q&A.
  • People will assume W10S is a new ransomware wanting 50 bucks to run a traditional application. Btw, is there an app for statistics & epidemiology? Such as SPSS? Many university lecturers teach statistics with specific software hands-on. I wonder if W10S will thrive in that type of education market.
  • ms is digging it's own grave. It's the store/user data mining greed that is taking down the giant.. slowly but surely..
  • Yeah, Google isn't doing anything like that with Android...
  • Hate to say it, but user mining is the new norm no matter the platform/software. You're only real choice is to accept it or become a luddite. Even your car is a data mining source nowadays. Best we can hope for is that privacy controls are robust and data stewardship is transparent, ad eventually the laws will catch up to enforce protections.
  • I'm still unclear if this is actually a mainstream OS. Windows on Arm they went out of their way to show it running non store x86 exes. What was telegraphed by all of the MS insider journos was that this wasn't meant for consumers but only for education so.... will this even be on store shelves other than the surface laptop? I'm thinking it would be stupid for this to even be sold in stores as a general purpose os for home users at this point. MS already had the RT moment where no one knew the difference so I can't imagine they would make the same mistake again with providing a product that lacked clarity in the actual basic capabilities of the device. Of course MS hasn't clearly defined any of this to date.
  • How about the OEM 10 S procucts? Just because you get a $189 10 S device does not mean you can you can upgrade for $50, or does it?  
  • I think you can. I remember reading somewhere that Microsoft mentioned that if students or teachers absolutely need win32 applications they can just upgrade to pro. Of course, that doesn't mean a $189 laptop will have the chops to run said application.
  • May depend on perception of the device that will be bought. iOS and Android users are used to a Store only context for phones and tablets. If the wanted apps are in the Store, then I don't think there will be much of an issue. Using the Store is easier than browsing the internet for a program and being sure it is safe, which is not an assurance for not installing all sorts of unwanted stuff.
    The average person is likely to go with it, unless tech writers start spreading the message that it is a less capable Windows, as is done in this article, sorry Jason.
  • It won't be so bad if the price point for the S is cheaper. As long as they are at least the price of the upgrade cheaper to start with I don't really see the problem.
    Plus on WOA they will be cheaper again.
    Do people complain about Chromebooks thinking they are buying a normal laptop? If not, what's the difference?
  • Exactly. .. This goes back to what I've been saying for years. When we are talking about "communicating to consumers" we are talking about proper marketing.
    .....
    This sounds like the all too familiar WP story.. WP7 was "severely limited" but, at the time contained new concepts, and ideas, that competitors yet to have... These ideas were not taken advantage of (and some, like Xbox live, were not executed properly.. These new concepts were not properly marketed, and the average consumer had no idea how nice, and frankly usable, a WP device was. MS foolishly left marketing to fans, carriers, OEM'S (Nokia), and the press. Bad idea.... Instead, the message that got through was that WP had ZERO apps, and it did, but at that time the store was slowly growing. And, by 2014, and WP8.0-.1, the store, and the entire platform, showed promise.. IMO, that "show of promise" took entirely too long, and was hindered by the lack of apps story... But, WP users know all to well that the 1520, 930, 1020, 925-20, era of devices had a WONDERFUL user experience... Sadly nobody else did, because of MS's lack of relentless, and effective, marketing... With WS we're looking at a very similar situation.. WP/WS both are not for everyone, because the average consumer just requires every app possible available to them.. But, not all average consumers at the time required this. That's when MS had the chance to grab them; when the smartphone market wasn't saturated, literally in every consumers pocket, and mentally in consumers minds.. Still, today, there are those consumers who use few apps, if any, and seriously don't care about popular apps. Those were MS's people. Instead they all have iDroid devices now, and the chances of turning to Windows in the future are slim... Jason is right, there's a chance that a lack of proper marketing (an onslaught of relentless, never ending, quality, eye catching TELEVISED ads) could YET AGAIN be harmful, and especially for W10S, going forward... Windows has no apps, but it has many other strengths, and the desktop version doesn't hold the same expectation for mobile apps anyways. Honestly, this applies to all of MS's products, and services. WS is just another example.
    I've said it for years, and now people are beginning to see the light.... A good salesmen can sell sand to a beach bum. A good salesman can sell ANYTHING to anyone. Good salesmen are terrific at building hype around the merits of what they are selling. Apple, and Samsung, are terrific salesmen, and they are selling terrific products. MS has terrific products, but cares less if anyone buys them (Band).. Marketing, or a lack of, is the MAIN reason why WP is where it is today, and that same lack of effort by MS will keep thier other products from ever being correctly perceived by the average consumer... It's extremely tiresome
  • Yup. I just said the same thing
  • Not only marketing.  Stop saying one thing and doing another....MS has done this many times in the past few years and its not helping their situation at all!...
  • Yes, they do many ignorant things when it comes to credibility, but as far as this article is concerned, It's all about marketing to the consumer the idea of WS.. And, it's all about MS taking charge of marketing, instead of foolishly hoping consumers get the message, like they've done in the past.
  • Marketing only gets you so far. You need a good product to back it up. Microsoft has issues with both, but no amount of marketing will make up for a bad product. It seems they do not bother​ much with marketing unless they think they have a great product. I wonder why they even release products they don't perceive as worth marketing?
  • No.... Read my original comment 4million times³, or until you get it. Whichever comes first
  • To be honest, you have been a great proponent of marketing from Microsoft on WC comments over the years. :-)
  • Thanks.
    Because, no,,,, nobody will hear a tree fall in the forest if nobody is around to hear it. You must invite people to your forest. Strictly common dam sense.
  • So how will this be communicated? At the end of the advert will there be a warning: this product does not allow installation of software outside the windows store?
  • No, that's not ENTIRELY what Jason's point was... It actually, would be better to market WS's MERITS, and the idea of using store apps, as a plus, not a "warning".... See, it's all about how they approach the consumer.
    Jason's fear is that if MS doesn't be proactive in approaching consumers themselves, and quickly, the message will get misconstrued by others. And, as we've seen before, this fear is valid.
  • Bestbuy will get them in.  Bestbuy employees will sell them as regular laptops. They might even mention the 49 dollar upgrade cost but it won't be emphasized.  Bloggers will run those stories as if people were duped intentionally and how MS should have known. ZDnet will lead the charge, WC will pick up the story and give the I TOLD YOU SO analysis. Soon after, MS will release the 49 dollar upgrade for free but by then, the MS Vista comparisons will be in full effect. So it is up to you WC. Lets see performance of these tablets with the upgrade and now they perform. Make it a worthwhile purchase.
  • You painted a very real picture of what is probably going to happen, based on past of Microsoft, including with the original Xbox One/Kinect combo.
  • While you may be correct, MS shouldn't be depending on "Best Buy" to do Marketing for them.... If MS is marketing, like they are supposed to, consumers will being going to Best Buy ASKING about, and asking for, WS. That's the ideal situation..... This article only exists because we all know MS's history. If this were Apple, or Samsung, we wouldn't even be talking about this,,,,,,, and that's sad.
  • They need boots on the ground for every W10S purchase making sure the buyer knows exactly what they are buying. Microsoft needs Best Buy and all the other retailers to handle this. They cannot do it sufficiently on their own. It will be a PR issue otherwise. Blaming Best Buy after the fact will not get them anywhere.
  • Won't make any difference.  They did the Boots on the ground thing with Windows RT.  Marketing aggressively in airports, etc.  Didn't make one bit of difference.  This will fail as well.
  • If you have to market that aggressively, maybe the issue is with the product.
  • Yup, this Windows 10 S would suffer nearly the same faith as Windows RT; barely anyone would be satisfied by its limitations compared to the full Windows, espcially on an expensive device. Only difference this time is that major brands will already have their apps in the store by then, so, when Windwos 10 S dies off like Windows RT, the Store will already have a sufficient collection of big-brand apps that'll keep the trend going...
  • Microsoft had enough problems communicating Windows Phone expectations and then Surface RT expectations. I can't see them doing much better with this, even if they use the terms 'security' and so on. Until they can get all Windows applications in the Store (impossible?), this is always going to be an uphill battle. I see a lot of disappointed customers and raging comments for this OS in the future.
  • Some will abandon Windows for the "idealized" fruit. I think Microsoft should be careful.
  • Exactly. It is frustrating when we already (as fans) have doubts going in... That means MS has a huge marketing problem.
  • Marketing is really Microsoft's Achilles heel. That in and by itself tells enough. I have not seen ANY Microsoft commercial outing of any kind here in the Netherlands, none. And I also mean with that, anything running Windows. Yes, retailers will have instore material and in their folders, but outside of that, it really, really, really is Android that dominates the commercials on TV, the Internet browsing experience, outdoor advertising. I even didn't see the Windows app version mentioned in a commercial for the official Formula 1 app, even though both Android and iPhone were. And it's not like the Windows version is an after thought, it gets updated regularly. But in the TV commercial, NOTHING.
  • You're a smart man, Herbert. I agree.
  • Have to say I'm confused - I haven't used Windows since version 8 and still have a Windows 7 machine although I'm mainly on MacOS these days. My recollection of the Windows Store from Windows 8 days was just a bunch of low functionality modern UI apps that took ages to load and didn't work well on the desktop. Are these the sort of apps that will come with Windows S or can apps that look like good old fashioned apps be delivered through the Store. As far as I know there aren't any Microsoft Stores in the UK to go an try before I buy. Almost all retail stores aren't set up with internet access or dummy accounts to get a feel for the products.
  • The Store apps can be both old fashioned apps like iTunes, spotify, etc. And they can be the same crap from Windows 8.
    The old fashioned apps on the Windows Store will also have advatadges over normal win32 apps.
  • Thanks Goncalo - that's good news. Very happy to go through the Store if the majority of apps (or good alternatives) are available.
  • In general, the Store apps are the same as or superior to the non-Store equivalents when both are available. The hugely popular Slack app is the same. Skype is different and some prefer the old desktop version, but I much prefer the Store version -- cleaner and less resource intensive. Store apps have the benefit of auto-updating on their own in the background, which is a huge plus (I HATE launching PuTTY or Calibre or any of a dozen other desktop applications and having them tell me an unavailable and pausing my use while I consider if I want to go download it and the update and restart the application; Firefox is a little better, but still not as nice as Store apps). Store apps also uninstall cleanly and are much less likely to crash the whole system. They certainly don't load slower and are no longer so limited in functionality as back in the Windows 8/RT days. If I could get everything I need from the Store, I would be much happier, but until then, at least on my main system, I would not be able to get by limited only to getting apps from the Store. On the other hand, for my kids who don't need those admin-type apps, limiting installations to only Store apps is a huge plus.
  • I don't think Microsoft has communicated nor advertised/marketed very well in the past. They seem oblivious. That said, Jason raises a major point. They need to communicate a simple and honest story.
  • Yeah, to say out loud the things that Stefan Wick said to Jason about a push to move to the future and that apps will be coming. One thing you could give Apple is that they tell you what they are doing with the hardware (removing ports, etc.) and stand by it as their "future", even though it seems were shocked at the ferocity of angry responses to their latest choices. Microsoft sometimes tries to keep silent (or vague) about problematic stuff (like their silence on mobile, even about the Fluent Design System coming to it) hoping that the market will ignore them, because they don't want to admit the issues (in this case the literal app gap, and their reasons for the changes) and hoping that they intuit and agree with their ultimate goals (which may even be good). The problem with that is when you have a ready army of de-marketers (tech journalists, etc.) and a mostly oblivious public who are "spoiled" by *other* mobile OS expectations (and deeply ingrained expectations of Windows) you can't afford to leave the conversation to their eventual reactions. You must come clean, boldly, unabashedly, and heavily. Imagine someone *finally* buying a Surface laptop (having saved long-term and waiting for a clamshell form-factor) to replace their 7-year HP whatever running Windows Vista or 7, and then be stymied by the Windows 10 S...
  • You make an excellent point about being bold with change. They had no idea how to market RT and did tons of backpedaling.
  • "Microsoft hopes that in time it will become the default mass market version of the OS." - Say whut? lol. No they don't.
  • Re: aka Drael6464646,
    May I ask, why do you say that?
  • Jason goes overboard again. It will not replace w10home. Its strictly aimed at education sector in US.
  • For now it is aimed at education... But, because of WS's nature, and the fact that ARM is the future, WS is the future of computing going forward.. The entire industry, including Apple, and Google, are working toward this. With WOA, and WS, MS finally is coming out the gate first.... By focusing on education first you are seeing baby steps being taken by MS to get to an ARM computing future for typical consumer computing.. And, that is already going on with smartphones.
  • I think there is some truth to this statement - I believe that this will replace Home edition, and will effectively become the default version of windows for 'consumers' in fact, I can see many enterprises that will also choose to go this route due to the ease of locking the device down!
  • The upgrade is free for everyone until the end of the year. I think that pretty much solves your problem and probably why they did that.
  • So, you think no one would buy a Windows 10S device in 2018? The upgrade has to remain free FOREVER to make this manageable by many consumers who'll think they're buying a regular laptop whereas it's a Windows 10 S laptop. Otherwise, it's just going to repeat the WIndows RT history, and it having a strikingly similar name to the regular Windows 10 only makes things worse. Perhaps they could make it a free upgrade to Windows 10 Home or $49 for Pro, that'll be very reasonable...
  • Marketing (and ensuring understanding and buy-in) of customers is a different ball game from the enterprise focus of Microsoft. Enterprise (and "IT experts") sends you an email or calls support numbers, and waits for the next release, consumers kill your name a million times over, on the internet.
  • You literally go to install an app - it says - you have to upgrade to install apps - you click yes, click upgrade and it upgrades (for free).
  • It's free until the end of the year, if you are talking about installing Win32 programs on Windows 10 S.
  • People getting sold on simplicity are going to be the most frustrated and confused by a notification to update. I know computer users that deny updates out of fear.
  • Except this isn't windows like we Know and love. It's windows rt 2.0. I don't have much confidence in Microsoft's​ ability to market Windows 10 S. I see consumers getting confused and frustrated over what it is.
  • Is there confusion with Windows 10S - or, in general, are many tech sites spouting crap about it? To me (and yes, I'm technical) it is a very simple offering within the family - and one that is being targeted at schools right now to avoid such confusion that might arise while the store is still limited. You have to remember that 10S is also very cheap, remember that OEM's are launching devices at $200 or something, so $50 more ti be on pro isn't really a big deal is it? I think that right now the marketing towards education is right - others are also realising it will work for them which means some consumers will also buy it. I expect that this view will have changed by 2018.
  • What they need to do is get developers on board, as I've said before there are two dozen programs I use regularly on my PC. I can count the number of those that are available in the Windows Store on one hand. They still have a very long way to go.
  • A lot of the confusion is going to stem from the fact that, once 10S is offered at retail, you can't count on college age minimum wage retail Sales reps to properly inform the customer. Another thing, hardware:  when both 10S and full Windows is going to ship on both high end and low end hardware, what is the distinguishing factor?  Somebody buying a $1500 laptop online, from say, Newegg and finding it has Windows 10S, and now has to pay a fee to Microsoft to unlock functionality, because the product description didn't spell out what *10S is* and that it's locked down, is going to be awfully mad.....at Microsoft, not Newegg.
  • The easiest way to market devices carrying w10s is not to call them laptops that way MS can avoid the so called confusion. Call them litebooks or sbooks something that clearly segregates the product line.
  • Clearly having a name for the hardware that distinguishes them from full Windows devices, is you're right, going to absolutely necessary.   You won't be able to call both 10S devices and full Windows devices 'laptops' or 'desktops', otherwise you're *asking* for consumer backlash. You can't count on a bullet point sales tag listing product features at a Costco or Best Buy, to educate consumers.
  • Another thing,  that I mentioned in another comment, in a different article here: what is Microsoft's plan about offering popular freeware in the Store? Are the developers of Audacity, Foobar, Calibre (ebook conversion and management) and Mozilla products (Thunderbird, my go-to email, and Firefox) going to be charged store listing fees? What about free, but competitors to Office, like Open Office or Libre Office?  Free screenwriting software that Joe Developer wrote, offered it online five years ago, but is not actively updating or managing?   Are those use cases considered, 'Pro'?    Like I said, many questions.....
  • A couple of years ago the man behind Steam wrote a big rant saying that soon Microsoft would put something in Windows that would break Steam and other download services. This may be what he was thinking of. A version if Windows were 99% of all games ever released simply will not install. Correct me if I'm wrong, and I may well be, but this looks like a version of Windows were you can only play Windows app store games, and nothing that you already own on Steam or on disc will install at all. Not being able to install gf she's that I already own is a deal breaker for me. I'd go back to the Vista PC that I already own rather than buy a new machine with this kind of destruction.
  • Yep, or install an old version of Windows, or buy a Mac and dualboot Windows 7. I don't think we need to worry too much; the free market in this case will take care of things.  Remember Windows 8?  Customers and enterprises hated it so much, particular OEMs (ahem, Dell and HP) offered custom PCs with the option to have Windows 7 installed. If 10S proves to be consumer unfriendly or unpopular, again OEMs are not going to lose sales.   They'll install the full Windoows version as an option beforehand.
  • Or the software for cheating on games, or viewing pirate movies, or the million and one things that PC users do that Microsoft doesn't want you to do but hasn't previously stopped you from doing. Will the patches that block Microsoft telemetry be available. Or encrypted chat software? How about vpn software that let's people in censorship heavy countries communicate freely?
  • Seems like Windows Central is discussing Continuum more than even Microsoft. What does that say about the future of Continuum...?
  • With Windows on ARM now being the new focus and favorite child, I think Continuum is as dead-end as Windows 10 Mobile.
  • The biggest issue will be Steam and the like. Most consumer laptops dropped disc drives long ago so consumers are installing less and less on their own, but many people use Steam, Origin, GOG, etc. even if they don't know why or how.
  • I don't think it's a "need" vs "will" situation here. Microsoft can do whatever they want to try to prepare people. The general public themselves are not knowledgeable enough, and don't want to learn, to know the difference. If this is sold alongside regular Windows 10 on computers in stores, this will go the way of RT. Within education and a some select other use cases, it could be successful with direct partner deals.
    I like that it exists, but we all know what the public reception will be. This just isn't what people pick Windows for...
  • I almost think it would be better to tell the general public that they can't have it. That it's only for education customers. Then when/if people look into it, see the limitations, think "you know, I want a cheaper version of windows and I could live with that" they can make it available to the public because they asked for it, avoiding most backlash as it will then be seen as "the cheap education version of windows, now available to everyone!"
  • If your product requires that much marketing and risk management, maybe it is a bad product. Maybe you should go back to the drawing board. Maybe Microsoft shouldn't be chasing competitors, maybe Microsoft should be at least trying to lead them.
  • No Steam, missing Cisco Anyconnect for work VPN, can't install their favorite browser... If these get into the hands of consumers, there WILL be backlash.  I'm not even convinced they're a better alternative than chromebooks for education.  I don't care how you spin it, Win10S is crippled and people will end up angry.  Also, leaving the MS ecosystem has never been easier and so far, the ones that leave have no reason to come back.  MS definitely has its priorities screwed up. I can't believe MS spent resources on this crap sandwich instead of their own Android version.  If they're dead-set on having a "store" model, that's the way to do it.  When the cloud market becomes commoditized, MS is going to be in trouble.
  • Microsoft definitely needs to get in front of it, telling people "Windows 10 S only runs trusted, modern applications installed through the Microsoft Store". This also needs to be on every box for every device with 10 S as well as on every piece of marketing that exists for devices with 10 S. I think they need to make the store a greater focal point in the whole Windows/Microsoft ecosystem. Once people realize "ok, the store isn't so bad", then the switch to 10 S won't be so bad, and the onus won't be on Microsoft to support non-Store apps but will be on the developers to modernize their applications and bring them to the store.  To start increasing mindshare for the store, I suggest that Microsoft allow people to buy hardware (stuff they sell at physical Microsoft Stores), service subscriptions (i.e. Xbox Live, Groove, O365, OneDrive, Outlook Premium, Spotify, Google Play Music, iTunes, Apple Music, Adobe and Autocad subscriptions, etc), and, of course, apps.
  • WC has to get the story right. Upgrading to Pro on 10 S only applies to the Surface Laptop. OEMs already have 10 S laptops out there, Celeron processors and eMMC storage, $250 to $350. They come with a lower price than their Pro versions. The lowest one is supposed to come in at $189.  This discussion makes it sound like anything that comes with 10 S installed can be updated for $50. I don't think this is the case. Make a clear seperation between OEM 10 S products and the Surface laptop. The OEM 10 S laptops should be the ones discussed, with a clear distinction from the Surface when you talk about 10 S
  • Stopped talking about mobile, I see..
  • Maktaba please review: www.windowscentral.com/author/jason-ward I've always provided a mix topics from AI and bots, quantum computing, Cortana, HoloLens, IoT, and more. 😉
  • Last night I did a refresh of my Surface and made a point to note which x86 apps I needed. Turns out Adobe CC, Office 2016, and Steam were it. Everything else was a store bought app. Now admittedly, Adobe CC is a niche market product. Office is coming to the store for W10S. So that leaves Steam. That is the only one I see a real potential problem with. Though I only use it for one game, some casual gamers have a lot more. Besides that, the Windows experience can be very satisfying on W10S. IMHO of course.
  • Its not just 'Steam' it pretty much 99% of all PC game market; so if Microsoft thinks they can ever in a million years move from Win32 they will be sorely dissapointed; the best they will be able to do is get basic (email/web) users to use the gimped Win10S and just use WinStore; all other will need and want Win32 support for the forseeable future. There is a reason why Microsoft puts even some of their own PC games on Steam in Win32; its because no PC gamers are buying AAA PC games that are gimped by UWP and all the limitations and problems that brings with it; least of all the lack of modding support.... and countless others.    
  • Agreed. The market for this laptop with W10S will be standard end-users. I asked my sister-in-law (the only standard end-user I know on a Surface) and her use case for her Pro 4 is very much in line with W10S. I think the problem is they are marketing a premium product at a premium price with a basic end-user in mind. She claims she does all her app shopping in-store, and only afterwards will she direct download an app. Her example was Spotify....which of course isn't going to be an issue for her anymore.  I would like to think that they have the market research to support a decision like the one made for the Surface Laptop. But what do I know? I mean, my sister-in-law DID get a Surface Pro 4...so maybe they'll sell a $#!+-ton of these buggers. 
  • This was a nice read.  Kudos to you Jason. I will definitely check out your future work.
  • Beyond ad campaigns, training store assistants, customer support people, big bold warnings on brochures... Microsoft can also just allow S users to change to Home edition FOC. The process can even be automated with a wizard when user tries to find an online program that is not in Windows Store. After a couple of disclaimers about the disadvantages of "downgrading" to Home, the license can be delivered through the Store and will be permanent. This option will give users a choice while the Windows store is being populated. It'll also shut Tim Sweeney up. 😁 (then again probably not) It'll avoid a PR fallout and while ignorant consumers will still complain, they'll relent when told they can "downgrade". Of course the language must seem that they're"upgrading for free", to make them feel good. 😉
  • Thats actually a great idea; pay $50 to get Pro or downgrade to Home for Free, but later have to pay more to get Pro, if you so decide.
  • Walled garden? NO THANK YOU. If I wanted that, I'd buy an iPad. At least all the apps would be there. Microsoft's app store is still a joke. It's as if they want to take the problems with WP/WM/RT and unnecessarily apply them to Windows generally.  This is a terrible idea and I agree that it has the potential to be a PR disaster. They better think carefully before they start putting this on general consumer devices.
  • I honestly hate how a person's stupidity is somehow someone else's responsibility 🙄
  • Huh, so kinda like how a phone company should manage expectations when it promises disruptive technologies and then wants to raise $1.1 million but falls flat on its face?
  • Chrome isn't just a  popular browser it's the most popular browser in the world. It will break deals for MSFT.
  • If something requires Microsoft to clearly communicate its doomed from the start. What you mentioned in this article is the most likely outcome once Win10S starts to spread among consumers; and I can already see the articles and social posts "Greedy Microsoft wants $50 extra for a PC I already paid for and can't use"..... etc....  
  • How common is it even for the average user to even use an app not found in the store? Can anyone think of an app, that can't be replaced with an equivilant in the store (or one fairly likely to come soon), that hundreds of millions of people use? Nothing immediately comes to mind. People need what - a cloud storage program, a browser, Netflix, maybe a torrent program. Excluding gamers or power users, who know enough not to buy windows s expecting something else. Do these "great unwashed masses who regularly require win32" actually exist?
  • Communication would be benificial in that regard but what's 50.- for a normally 200.- license when you've already paid between 1'000 to 2'200.- for the hardware?
    And considering that you'll never again have to pay for a Windows OS license once you've made the jump to Windows 10 I'd call it more than just an appealing deal =)
  • WIndows 10S (Start) is for the new generation starting to work with computers, instead of using the ipads and android tablets they get a much more usefull platform. Once grown up they can openup the full power by upgrading if they want to do so. By then the store can be a more interesting place then today. Making Windows10 the best "DEVBOX" out there is a way to get developers use the 10 platform for developing on android and ios and in the meantime 'steal' the effort they put into there app and copy to UWP with the help of softbridges. A developer would get his APP in all platforms without minimal effort while he still is targeting his popular platform. hopefully then the featured API's in W10 would appeal to the dev to exploit this more in the UWP version. At least that is what I read in the Build message