Microsoft last week unveiled a new version of their predominant desktop operating system. Windows 10 S is being billed as a boon for students but is really a fascinating product outside of education and may have wide spread ramifications for the desktop software industry.
The "S" in this new variant's name presumably stands for "school" or "secure" and not "speed" as the tech industry typically reaches for, however, "simplified" would perhaps be more appropriate. Unlike the days gone by, Windows is no longer just Windows. Windows 10 S is a locked down version that lacks the ability to choose default browsers and search engines and, most significantly, the ability to install traditional applications outside the Windows app store.
It's interesting to note that, at least for the time being, the folk in Redmond are making it an easy process to switch devices away from S to the more powerful and open Windows 10 Pro. In a move likely aimed at curtailing any backlash from the savvy tech media. It is easy though to see these two editions continuing to diverge, potentially even to the point of no longer being possible to swap between them.
While right now the market share of this new OS is zero, as it grows it will be interesting to see how Windows developers big and small respond to this introduced limitation. Should Windows 10 S start gaining significant traction it could lead to a fragmentation of the software market, however, that might end up being a win for those looking for powerful but not overly complicated applications and the stagnating Windows app store.
It is hard to imagine the Adobes of the world will start bringing their professional applications to Microsoft's store, especially as they have begun finding more success with subscription models. Perhaps though this segment of the market might be addressed in other ways, such as offering cut-down versions of applications that are suited to students starting out and hobbyists alike.
Adobe already do this with Photoshop Express, a lightweight variant of the image editor. Might we see Illustrator, Premiere and tho rest of the creative suite be expressified? Or will Adobe and others simply ignore this new development and potentially destine Windows 10 S to the same fate as the now retired RT?