Windows 10 S is no more, and I told you so

Last year I first introduced you to Windows 10 S, a deliberately crippled version of Windows designed to make school computers more secure. It seemed like a total waste of time to me, especially since many schools still rely on older apps that wouldn’t run on Windows 10 S. This intentionally limited operating system only allowed Windows Store apps to load, meaning no Microsoft Office, no iTunes, and no anything made before 2012. Seemed to me at the time, they didn’t understand the education market at all.

For once, I was right about something. (I know, mark the date!)

Over the weekend, in a press release that I’m sure they hoped no one would pick up, Microsoft announced that Windows 10 S as a standalone product is over and done. The Verge first reported the story and it’s been confirmed.  Microsoft is ditching S and replacing it with an “S mode” in all versions of Windows.

This is a smart move and hopefully this will all be put behind us soon enough. Microsoft has made the mistake of having too many Windows versions before and it’s good to see that they’re going down the right road now.

The funny thing is that it won’t be long before an “S-enabled” version of Windows makes sense. The Windows Store in one form or another has been around since 2012 and if you don’t count some really big omissions (Creative Cloud, Office, iTunes) it’s actually pretty well stocked. If Microsoft can find a way to get those blockbuster apps on board then many people could conceivably lock themselves into “S mode” and potentially have more security and stability on their computers.

I’m reminded of a time almost 20 years ago when Apple rolled out its then-new OS X operating system. At launch, it didn’t run a single major app. Luckily, it shipped with what was euphemistically called “the Classic Environment” which launched a full copy of Mac OS 9 within OS X. This allowed about 95% of programs, including the most important ones, to run fairly well.

Apple aggressively pushed the benefits of OS X, such as its speed and stability, and it took about four years if I recall before app support was so strong that Apple discontinued the Classic environment. Today, Macs can’t run any program made before 2000, but that’s hardly a hardship at this point.

Microsoft is a little behind schedule when you look at it that way. If they had done a better job with Windows 8 then more developers would have designed their apps for the “Modern Environment” (what we now call “Windows Store apps”) and by now Microsoft could have “S mode” on by default. They bungled Windows 8, but Windows 10 is a hit and hopefully this will continue to give developers confidence so that by maybe 2022 we can all walk away from the old-school Win32 apps.

According to The Verge, all versions of Windows 10, including the Home version, will get the option to turn on S mode if so desired, but the option will be off by default. I doubt too many people will switch it on with the exception of overeager IT managers who know for sure that their users can do without Microsoft Office. That sounds like a pretty small number of people.