For years Windows PCs have run a wide range of software, but now it seems that Microsoft will give PC makers scope to restrict which apps will work on Windows machines.
Microsoft is planning to update all versions of Windows 10 to incorporate S Mode, which will limit the machine to only installing apps from the Microsoft Store, according to a leaked roadmap.
The roadmap suggests that PC makers will be able to use the mode to lock a wider range of Windows 10 machines to only running Microsoft Store apps by default.
Users of Windows 10 Home and Education editions will be able to upgrade to a standard, unrestricted version free of charge, while users of Windows 10 Pro will be charged $49 to switch. However, Windows 10 Pro S, which appears to be a version of Windows that defaults to running in S Mode, will be confined to lower-end machines.
The change in approach means that PCs will also cease being sold with Windows 10 S, a version of the OS which could only run Microsoft Store apps.
However, if a wider range of Windows 10 PCs are sold with S Mode enabled by default, then the reluctance of many users to alter Windows' settings could boost the number of people using Microsoft Store apps. The tech site Thurrot.com was shown Microsoft figures that suggest 60 percent of users of low-end devices stick with Windows 10 S, rather than upgrading it to the unrestricted Windows 10 Pro.
Microsoft argues that locking machines to Windows Store apps offers users guarantees about the performance and security of the software running on their machine.
However, reviews of earlier Windows machines locked to the Microsoft Store highlighted the poor selection of software available compared to the much broader catalog of general x86 software that has traditionally run on Windows PCs.
Forrester principal analyst J.P. Gownder said: "For schools, 10 S is a great solution for simplifying access control and management, and making Windows machines more competitive with Chromebooks. But for most users — enterprise and consumer alike — 10 S is a bit too limiting for most people.
"For less expensive devices, 10 S helps with performance, and might be appropriate for some buyers, so OEMs might ship more units with 10 S Mode enabled (and help buyers access that experience).
"All in all, Windows 10 S Mode makes a lot of sense, and probably should have been the original strategy."
Microsoft has also indicated that there will be an exception in Windows S mode, with the OS able to run non-Microsoft Store anti-virus apps.
SEE: Windows 10: Streamline your work with these power tips (free TechRepublic PDF)
The leaked roadmap also revealed Microsoft's plans to further vary Windows licensing costs depending on the specs of the PC it's installed upon.
Microsoft will classify five types of PC: Entry, Value, Core, Core + and Advanced. These specs will range from, at the Entry level: Intel Atom/Celeron/Pentium ≤ 4GB RAM & ≤ 32GB SSD AND ≤ 14.1" screen size (NB), ≤ 11.6" (2in1, Tablet), ≥ 17" AiO; to, at the Advanced level: Intel Core i9 (any configuration) OR Core i7 ≥ 6 Cores (any RAM) OR AMD Threadripper(any configuration) OR Intel Core i7 >16GB (any Cores) or AMD FX/ Ryzen7 >16GB (any Cores) OR ≥ 4K screen resolution (any processor, includes 4K UHD-3840 resolution.
The licensing costs to the PC maker will be: Advanced ($101), Core + ($86.66), Core ($65.45), Value ($45), and Entry ($25). Most of these new prices will come into effect from April 2nd and for Home Advanced from May 1st.
A Microsoft spokesperson said: "Windows 10 S provides a streamlined, secure and battery-efficient experience that we believe is a great choice for many customers. We'll share more about what's next for Windows 10 S when we're ready."
More on Windows 10
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- Microsoft quietly announces end of last free Windows 10 upgrade offer (ZDNet)
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Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.