Windows 10 S has the potential to create lifelong Microsoft customers

While the market for Windows 10 S is education, it may also create a base of lifelong subscribers to the Microsoft ecosystem.


Image: Microsoft News

In a recent post on the Windows Blog, Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft, took a few paragraphs to tout the benefits of Windows 10 S. I was unfamiliar with that version of the operating system, so I did some research.

Windows 10 S is Microsoft's operating system answer for the education market. This version starts with Windows 10 Pro and then restricts some of its functionality to make a more secure and cleaner operating system. It actually sounds like a good idea for that market--kids tend to be very adventurous when it comes to downloading and installing applications.

But it also got me thinking about other potential motives that Microsoft might have with a product like Windows 10 S. With cloud computing dominating much of the marketplace today, Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all competing for your subscription to their ecosystem. And once a person opts in to a system, human inertia tends to keep them there.

SEE: Windows 10: The smart person's guide

Windows 10 S

Microsoft creates a Windows 10 S device by installing Windows 10 Pro and then applying restrictions that purport to keep the device secure and working efficiently. The three main restrictions of Windows 10 S are:

  • Only applications found on the Windows Store can be downloaded and installed.
  • The only browser available is Microsoft Edge and it can't be configured with addons, plugins, extensions, etc.
  • The Windows 10 S version is only available pre-installed on a new device. You can't purchase it retail. The Surface Laptop is the primary example.

This substantially limits the applications that can be installed on a Windows 10 S device, keeping it a leaner machine for longer. This is an ideal situation for the education market, since the devices are owned and controlled by the school and are often used as community devices available to the entire classroom.

SEE: Surface Laptop: $999 Windows 10-powered MacBook competitor revealed alongside $189 Chromebook challengers

Windows 10 S devices would also be appropriate for public libraries, cafes, and any situation where users need to be restricted to just the applications the administrator has approved for use--banks, medical facilities, military, and so on--obviously, a useful product for a potentially lucrative market.


Image: Microsoft News

Bottom line

However, while the market for Windows 10 S is self-evident, there are some beneficial side effects that Microsoft can take advantage of--possibly.

The concepts of cloud computing and subscription-based software as a service (SaaS) have changed the competitive landscape for technology companies. The real competition is for users.--specifically, users who are comfortable with, and attuned to, the company's specific ecosystem. The "PC-war" and the "browser-war" were just precursors to the real battle for the hearts and minds of users: ecosystems.

If Microsoft can leverage products like Windows 10 S and Minecraft: Education Edition to create a younger user base that is familiar with and, more important, happy and loyal to Microsoft, the company can create a lifelong user and more important still, a lifelong subscriber to its ecosystem. A consistent and predictable source of steady revenue from a happy and content customer base creates the ultimate win-win scenario for all Microsoft stakeholders.

I am not suggesting this is Microsoft's main motivation in developing Windows 10 S. There is, without a doubt, a market for a more secure, less configurable, version of Windows 10. However, in the era of cloud computing and subscription-based software, the real battle is for users. Creating a familiarized user at an early age today will certainly help sell a few Microsoft ecosystem devices and subscriptions in the future.

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Your thoughts

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By Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to,, and TechRepublic.