Windows 10 S: It’s Not Me, It’s You

Posted on June 20, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 62 Comments

Windows 10 S: It's Not Me, It's You

Windows 10 S is too frustrating to use today, but Microsoft has some short- and long-term solutions that will help mitigate the pain over time.

For now, of course, it’s a non-starter for most people: Key Windows applications like Google Chrome, Adobe Photoshop, and Apple iTunes are not available, and some of them maybe never will be. But over time, I do expect this situation to improve.

Until that happens, Microsoft offers a solution that should please anyone: You can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for free through the end of 2017. And even after this year expires, that update—which takes just minutes—will cost just $50.

Many, of course, will try to co-exist with Windows 10 S. They will not be successful. All it takes is that one desktop application, that one custom driver for some crucial device, to send you running to the free upgrade to Pro. And it will happen. To all of you.

It’s happened to me, certainly. Well, I haven’t actually upgraded to Pro: I’m using Windows 10 S for a few days only on a loaner Surface Laptop, and I don’t have the time, energy, or required USB stick to make a recovery drive while I’m traveling this week. But if I owned this thing, there is no way I could stick with Windows 10 S. Not today.

I have a number of issues with this system, the most obvious of which is its inability to run Google Chrome, an app I use and rely on all day. But I’d like to run Visual Studio as well, and MarkdownPad. And many other desktop applications that simply are not available on Windows 10 S.

Look, I get it. Microsoft is looking to the future. And what it sees is fundamentally correct: The mainstream user base is moving away from complicated legacy PCs and to simpler, more mobile devices.

The issue is that Windows just isn’t ready for this transition. Not today. The Fall Creators Update may help. The availability of more apps in the Store will absolutely help. God, Google could solve this problem right now. You know they will not.

Ultimately, the debate about Windows 10 S centers, as so many personal technology discussions do these days, on whether it’s applicable to you. Today, it’s just not a mainstream solution, not for most people.


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Comments (62)

62 responses to “Windows 10 S: It’s Not Me, It’s You”

  1. John Jackson

    I remember in the dim and distant past ... when I was an early explorer of Windows 8 (what might have been called a Windows 8 Insider, had such existed) ...

    ... I predicted that unless NASDAQ:MSFT had a healthy crop of the top appl(ication)s READY TO GO at the launch of Windows 8 then the OS would be total ******* disaster.

    But Sinofsky didn't want to know ... I've done somewhat better than him since.

    I call it Windows STERILE ... totally unproductive.

    I am constantly astonished that with so many brilliant people inside NASDAQ:MSFT that the decision makers cannot see what is staring an amateur, armchair user like myself in the face:


  2. Rob_Wade

    Since I have a home studio, there's just no way 10S will ever work for me (too many music/video apps are and will remain desktop-only). But I have no sympathy for people who use anything Apple or anything Google. I just don't. As for Photoshop, there's not a lot competing with that, as much as I hate all Adobe's garbage because it's all so bloated, so slow and so overpriced.

    • Darmok N Jalad

      In reply to Rob_Wade:

      No sympathy for people who use anything Apple or Google? What does that even mean? If they are perfectly happy using products from either company, then they probably don't need any sympathy.

      And for whatever reason, some non-Apple people think that all Apple users still need and/or use iTunes. They don't.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

        Context: Google Chrome and iTunes don't run under Windows 10 S. I figure Rob_Wade had no sympathy for Windows 10 S users who can't use Chrome or iTunes.

        And of course Apple wants people to move on from iTunes. Where's the profit in selling the same bits of music just once?

  3. mruszczyk

    While I would love my crucial desktop apps to come to the store I think the broader issue is the lack of quality of the store replacements or the lack of discoverability for quality apps. For instance I use PuTTY on my desktop. I could use any old ssh app. If I search SSH I get a handful of apps ranging from free to $29.99 with most being $2-10. Which of these should I put money down to try? PuTTY is a known quantity and if you good for an ssh/telnet app for windows it is the #1 result. Right now I don't trust that these apps will be good experiences are not abandonware and can fulfill my needs.

    I think store apps can replace apps we use everyday, IF we have quality developers building them and supporting them. We use the apps we use everyday because we like them and we trust the developers of them. I think an ecosystem of legitimate application reviews would go a long way to calm the waters on finding replacement apps for your use cases. That and a real crackdown on quality in the store.

  4. hrlngrv

    The mainstream user base is moving away from complicated legacy PCs and to simpler, more mobile devices.

    If people are interested in simpler software for their mobile devices, does that have any bearing on what those people who would still use PCs would want to run on their PCs? Is there any reason to believe that Windows phones, non-Win32 Windows tablets and other MSFT mobile devices in total would ever number higher than 1 for every 10 PCs in use or 1 for every 20 non-Windows mobile device in use?

    MSFT already tried to base PC software design on mobile. That didn't turn out well. Did MSFT learn so little from that that they need more bad experiences doing so?

    We now have very capable mobile devices, so those who still use PCs are unlikely to do so if they could do the same things on their mobile devices. Thus, people tend to use PCs to do different things than they do on their phones. That so, would it really make sense to dumb down PC software?

    Finally, a note of cynicism: MSFT wants the revenues from a Windows Store which would be the sole provider of new software to as many PCs as possible. Yes, MSFT lusts after 30% of 3rd party Windows software revenues, and it's not willing to give up on that [pipe] dream yet.

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      So what exactly should Microsoft do?

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to Chris_Kez:

        I don't know what MSFT should do, but it's a lot clearer what it shouldn't do: try to make the Windows Store the sole distribution channel for Windows software for PCs. There's enough resistance to that to guarantee that if UWP really is the future, and UWP will only come from the Windows Store, then the Windows Store and UWP have no future with PCs, so may have no future at all.

        Want to give UWP development some chance of taking off? Make it possible to install UWP packages from anywhere. That is, accept that PCs are different from phones, and the 4+ decades of PCs' existence completely undermine and void the concept of the walled garden app store. More bluntly, abandon the pipe dream of US$ billions in revenues from PC software sales through the Windows Store.

  5. Wolf

    I don't get all this negative skew on Windows 10 S. If you want to run all your full-blown apps, then get an OS with full-blown capabilities. That's not what Windows 10 S is designed for. That's why it's called Windows 10 S, not Home, not Pro. It's a different thing, with different capabilities. Sure, more and better apps will come, but this should be reviewed from the perspective of the target audience, not from the needs of a power user.

  6. Mark from CO


    You've been bullish on W10 S. This is an about face, no matter how you color it. You can say it is about looking toward the future. That also could have been said about Windows RT. Many of your readers predicted this article.

    The fact is, the OS is crippled because of the lack of apps. Didn't Microsoft learn from Windows Phone? It's the apps, stupid!

    Other than fits and starts, and capitulation, what exactly is Microsoft OS/platform strategy? Help me out, I can't see it.

    Mark from CO

    • MutualCore

      In reply to Mark from CO:

      What should Microsoft do - pay Google $10 billion to have all their apps in the Windows Store?

      • Mark from CO

        In reply to MutualCore:


        Easy to make trite remarks.  What do you say Microsoft should be doing, or are you satisfied with the direction the company?  Comments are for stating opinions and providing some rationale behind them. I have provided my views, with supporting facts and rationale.  Look to other opinion pieces from Paul and you will see.  You don't seem willing to engage.

        I'm not sure where you come up with you $10B number.  Paul has several articles about the success Microsoft has had in providing emulation for Google Play apps.  To good of success.  He has told us that it was Microsoft, in trying to protect its store, that cancelled the project.  So in hopes of protecting the Store, Microsoft turned its back on its WM customers.  We may well see this decision as doing nothing to help the Store, while putting the final nail in their mobile aspirations.

        Mark from CO

        • anchovylover

          In reply to Mark from CO:

          You say in protecting the store MS turned its back on WM customers. Well, now by making Edge the only browser MS have turned their back on desktop users. I know since Nadella came to power MS's shares have done very well however in consumer it has been utter chaos. WM has become an internet meme and W10 S will follow RT in the annals of embarrassment for MS. No Chrome browser and popular apps equals failure for W10 S.

        • Chris_Kez

          In reply to Mark from CO:

          I think Paul's earlier articles about the cancelled Android Bridge suggested that Microsoft was trying to protect the entire future of Windows development; it wasn't just or only some greedy move to protect store revenues as you seem to be suggesting. If Win 32 development has largely ceased and UWP development never takes off because of Android apps, then Windows development exists only as an outlet for the remaining Windows developers who are making a living updating legacy software and/or are too old or too set in their ways to learn how to write for Android and iOS. And in short order that pool will dry up and you'll be left with a tiny number of developers outside of some specialized areas. Talk about a death spiral.

          As for Windows Mobile customers, what is the point in giving them access to Android apps if the entire surrounding Windows platform becomes irrelevant? Is Microsoft going to have a viable, long-term business selling essentially a modified Android phone?

      • RonH

        In reply to MutualCore:

        They need to update Edge faster!

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to Mark from CO:

      Are UWP and Windows 10S not clear indicators of Microsoft's strategy?

  7. TroyTruax

    Don't the decision makers at Microsoft see that this is the same "app gap" issue that they had with windows phone? At least you can upgrade to Pro. If only we could have put Android on our Nokias.

  8. Darekmeridian

    There is a market for 10S that is pretty clear and I think Microsoft has and understands that data. For geeks, enthusiasts, semi-power users, and full on power users, will never be able to comprehend this because of being too entrenched in dogma.

    As an example my brother was issued an ipad for cooking school. He had never used an ipad before and basically had no other interest in it other than using it for these specific tasks. There were a set of apps and books he was instructed to download that all solved a particular purpose for school and there was the standard Apple included apps that come pre-installed.

    I am confused why they ship this OS on a pretty premium device like the Surface Laptop, seems like it should be something for a regular surface tablet but not on the laptop, that's probably why the message seems some mixed.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Darekmeridian:

      You're not cynical enough about MSFT uses sales data. Every Surface laptop sold is a Windows 10 S device sale. Every Windows 10 S activation counts as an S activation, and I figure every S to Pro upgrade would count as a Pro activation. One device, two Windows license activations.

      Prove me wrong.

      • Darekmeridian

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        I don't think I have to prove you wrong.. I sort of agree with you, but, my point was there is a market for casual users that don't care/understand about the limitations of 10S they could go happily thru life using what is given to them and not seeing a problem with it. Chromebook sales proves this as being true.

        Now what Microsoft does to jigger it's numbers for market reasons or whatever is a whole different discussion.

  9. Patrick3D

    I wonder if Xbox "Play Anywhere" games work on Windows 10 S?

  10. wshwe

    My problem with Windows 10 S on the Surface Laptop is that most owners will upgrade to full Windows. Being that the case MS should have just put Windows 10 Home or Pro on it. Microsoft could have offered a method to "downgrade" to Windows 10 S as an option. OEMs offered a way to downgrade Windows 8 computers to Windows 7. There is a precedent.

  11. tbtalbot

    Paul. Clearly you are not the intended user for a curated operating system like Windows 10 S. That's fine, but it isn't the OS's fault. If Google wants Chrome on there, there is nothing stopping them from offering the browser through the store. As for visual studio, I think that is a non-starter being a serious development tool. I'm happy you can take the Pro upgrade for free.

    Knowing a lot of people in the educational community, this Windows 10 S is something they are seriously waiting for.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to tbtalbot:

      What are the people in the education community waiting for? Not quite full-featured Office? Edge? Bing? MSFT's system admin tools? The really improbable, Windows Store education apps?

  12. Jules Wombat

    Most people don't care or need Google Chrome or Visual Studio.

  13. plettza

    Why don't you petition Google, Adobe and whoever the developer of Markdownpad to build UWP apps or use Centennial to bring them to the Store? It's not Microsoft's fault Chrome isn't in the store nor that Photoshop isn't there either. Visual Studio is a different case but yes, it should be available in the store if it's feasible/technically possible to bring it there.

    You can't keep harping on about how crap Windows S because it won't run Chrome. Take it up with Google.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to plettza:

      MSFT benefits more than ISVs from those ISVs' desktop software being available in the Windows Store. Also, more than a few ISVs may actually enjoy MSFT's predicament.

      3rd parties aren't going to go out of their way to save MSFT's Windows Store or Windows 10 S.

  14. Polycrastinator

    I wonder if Windows 10 S is going to find a home in the corporate world, in organizations who've gone through the hassle of getting their LOB apps into the custom store and centennial-ized, or who can run under App-V. But that's the only use for this thing right now.

    • Dan

      In reply to Polycrastinator:

      Do those companies exist? Most are still on Windows 7 and have a gluttony of legacy apps that may or may not run on Win10 Pro! Even Microsoft itself hardly ported any of their internal apps to the Windows Store / Company Store.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Polycrastinator:

      Where I work, there are LOB apps based on Excel and Access, but they use COM add-ins too, which makes Centennialized Excel and Access nonstarters. Almost everything else runs through a browser, and the few other things are relatively ancient VB.Net settings applets. Then there are a few utilities like SnagIt which may not work at all Centennialized.

  15. anthonyhollings

    With windows RT it was a technological limitation. Here it is a commercial/security limitation. I know Microsoft would prefer apps to be installed via the store, but why not just whitelist the certificates for publishers such as Google..

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to anthonyhollings:

      The reasoning was the same -- RT and S were meant to be operating systems free of the risks (to performance and security) of running untrustworthy legacy applications from untrusted sources. Also, they were meant to turn the market for 3rd party software into a profit center for Microsoft. Nothing has changed, other than you can easily upgrade S to "real" Windows for $50.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to MikeCerm:

        . . . meant to turn the market for 3rd party software into a profit center for Microsoft . . .

        MSFT's main purpose. Any wonder ISVs may be just a touch resistant?

      • skane2600

        In reply to MikeCerm:

        I doubt that RT was focused on risks to security or performance (huh?) . It was an attempt by MS to jump into the tablet market based on an overestimation of that category's importance. As far as Windows S is concerned, Anthony mentioned whitelisting which would eliminate the concern over untrustworthy legacy apps. UWP's lifecycle strategy is really about saving battery life by suspending or shutting down apps that otherwise might continue to run in the background. But the cost of course is that resuming suspended apps isn't free. - it takes time. As always it's a trade-off.

    • Tony Barrett

      In reply to anthonyhollings:

      I'm sure MS don't really want Chrome in the store. While it's not there, Edge will rule for Win10S users, and I can't see Google bending. This is MS trying to strongarm customers into using (and paying for) UWP apps from their store, which they hope (again!) will pull in developers. It's yet another subverted attempt to try and move away from Win32 into an app delivery model that works best for MS, but nobody else.

      • anchovylover

        In reply to Tony Barrett:

        Edge ruling W10 S is a double edged sword ghostrider. Yes, more people will try it but most of them will find it to be totally inadequate as their main browser therefore spreading bad press about W10 S which it doesn't need. Plenty of tech commentators are already attacking it...

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to anchovylover:

          But think of all the extra battery life Windows 10 S users would have to become even more displeased!

        • Daekar

          In reply to anchovylover:

          This is completely inexplicable to me. The only thing Edge lacks that normal people want is sync to a mobile platform. That's it. Normal people don't care about all the crap that the reviewers are whining about.

          • Luka Pribanić

            In reply to Daekar:

            You gotit 100% right! Windows S "issues" come down to this one single item - but a huge item (for us rhat care). MS could solve it by somehow syncing with thurd party browser's cloud without actuallx having Chrome/Furefix on the device, which is mostly a no-go, OR it could publish Edge on Android and iOS which would be awesome solution zo multiple Microsoft's problems. But not seeing that happen anytime soon either. Which is a shame, as MS ported so many apps to other platforms, and much bigger/complicated ones, and simply refuses to pull the trigger on Edge.

  16. Darmok N Jalad

    Ok, so Chrome may never show up, but what about Firefox? Doesn't the browser policy on 10S require use of Edge for page rendering? If so, then it's not just a simple port for Google or Mozilla (and both companies like to auto update their browsers). With the unproven nature and slim marketshare of 10S, why would they even put the time into it right now?

    • rameshthanikodi

      In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

      Actually the Store policies aren't exactly clear. They're broad on purpose. They mention that apps must use the edge rendering engine to display web content inside apps, but that doesn't necessarily mean that this rule applies to browser apps, which are apps made to render web content.

      Like mentioned by some pundits, if a browser maker submits their app, Microsoft would be insane to turn down Chrome or Firefox away from the Store.

  17. Jeffery Commaroto

    Cart before horse. They need to focus on getting as many great iOS developers to bring their tablet apps over to the Windows Store. Seriously write checks, beg if you have to. There are all these amazing 2 in 1 and Surface devices out there but the touch experience is second to the iPad. Focus on kids and casual gaming and suddenly a Windows device really is an iPad and a PC in one.

    Make the Windows Store flourish as a mobile-must for developers. That will happen with incentives and the realization that a massive lucrative marketplace exists. Most likely it will happen with great casual and kids games.

    Then get Adobe, iTunes and Office to be amazing Store experiences.

    The value proposition becomes "you get an iPad and a PC all in one."

    The $200 Chromebook buyer can be persuaded to believe the $500 PC Is worth the extra cash.

    Also focus on an education solution that makes these things easy and inexpensive to deploy. Market to parents so they believe anything less than a full PC/tablet is cheapening their child's education. Then focus on any easy and inexpensive classroom solution built around Office. Again make parents believe anything less than full Office is putting their kids at a competitive disadvantage in the workplace. It's probably true.

    Get the horse humming. Then focus on the keyboard pooltable fabric and locking people into a Windows Store experience that actually has apps you want.

    • Waethorn

      In reply to Jeffery Commaroto:

      "Make the Windows Store flourish as a mobile-must for developers. That will happen with incentives and the realization that a massive lucrative marketplace exists."

      A massive lucrative marketplace already exists for Windows developer - on their own commerce platform. And no incentive that Microsoft makes is going to change that.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Jeffery Commaroto:

      . . . focus on getting as many great iOS developers to bring their tablet apps over to the Windows Store . . .

      Gotta ask: why would great iOS developers want to? Damn few great iOS apps would find even 1% of PC users interested and a fraction of those willing buyers.

      This was always a point of faith among MSFT/Windows fans: iOS and Android developers were interested in them. What if that's false? What if iOs and Android developers have given up on Windows phone fans and PC users? Then what could MSFT do?

    • MutualCore

      In reply to Jeffery Commaroto:

      Microsoft tried bribing developers in 2012, it didn't work. Now you want them to double down on a failed strategy?

  18. maethorechannen

    will cost just $50

    It's still $50 too much. The amount of money MS might make from people upgrading will never make up for the backlash that's going to come from people who buy a new Windows laptop only to be told they need to pay MS $50 if they want to run all their apps.

    • Dan1986ist

      In reply to maethorechannen:

      Windows 10 Pro for those not running Windows 10 S and have the Home SKU on their computers is $99.99 each which is about 50 dolllars more then the price that Windows 10 S users will have to upgrade the SKU on their computers after the free upgrade from S to Pro expires. Just making an observation here by the way.

  19. mjw149

    I don't think Google can solve it, since there are restrictions on third party browsers for Windows S. Itunes is pretty much a nothing burger at this point, I'm shocked they'd 'port' it to another version of Windows instead of just pull the trigger on splitting it up (cloud music, device backup app). Apple is astonishingly backwards with that app. If the end of itunes still isn't in sight, I'm flabbergasted.

    • MikeGalos

      In reply to mjw149:

      Purely a matter of choice for Google. The restrictions prohibiting non-native web rendering engines are the same on iOS as they are for Windows 10 S. In Apple's case Google decided that compatibility wasn't THAT important and produced Chrome with Safari's engine for iOS. They could just as easily and legally produce Chrome with the Edge rendering engine.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to MikeGalos:

        May be simple math: how many iOS devices are there? What fraction of that number would be Windows 10 S/Mobile devices? Adapting to a market of half a billion devices is one thing, adapting to a market of fewer than 100 million devices is another.

      • skane2600

        In reply to MikeGalos:

        Again, it doesn't matter why Google's apps are missing to a user who needs them. Nobody will say "I need Google's apps and this device doesn't support them, but since it's Google's fault I'm going to buy it anyway".

  20. Daekar

    I disagree with your definition of "mainstream," Paul, and therefore with the assertion of your last sentence. I believe that most people, the mainstream, who post on Facebook and use their computers for Office, browsing the Internet, and email, could have Windows 10S and literally never know the difference. And they'd be tickled to death about the app store, which looks nice and friendly and easy. These are the same people learned that Internet Explorer wasn't "the internet" when a kindly geek installed Firefox on their machine for the first time. For those mainstream users, Windows 10S isn't just enough, it's better in every way.

    You and I have different needs, and at this point I could never fulfill my wife's expectations of technical support, backup, and other utility tasks with Windows 10S, and I couldn't run Steam for gaming. That might change in the future, but just because it's not good enough for me and, forgive me, you're incredibly picky about applications and workflow you use for basic publishing tasks, doesn't mean it's not good enough for most people.

    After all, we're all sitting and waiting to see if Chromebooks eat the world. If they're good enough for mainstream, then dear God, Windows 10S certainly is.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Daekar:

      Home users and some-work-from-home users may be able to get by on Windows 10 S. Certainly if there's a Citrix Receiver or equivalent RDP system, work-from-home would be NBD for those working for large enterprises. OTOH, those who do much beyond browsing and light Office usually need some software which has no Windows Store alternatives.

      As for the Windows Store itself, if you have a positive opinion of it, that usually means you haven't used it much. It has, er, disappointing search capabilities, and there's mountains of cruft to sort through to find the better apps.

      As for PCs with Windows 10 S better than Chromebooks, that depends in part on whether a majority believes Edge is better than Chrome. You'd have a hard time proving that with usage stats. It's also depend on ease of maintenance, and that's also an area in which Windows, even 10 S, is at a disadvantage.

      • Daekar

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        I can't speculate on enterprise use of 10S, that's for those with far more IT experience than I to decide. However, I keep on hearing all this unbridled hate for the Windows Store, and as much as I use it (primary way I get apps when possible) I really don't understand. I have plenty of experience with the Android and iOS app stores too, and the Windows Store really isn't much different from those, it just doesn't have as many apps I couldn't care less about. I would go out on a limb and say that search in the Windows Store is about the same as iOS search, or a little better.

        Does it have some crapware on it? Well yes, but so does every app store.

        I have been able to replace almost every app I use with any frequency with one from the store, except for Music Bee, and that's probably because I just haven't tried for that one yet.

        EDIT: Audacity. I didn't find an Audacity replacement when I looked. I'm willing to wait, it will come.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to Daekar:

          With such fewer apps to have to curate, one would suppose MSFT would have a much easier time getting rid of the crap than Apple or Google. Perhaps MSFT just doesn't care.

  21. leops1984

    As a gamer, Windows 10 S is dead to me. Many of the games I play will never be ported to the Windows Store. It's not just "one app" for me, it's the entire kind of apps that I use.

    • mruszczyk

      In reply to leops1984:

      Then Windows 10 S is not for you. Windows 10 S is for your mother or your sister who just uses their laptop like a glorified facebook machine or to watch netflix. Reducing attack vectors for these users is important and can help you out by reducing the number of tech help you have to give out if their applications are available.