No Charge to Escape S Mode Limitations, Microsoft Says

Posted on March 7, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 67 Comments

Microsoft Announces the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

Microsoft now says that it will no longer charge customers who wish to upgrade from Windows 10 in S mode. The revelation comes after a bizarre tweet in which Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore confirmed Thurrott.com’s exclusive story that it would kill Windows 10 S and provide S mode in all mainstream Windows 10 versions.

Now, Belfiore is providing more information and is doing so via a more traditional means: A Microsoft corporate blog.

“We’ve received feedback that the [Windows 10 S] naming was a bit confusing for both customers and partners,” he writes. “Based on that feedback, we are simplifying the experience for our customers. Starting with the next update to Windows 10, coming soon, customers can choose to buy a new Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro PC with S mode enabled, and commercial customers will be able to deploy Windows 10 Enterprise with S mode enabled.”

To be clear, this is what we wrote when we unveiled S mode: That it would arrive with the next Windows 10 update, due in about a month and called Redstone 4. Belfiore’s earlier tweet explaining S mode said that this change would come “next year.” That’s incorrect: It’s coming next month.

Best of all, however, Belfiore now says that Microsoft will no longer try to charge customers to upgrade from S mode. (Today, the upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro costs $50.) So you can upgrade from the hobbled S mode in Windows 10 Home, Pro, or Enterprise to the “full” version of whichever OS product edition for free going forward. This is absolutely the correct thing to do. (We knew previously that the upgrade from Windows 10 Home in S mode to Windows 10 Home would be free.)

What isn’t said is whether this mode is a two-way street. That is, can a customer switch from a “full” version of Windows 10 to that version in S mode? I would guess no, but it seems like a mode should work that way. Perhaps this is something we’ll see in Redstone 5, and after the adoption of Windows 10 S—sorry, S mode—continues to go nowhere. Which is my expectation.

 

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Comments (69)

69 responses to “No Charge to Escape S Mode Limitations, Microsoft Says”

  1. SocialDanny123

    I think the more devices that comes with S Mode the more incentive there is for the MS Store growing. Even for example 80% switch, the 10-20% is still a large user base on S Mode and will only continue to grow from there. In the near future it's going to be like this.

    • Windows 10 Polaris = native UWP, PWA and virtualized Centennial without legacy (MS Store)
    • Windows 10 S Mode = native UWP, PWA and native Centennial with legacy (MS Store)
    • Windows 10 Unlocked = native UWP, PWA, native Centennial with legacy and able to download from any source.

    But the ones that OEMs will be shipping with on a PC for a majority of people will be Polaris and S Mode. I think in the future though, the amount of S Mode PCs will dramatically increase, especially if shipping an S Mode PC is more cheaper.



    • hrlngrv

      In reply to SocialDanny123:

      Will OEMs get a price break from MSFT for new PCs with Windows 10 installed to start in S mode? If so, OEMs may sell most new PCs in S mode, and MSFT would eat the lost Windows license revenues (since conversion from S to ¬S mode would be cost-free). Possible, but I suspect MSFT isn't so altruistic vis-a-vis its OEM partners. If OEMs pay the same for Windows license kits whether set to start in S or ¬S mode, OEMs are likely to give their customers the choice, and at that point I figure most customers would opt for ¬S mode.

      In short, if MSFT wants S mode to have a future, MSFT is going to have to accept reduced revenues from it compared to ¬S mode. It's going to be fascinating to see MSFT make that decision.

  2. Waethorn

    Why should this be any different than the normal app switch option already present in Windows 10??

    • Jorge Garcia

      In reply to Waethorn:

      I think it's going to be basically the same idea, just now with a fancy title (S-Mode) and switched "on" by default.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Waethorn:

      If you mean the switch to allow installing software only from the Store, that doesn't prevent running portable software or merging .REG files to hack installation of software requiring simpler installation. S mode seems to be related to how Windows RT would allow running bundled desktop software but not any other desktop software built to run on ARM processors.

  3. Waethorn

    When Microsoft markets S Mode as being "more secure and faster" than regular Windows 10, end-users are going to get not only confused, but frustrated that their apps aren't built for said "more secure" mode and it's going to drive a wedge between Microsoft and software developers. Software developers should seek out legal advice on how to deal with Microsoft's marketing, which will speculate that the ISV's application makes a computer less secure or slower - at least that's how users will understand it (and you know that users will go to the ISV's to complain).


    This whole scenario is big hot mess and Microsoft has only themselves to blame for the forthcoming fallout.


    I have several customers that have migrated to various Linux distros now because of the reliability and compatibility problems with Windows 10. Some have gone to ChromeOS systems. I actually sell more non-Windows computers now - and I don't sell Mac's. The few times I sell Windows systems is usually because of some custom LOB app or oddball hardware that a business uses. The majority of my consumer clients are non-Windows customers. It's funny, but I don't have anybody ever asking specifically for a Windows 10 computer. Some people just know "Windows", but "Windows 10" just generally isn't in my clients' vocabulary (unless it's to criticize it), let alone on their "must have" list.

  4. tonchek

    Why is this not a "per-user" setting?

  5. John Scott

    I guess the question becomes, how much will you pay for 10S mode enabled at purchase? Will there be a difference between 10S mode and non 10S mode in pricing structure?

  6. MarkPow

    Good news - we're in safe hands with Microsoft...

  7. Eric Rasmussen

    A big factor for OEMs is minimizing after-sale support costs. S Mode will incur higher support costs as people try to actually do things. Imagine if a parent buys a cool wireless gaming headset for their kid's birthday, for example. Kid is excited, plugs it in, driver tries to download and install, but nope. You can't install drivers, control software, or any extensions unless they come from the Microsoft Store or through Windows Update.


    Parents are going to call the OEM to find out why the computer doesn't work. "The box said this headset was compatible with Windows 10". It's a nightmare of support costs that no OEM will incur until the Windows Store stops being a piece of shit.


    Honestly, I've been thinking about this for months. S Mode is the wrong approach. I agree with the intent, but you can't take 20 years of formerly compatible software and throw it all in the toilet while still calling the product "Windows 10". Every single thing on every shelf all over the world that claims compatibility with Windows 10 will need to be updated to indicate that it is only compatible with Windows 10 in non S mode.


    Even in S Mode, people found ways to break out of the sandbox and run arbitrary code. I'm not sure why Microsoft is expending so much time and effort on confusing users with all of this given that it's not even really secure. It's only protecting people from themselves, not from hackers and thieves, but we already had a lot of that via limited user accounts. If you wanted to install something, you provide credentials for a user that can install it. Make_that_ system work better, don't make users confused and OEMs upset.


    If they had spent even a fraction of this effort on HoloLens we would have a product on store shelves now.

  8. Eric Dunbar

    Microsoft has made a "right mess" of things with their Windows 10 S flip flopping. It's GOOD that they've flopped. It was bad that they flipped in the first place.


    Windows 10 S has always existed in the form of Windows Store Apps only mode. It is the future of Windows, but, Microsoft still has a LONG road ahead of them because they've made some pretty fundamental marketing and design mis-steps.


    Mistakes


    1. Windows 10 S was pushed too soon. Windows 10 runs Win32 apps brilliantly. Windows 10 does NOT run UWP/Windows 10-native apps well. The Windows 10-native interface is dismal if you're not on a touch screen, and, it's decidedly mediocre compared to Android and iOS for touch screen apps.


    Instead of making all sorts of fancy features that bloggers can blog about (like tabbed applications) Microsoft needs to examine why USERS and DEVELOPERS aren't flocking to Windows Store UWP apps.


    IMNSHO it's because Windows 10-native apps don't run well. The interface is poor. Microsoft should focus its resources on fixing up the Windows 10-native interface to be as good as the Windows 10 interface for Win32 apps BEFORE they worry about spending all the R&D money on adding "features". Features work for your fanbois but your fanbois aren't the ones who buy computers!


    Because Microsoft is spending its money on the wrong things Windows is vulnerable to disruption by Android and iOS.


    3. Perhaps the biggest flow of all: Windows 10 S was marketed as the CHEAP version of Windows.


    The CHEAP version is for people who can't AFFORD the good version. We all want to feel special so from a marketing point of view Microsoft set up Windows 10 S as the failure: "You can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro--the REAL Windows--for free until the end of the year. After that you've got to PAY to go to Pro".


    If you've got to pay, it must be BETTER, right? Why would you want anything less than the best? Marketing FAIL.


    4. Windows 10 S was (is?) being marketed with what is perceived as LOW QUALITY software--Edge as the one and only browser.


    When Edge was first released in 2015 it was TERRIBLE. Even today, in 2018, I personally find Edge STILL to be distinctly second place to Chrome and FireFox. A lot of people feel that way. Yet... drumroll, please...


    To date the ONLY browser that has been made Windows 10-native has been Edge. It's not that Google or Mozilla didn't WANT to make browsers for Windows 10 it's that Microsoft won't LET THEM! Development versions of both Chrome and FireFox were made for Windows 8 but Microsoft changed the terms of the Windows store to basically bar them from the Windows Store.


    Why? Because Microsoft wants to force users to use Bing searches rather than Google searches by having them use the only default search engine allowed in Edge (which cannot be changed) which is the only default browser allowed in Windows 10 S (mode).


    The defense of that my-way-or-the-highway behavior by some Microsoft fans is that it should be allowed because Apple does it in iOS, but, that's a misreading of the difference in the reasons people use the various OSes.


    Misunderstanding Each Product's End Users


    Users buy Apple products because they provide a CONSISTENT experience year-in-year-out. A Mac user from 1984 could sit down in front a Mac from 2018, THIRTY FOUR YEARS LATER and be up and running with only a few hints. A similar story applies to an iPhone 1 user using an iPhone X.


    In iOS Apple sets Safari as the default and requires its rendering engine to be used. Sure, it facilitates security (Microsoft's excuse), but, more importantly for Apple, it creates a CONSISTENT experience. That's Apple's shtick. For the record, Apple DOES allow the user to change the default search engine in Safari.


    Consistent experience is not a huge deal for Android since the whole point of Android is that each OEM can customize their version of Android to their heart's content. Security hasn't been harmed by allowing users to set FireFox or Chrome as the default browsers--each with their own rendering engines!


    The whole point of Windows is that it provides flexibility. That's what many Microsoft fanbois cite as their reason for hating Mac and why fandroids spew hatred towards iOS.


    If Microsoft goes down the inflexibility route they're basically setting themselves up as direct competitors of macOS without the customer base to back them. People bought into Microsoft operating systems because they were cheap or because people thought the OS was flexible, not because they were consistent.


    Missed Opportunities


    They could have learned a lot by studying Apple's numerous Mac transitions to learn what made them successful!


    For that matter, they could've hired me as a consultant. I could've told them what I told you. Paid me a million bucks and avoid wasting tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing and engineering and rebranding :).


    Ok, flippancy aside. Here's my background: I'm a looooong time Mac user, having used Macs since day 250 (i.e. 1984 ;). I saw and lived through two COMPLETE OS or architecture changes.


    First, in the early 90's Apple migrated from 68K to PPC processors. The OS remained the same but the CPU changed. 68K code was emulated by the PPC so old software ran, unmodified. Then Apple switched from Mac OS to Mac OS X (now macOS). The operating system changed completely. This transition was not quite as smooth as 68K>PPC but it still worked and pretty much everything that was worthwhile was rebuilt for OS X (and, Apple's Mac became far more profitable after the transition).


    Microsoft should've simply provided the ability to run Win32 apps as "legacy" apps and made native Windows 10 apps run extremely well. Instead, Microsoft is openly hostile to Win32 and its Windows 10-native interface is quite poor.


    PS I never lived through the third transition from PPC to Intel because I'd started on the process to switching to Windows at that point. I'm now a 90% Windows-9.9% Linux-0.1% Mac user.

  9. Geoff

    This is fascinating to watch.


    Take a look at the Chromebook forum here on Thurrott.com. The general message seems to be: Chromebooks are simple, sure, but good enough for most people. Keep-it -Simple will win in the end, because it always does. Microsoft is doomed.


    Now take a look at any article anywhere about Windows 10 S. "S Mode is too dumb. A *normal* user needs the ability to side-load device drivers, because they do that all the time. Microsoft just wants to keep things simple, and therefore they are doomed."


    It's often the same people who say both of these arguments!


    My advice to Microsoft?

    Stop the insiders program. Don't listen to the Internet. The crowd are morons who have no idea what they want.

    Make your own decisions and do it your way.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Geoff:

      I'd be more nuanced about Chrome OS. If one has a single computer, Chrome OS doesn't make sense for most people. Kids and senior citizens, sure. Working age adults, not so much.

      That changes for 2nd or subsequent machines. In my own case, I have a work-provided laptop running Windows 7 (still), a main home PCs running Windows 10 and Linux, and a Chromebook for leisure and personal travel (when I can get away with not taking the work machine). Why did I choose the Chromebook? In part out of curiosity, but also because I wanted something simple. In my own case, NOT for Chrome. I prefer Firefox and Opera.

      OTOH, the Chromebook isn't useful with a lot of plug-in peripherals. Windows 10 in S mode may also be fairly useless with plug-in peripherals. For most (likely > 75%) users, NBD. For the rest, S mode may not work.

      As for MSFT doing it MSFT's way, see Windows 8. Perhaps not the wisest thing to repeat the experience.

    • skane2600

      In reply to Geoff:

      The attitude with regard to each would be comparabile if Chromebook's OS had a long history as a full, powerful OS with many legacy programs and then Google decided to make the OS default a dumbed-down version.


      From the beginning it was understood that Chromebooks had a limited OS so anyone who couldn't live with the limitations could just ignore it. Windows users are not in that situation.

    • Eric Dunbar

      In reply to Geoff:


      "Don't listen to the Internet"


      The internet called Windows 8 without a Start menu a disaster. The internet called Edge a joke. The internet predicted the demise of Windows Phone. The internet's not got too bad a track record.


      As for comparing Windows 10 S with ChromeOS--they're not the same. People buy Windows computers because they're the "real deal". They buy ChromeOS devices because they're simple.


      If Microsoft turns into Windows 10 S into a safe playground Microsoft trivializes the OS and puts it on the same footing as ChromeOS without the benefit of freedom from Microsoft--especially when Microsoft bars other browsers from Windows 10 S.


      And, no, you can't compare Microsoft's barring of 3rd party browsers with what Apple does with iOS. People buy iOS because it provides a predictable experience. But, crucially, iOS even allows you to change your default search engine and doesn't nag you to change back if you do.


      People buy Windows because it does NOT provide you with that predictable experience--you can customize the experience. When Microsoft violates that basic tenant of its relationship with its Windows customer it also devalues the value of Windows.


      Windows is not in a good place if Microsoft feels that it must compete with ChromeOS. ChromeOS is meant to compete directly with DESKTOP OSes. Google built ChromeOS from a position of strength. Microsoft is responding to ChromeOS because its relevance is shrinking.


      I use Windows because it runs the software I need, i.e. Office, Chrome and some IDEs. But, to be honest, the biggest reason I use Windows is Office. If Microsoft took away my freedom to use the browser engine of my choice I'd probably end up on a Mac. It too offers Office, and, unlike Microsoft, Apple doesn't treat the OS a way to generate advertising revenue!


  10. Jorge Garcia

    S-Mode should be like a parental filter. It comes "on" by default so the dummies are not a danger to themselves, but people who know what they want to do can turn it on and off via a "switch". IT departments should have the ability to password protect the "S switch", basically like administrator access. Perhaps it already works that way.

  11. Stooks

    Microsoft please promise to make confusing changes to Windows, licensing, the store, UWP and Skype at least twice a year!


    It is what customers have come to expect from you. Also at least once a year cancel some product.

  12. wshwe

    I predict many OEMs will try to save a few bucks by selling most of their models in S mode. This ploy will backfire on them.

  13. Brett Barbier

    Here's what they should do - let us switch back and forth, and any win32 applications installed while in non-S mode would work when back in S mode. So to get Chrome, tech savvy folks could switch off S mode, install it, and then switch back to S mode.

  14. jimchamplin

    Okay. So that’s better than the earlier message. I was surprised and very concerned that it was going to be a year before all of that was ready.

  15. PeteB

    Pointless reshuffling of deck chairs on the Titanic

  16. skane2600

    So instead of an additional cost, it will just be a "user confuser". Full Windows should be the default since that's what the vast majority will want and expect. IMO, just a continuation of MIcrosoft's policy of favoring its own agenda over that of customers that started with Windows 8. Ironically, this approach has actually hurt Microsoft instead of helping it.


    Fundementally Microsoft is still following the (really) dead hand of a mobile first strategy. They should revist their pre-Windows 8 assumptions with the realization that mobile isn't going to be a thing for them.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to skane2600:

      Why have a default? If MSFT charges OEMs the same unit price for Windows 10 XYZ in S or ¬S mode, give direct online buyers a choice. As for retailers, I figure they'll ask OEMs what online buyers prefer, and stock that mode. I figure MSFT's own brick & mortar stores will be the only ones selling nothing but S mode PCs.

      I'd love to see the data for full-year 2019 Windows 10 Pro for Workstation machines sold in S mode.

      • skane2600

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        I was working under the assumption that in the future Windows 10 will be shipped only with S mode included (which seems to be the assumption tech sites are making, although the details are still sketchy).


        Having the option at order time to choose S vs non-S is essentially what the option was before MS decided to depreciate Windows 10 S.

    • Eric Dunbar

      In reply to skane2600:


      They're barking up two wrong trees:

      1. Mobile first
      2. Bing as the default search engine


      Both lose them customers. They lost to iOS and Android and their attempts to remain relevant in touch are harming them. Touch is NOT working on any of the Windows 10 tablets that I've got touch on (& I have two non-Microsoft touch-only tablets, one 7", one 10"). Sure, they're fine as primitive eReaders but the apps themselves are soooooo inferior to the Android and iOS ones it hurts.


      I use the tablets because I got them for a song because no one really wanted them (a rather $$$ HP G2 and a cheap HP Stream 7). If I'd paid full price for them I would've been really, really, really, really mad. As is I'm happy because they do basic things for cheap.


      That said, when I contrast what my BlackBerry PlayBook from 2012 could do with what Windows 10 on the Stream 7 can do (a much, much, much faster device than the BB PlayBook) the BB PlayBook was a superior device.


      Its touch OS (2012 era), after you got used to its initial warts, was leaps and bounds MORE RESPONSIVE than Windows 10, and, even more important, BETTER LAID OUT.


      Second, Bing as a search engine (which is why they want Edge as the one and only default browser... wonder if they'll now allow Chrome and FireFox to enter the store) is their strategy.


      People accept Safari as the one-and-only browser on iOS because Apple uses it to force a consistent experience, not because it's more secure.


      That's what Apple provides: a consistent experience. And, even Apple doesn't force you to use the default search engine if you don't want to!


      Microsoft has mis-read its customers, and, even more importantly, it has misread what Apple does. Apple forces Safari to ensure consistency, NOT to direct eyeballs to advertising. Microsoft's excuse that Edge-only provides security rings hollow when you consider that they won't allow you to change the default search engine.


      Edge-only is all about directing eyeballs to Bing ads, not about security!

      • Roger Ramjet

        In reply to OntarioPundit:

        Where do you get the idea that any of this forces Bing as a search engine? If the S mode makes you use a MS store browser, and Google refuses to put Chrome in the store, this does not stop any user from using Edge to set Google as their search engine.

        Browser =/ Search Engine, except for the default state. And if the user doesn't care enough to make a few clicks, to set their search engine to Google, then there you have it, it's not necessary as one might think.

        You can even do this on iOS devices (my iPad is set to Bing where I earn points), although Apple still forces you to view "Siri" (=Google search), which pays them a hefty sum for the privilege, results on top, no matter what search engine you choose. Yeah, no directing of eyeballs there.

    • SocialDanny123

      In reply to skane2600:

      Why should full Windows be the default. It's more ideal that S Mode should be the default, those who need stuff outside the store can switch for free.

      • skane2600

        In reply to SocialDanny123:

        Obviously because "Windows" to the vast majority of people, means an OS that runs "Windows programs" as that term has been understood for decades. Why should an unfamiliar, limited mode be the initial state of the system?


        • SocialDanny123

          In reply to skane2600:

          and...??? they can simply unlock it if they need to. Those who don't use much other than email, Office, iTunes etc can simply just stick with S Mode. Many won't really care about the unlocking system.


          All this is doing is giving options to users.

          • skane2600

            In reply to SocialDanny123:

            People with such modest needs would probably just use their smartphones. In any case, it's worth remembering that Full Windows functionality is a superset of S mode, so casual users would lose nothing if S mode didn't exist.

            • Jorge Garcia

              In reply to skane2600:

              Yes, they should, but a lot of them still buy Windows laptops because they can be had quite cheap, and they still haven't warmed up to ChromeOS yet. Windows with S-mode is an attempt to compete with the "safety" of ChromeOS in the eyes of the general consumer. Eventually, Google will beef up their desktop OS offering to the point where your general consumer will simply stop buying Windows altogether.

              • skane2600

                In reply to JG1170:

                Although it's true that Chomebooks have no price advantage over Windows laptops, they are still quite cheap so it's not really credible to suggest that people buying low-end laptops are choosing Windows because of the price. They are choosing Windows primarily because of its capabilities.


                I wouldn't count on ChromeOS eventually reaching functional parity with Windows. Adding Android apps doesn't lie along that path.

                • Jorge Garcia

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  They are choosing Windows because of Price + inertia.

                  Of course ChromeOS will not reach functional parity with Windows...the point is that it doesn't have to to relegate Windows into a niche OS. It just has to cover the bases that 95%of people need covered. I believe that Fuchsia will accomplish that in more than 5 years, but less than 10.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to JG1170:

                  You can argue inertia with respect to any dominant product including iPhones and Android phones. Again price isn't really a factor because a low-end Windows PC and a low-end Chromebook are quite close in price.


                  We'll have to wait and see if Fuchsia will ever see the light of day as product rather than just a project. Like many projects in the early stages it's seems to be everything to everybody. Is it designed for traditional embedded systems, smartphones, or desktop devices? Who really knows.


                  An open source embedded OS not based on the Linux kernel would certainly be a good thing if it's designed properly. You can use Linux for embedded systems and it is often used for that purpose (IMO because it's free) but it wasn't designed from the ground up for that use.

          • hrlngrv

            In reply to SocialDanny123:

            . . . All this is doing is giving options to users.

            Would a new PC sold in ¬S mode but able to be switched to S mode after first login provide fewer options to users?

      • Jorge Garcia

        In reply to SocialDanny123:

        YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. Due to the "legacy" complexity of Win32, it is VERY easy for a novice to get in trouble on a Windows machine. It is far better to have all PC's ship with S-Mode enabled by default, and let the advanced users (us old farts) turn it off.

    • scoob101

      In reply to skane2600:


      The win32 environment is being depreciated. Microsoft are moving to UWP as the main application platform.


      If you think of it like that, then S mode makes complete sense - however microsoft have once again screwed up the transition and the communication.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to scoob101:

        The win32 environment is being depreciated. . . .

        That's certainly what MSFT would like, and it does seem to be MSFT's trajectory, but MSFT hasn't stated so publicly.

        Unfortunately for MSFT, the accumulated mass of Win32 software is far more valuable today and probably for at least another decade than everything likely to appear in the MSFT Store during that time frame.

      • skane2600

        In reply to scoob101:

        I don't think Microsoft has stated that Win32 is "depreciated". I'd say that UWP is being promoted, but that isn't the same thing.

      • AnOldAmigaUser

        In reply to scoob101:

        The win32 environment may be in line to be deprecated, but it is what the vast majority of commercial programs that people actually use is written to. The idea that those applications are going to be rewritten to UWP is simply unrealistic.

  17. Awhispersecho

    This should simply be a feature in Windows that can be turned off and on based on who is using the device. Think Kid's Corner for Windows Phone. Kid is using PC, switch it into S Mode, Parents are using it, they use full Windows. The way they are approaching this is idiotic and will just confuse the average person and make them hate Windows even more. This will backfire regardless of how it's spun.

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