Microsoft Unveils Education-Focused Windows 10 S

Microsoft officially unveils Windows 10 S, its Chromebook-fighting operating system, at a New York City media event.

Windows 10

NEW YORK—Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella kicked off an education-themed media event here in New York City today with a personal story of how his grandfather's educational journey changed the course of his family's future.

Nadella said it is part of Microsoft's mission to promote positive outcomes in today's classrooms using technology and making that technology more accessible to students of all ability levels. "Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not," Nadella said. His company has been working on "empowering the students of today to create the world of tomorrow" with new offerings that fit the theme of "democratizing educational opportunity."

Among the many announcements at today's event was Windows 10 S, a streamlined version of the company's flagship operating system. Windows 10 S, which promises brisk performance on affordable devices used by schools, represents the "soul of Windows," said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft.

"Everything that runs on Windows 10 S is downloaded from the Windows Store," Myerson said, confirming one of the rumored characteristics of the system software since the company's Chrome OS competitor was called Windows Cloud by industry watchers. Applications are verified for safety by Microsoft and run "in a safe container," he added, a security-enhancing tactic that blocks threats and prevents data leaks.

Myerson added that a staple of many learning environments, the Office suite, is coming soon to the Windows Store. If a student requires software that can't be found on the Windows Store or is downloaded from the internet, teachers and administrators can work around this limitation by switching to standard Windows 10 Pro in the Windows Store.

Once the conversion to Windows 10 Pro is made, there's no going back. In a company announcement today, Myerson noted said the process is "one-way switch."

In terms of performance, Windows 10 S starts up faster the more often it is used. On stage, Myerson demonstrated how the operating system completes the first login in 15 seconds, beating Windows 10 Pro. Subsequent login times can take less than 5 seconds, meaning teachers can start their lessons faster without waiting for their students' devices to catch up.

For school IT administrators, Microsoft showed off how teachers can set up customized Windows 10 S devices in 30 seconds with the company's Set Up School PC app and a USB stick. Also today, the company announced the general availability of Intune for Education. Based on the company's cloud-based enterprise mobile device management platform, Intune for Education is tailored to the needs of schools and allows administrators to turn off webcams and place other restrictions on classroom PCs, said Myerson.

Windows 10 S will ship this summer—just in time for the back-to-school shopping season—on Windows 10 Education PCs from various original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with prices starting at $189. Acer, ASUS, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Samsung and Toshiba are set to produce Windows 10 S devices. For schools with existing Windows Pro machines, Microsoft will offer the operating system at no cost.

Microsoft's own Windows 10 S device is the upcoming Surface Laptop, also making its debuting today. When it ships on June 15, the 13.5-inch device will feature seventh-generation Intel Core processors ("Kaby Lake") and will deliver up to 14.5 hours of battery life. Preorders are available now; prices start at $999.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...