Microsoft is quietly working on a new and streamlined edition of Windows 10, called “Windows 10 Cloud,” that will only run apps from Microsoft’s app store, reports ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley.
The idea, reports Foley, is to take on the dominance of Google Chrome OS-powered Chromebooks — ultra-cheap laptops that aren’t making a dent in the overall PC scene, but account for a huge chunk of the education market.
In the classroom, premium specs matter less than battery life, portability, and the ability to take a beating. Meanwhile, Microsoft is working on bringing Windows 10 to ARM processors, the same kind of battery-efficient chips that power tablets like the iPad.
Combine that news with this potential Windows 10 Cloud edition, and you start to see things come together: Get ready for a blitz of Microsoft-made cheap laptops and tablets, mainly intended for classrooms (and the occasional business), powered by a simplified version of Windows.
Microsoft declined to comment.
RT, take two
This isn’t the first time that Microsoft has tried something like this: The very first Surface tablet ran a modified version of Windows 8, called Windows RT, which could also only run apps from the Windows Store. It was an attempt to provide a streamlined experience, similar to Apple’s successful iPad, focusing on speed and power efficiency over openness.
It was also a notorious flop, with developers other than Microsoft largely failing to produce any notable apps for the Windows Store, and users abandoning their devices in droves.
Windows RT launched in 2012; by the end of 2013, most manufacturers except Microsoft had abandoned plans for their own Windows RT devices.
Not too long after that, the Surface line switched focus to the real, full versions of Windows 8 for the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro, and Windows RT was relegated to the junk heap of history.
But the Windows Store is still around in Windows 10, and would form the backbone of this new Windows 10 Cloud edition. While it’s still dramatically understocked compared with Apple’s App Store or Google Play, the Windows Store at least nowadays sports fresh, modern apps from the likes of Facebook, Uber, and Netflix.
So as Microsoft continues its efforts to stock up the Windows Store, it will play a big role in the success or failure of any attempt to take on Google and its Chromebooks. Never underestimate Microsoft’s willingness to compete in the PC market, its home turf.
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