Microsoft announced a new version of Windows and a laptop to go along with it yesterday, but the reaction has been tepid at best. Windows 10 S is supposed to be taking on Chrome OS with a specific focus on education, but Microsoft chose to show off the new stripped down OS with the $ 1,000 Surface Laptop. The more we hear about how Windows 10 S works, the less sense this device makes. For example, Edge is going to be your default browser. Don’t like that? Tough.
The FAQ for Windows 10 S notes that you can download any browser from the Windows Store. That’s great! You currently have your choice of Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Edge, or oh, Microsoft Edge. Favorites like Firefox and Chrome are not listed in the Windows Store. Even if they were, Microsoft confirms that Edge will remain the default browser. That means clicking on links in other apps or opening HTML files will bring you to Edge.
Microsoft’s rationale for this is at least consistent with the vision for Windows 10 S. It’s always talking about Edge being more efficient on Windows. This version of the platform is all about keeping system process and apps under control to maintain better performance and battery life. Although, I would point out that using apps you don’t like could still result in a net loss. Maybe you’d lose a little battery life with Chrome, but you waste time wrestling with Edge when forced to use it.
Why would Edge be less optimal? After all, browsers are all pretty good these days. Well, Windows 10 S not only forces you to keep Edge as the default browser, it won’t let you change the search provider. You’re stuck with Bing. I’m not sure there’s any defensible explanation for this limitation. You can open Chrome right now and set Bing as the default search provider. This even works on a Chromebook.
The browser restriction is unusual, and it’s even stranger to see it on a $ 1,000 laptop. As we pointed out previously, there are cheaper laptops with better specs and the full version of Windows. We’re still not sure what Microsoft has planned for the Windows 10 Pro upgrade. Much of the reporting from Microsoft’s event cited a $ 50 fee to upgrade for individuals, but schools could get the upgrade free. Is it really free, or only free for a limited time? And will all computers that ship with Windows 10 S even be eligible for the upgrade?
Considering all the limitations we’re now learning about, it’s weird to think Microsoft is even bothering to sell this $ 1,000 laptop with such a hobbled version of Windows. The whole thing reeks of Windows RT.