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Tuesday, 09 May 2017 08:57

Windows 10 S – for Store

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It has been revealed that the new lighter version of Windows 10 — S — that will be given to OEMs to help make lower-cost Windows devices can only run apps from the Windows Store.

Initial reactions of shock and horror and accusations of first-line forcing seem to have conveniently overlooked two things. First, that competitor Apple has a walled garden around most of its products and you must use its store – no options. And second, that for a paltry US$50 the user can convert W10S to Pro removing all Store restrictions. Apple does not allow that.

W10S is not even Windows Lite – it simply does not load everything on boot up and that saves boot time (which is already almost instant), gives better battery life for mobile devices, and frees up memory and CPU. I wish Windows 10 home/Pro had an option switch like that!

The real reason — yes, there is no hidden agenda to make Bill Gates even richer — is to provide a safe and secure environment, initially for the education market to cure one of Windows legacy issues: that you can install anything from anywhere and that is a prime malware/virus attack vector.

To paraphrase my local café, “Changing the menu is suicide” meaning that what Microsoft has done is introduce a new menu but leaving the old one in place too. No one will force people to use W10S and there is a get out of jail card for US$50 if you ever need it.

The real issue is how comprehensive is the Windows Store? And the answer is that it has a fraction of the Windows x32 programs in it because it was never compulsory for a user or developer to use it.

Hats off to Apple because with its curation, apps from its store are largely virus/malware free, have been checked for operational issues, have amazing bug report and crash statistics that help developers improve the code, and it does the software sale, distribution, licencing, updates and wipes out piracy in one fell swoop. For that, it charges a fee – about 30% of the sale but frankly, that is a bargain as it frees developers to write more code.

Microsoft’s heinous crime is in allowing the continuation of an open and badly broken system that has impacted on its reputation for too long – it could not change the menu. Google also faces similar issues with third-party stores and you will note that with each new iteration of Android the net closes on these.

It is a bit of a Catch 22 situation for Windows Store. Because it is not compulsory for W10 owners to use it, developers are not driven to use it. W10S will initially affect many of the mass market programs in vertical markets like education and over time it will become normal to sell apps via the store – just as it has been with Apple!

As one developer astutely commented, “This is another case of Microsoft trying to change bad behaviours that both users and developers have taken for granted and come to rely on. Every time Microsoft does this, people complain. Loudly. It happened with User Account Control. It happened with mandatory Driver Signing, and it happened with Secure Boot. The Windows Store will be good for everyone in the long term. But in the short term, everyone will complain.”

The real test will be if Microsoft is up to running a store as well as Apple.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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