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Windows 10 Cloud

The title is self explanatory; everybody and I mean every YouTube/Twitter/Reddit commentator and every pundit hates Windows 10 S. The newest edition of Windows is a locked down variant of the operating system aimed at education and ChromeOS. 10 S restricts the downloading of applications to the Windows Store; so no Steam, iTunes, or Chrome.

I get why there is animosity.

Windows users expect to be able to download or do damn near anything to a PC. There are a number of programs that will never (or likely never) to come to the Windows Store. And many see any attempt by Microsoft to move toward a stronger app model as creating a walled garden.

And while I sympathize, I want to call bullshit a bit.

For a long time Windows has been the frontier for good and ill. Its open nature allows for a wide range of applications and devices. It allows a lot of people to find devices to meet their needs and more importantly price points. It also means that there is a wide gamut of things that can go wrong. That same open space has made Windows an attractive target for hackers and crackers (criminal hackers). That reputation for vulnerability made the case for moving to other platforms like mac OS or Linux or now ChromeOS.

Then there is the semi-hypocrisy of parasitic platforms. The programs or services that live on Windows but also live to take you off. I put iTunes and Chrome down as prime examples. They exist solely to bring you in and move you onto their respective platforms.

Honestly the walled garden thing is a bit moot in a mobile world. People protesting that Windows shouldn’t have more locked down platform are spitting into the wind that is the billion dollar smartphone market or the growing presence that is Chromebooks. Also a number of these critics highlight services that are inherently locked down or looking to have walled gardens of their own (Steam/Valve).

From my armchair I look at Windows 10 S and I’m intrigued.

Microsoft bungled some of the messaging around it; and honestly I think they should’ve named it something other than 10 S because its open to ridicule and to differentiate it from Windows 10. Windows 10 S is a sort of update to Windows RT (an ARM based version of Windows) except you can upgrade S to full Windows. It is more secure, faster, and a little lighter. More importantly it operates like Windows. It has Windowing and works with peripherals.

Windows 10 S isn’t for the vast amount of people complaining about it. Also Windows 10 Pro is not going anywhere. 10 S is about making a product that can compete with Chromebooks and a changing market.

Chromebooks are an interesting phenomena because they reduce computing down to the thing many use their PC for; getting online. It is easy to overlook how much work has moved from dedicated programs to web applications. Yes people still used programs that are downloaded but most people use the web. It also moves the PC form factor closer to mobile devices. Windows as it exists now can’t effectively compete with an OS built around being lightweight, fast, and mobile. But a more stripped down version could.

The other change that I think influenced Windows 10 S development is mobile. We live in a mobile age; a time in which the “personal computer” is the one in your pocket. The fact that more work and tasks are done is being done on mobile devices changes how the PC is used. The PC is just another point in someone’s platform.

I think Windows 10 S marks the first real shift in modernizing the platform.

I don’t about everyone else but I’ve felt Windows has been in need of a change for awhile. Something that went beyond branding. The strengths of Windows as a platform have eroded in the face of competition. Mobile has replaced the PC and the PC has become more about the browser. Computing is moving away from the hobbyist stage of DIY to an appliance. A new set of users are growing up with a much different view of what a computer is and how it should behave. Windows needs to be better on performance and security; it needs to modernize how apps are built on its platform. Windows and its users need to be brought into the 21st century (kicking and screaming if need be).

Windows is missing out on it and will continue if it doesn’t change.

 

 

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This was going to be my preview and predictions for today’s Microsoft event but the Walking Cat, Microsoft watcher/leaker/Ghost in the Machine, had other ideas.

So we now know what the rumored Surface Laptop will look like. And right now it looks like a well built 13.5 inch laptop coming in multiple colors (Grey, Burgundy, Blue, and Gold). This post will be littered with images. Spec wise the machine weighs 2.76lbs is 14.47mm thin at the back, 9.9mm thin at the front. And the laptop will have a screen with 3.4 million pixels according to the Walking Cat. From view Microsoft has chosen to not use USB Type-C or the Thunderbolt variant and looks to maintain its proprietary charging cord/port. So far reaction is mixed with many wondering why the laptop isn’t on the Type C bandwagon (best guess is for the education market).

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I’m surprised the laptop is not smaller. A smaller screen means this could have been used in early grades such as Kindergarten. And the lack of Type C will be met with head scratches; but the device is looking quite desirable.

So before I go too far into the hardware I did want to preview the event.

Tomorrow in New York Microsoft will be unveiling the laptop but it will also be showing off Windows 10 S aka Cloud. This version of Windows will locked down and limit use to the browser and to applications inside the Windows Store.

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I think the major focus of tomorrow will be about education and how Windows can work for educators and students. Services like Office 365 and Intune for Education will be on display along with applications like OneNote and Minecraft for Education to show the company’s breath and their ability to compete with Google’s ChromeOS.

And while the big reveal is out, the bigger story will be how Microsoft sells its newest SKU. Chromebooks have made a dent in education and the larger computing market. For Microsoft today is about making the case that they have something of use to education.

It will be interesting.

images: Walking Cat (@h0x0d)

The last Windows 10 Cloud post (for now)……….

So Windows 10 Cloud; runs only apps from the Store, can be upgraded for a fee, and most likely will be revealed on the 2nd of May. Target market at launch looks to be education. We may even get a new Surface for our troubles.

Okay got it?

Good.

So what is the benefit of this thing for you, me, and the guy playing Solitaire on a netbook from 2000?

First things first. Windows 10 Cloud is competing with Chromebooks chiefly which means this is the low end of computing. So budget to middle devices. This is not gaming rig or Adobe whatever material. It runs stuff from the Windows Store, so stop bitching about Chrome or Firefox (you can always upgrade to full Windows). So what we have is a slightly lightweight and appliance like version of Windows. The kind of device that would be used for light browsing and cheap enough that if lost it wouldn’t be a big deal.

So who would buy this? Potentially people who want a simplified computing experience. For every person who wants to tinker with the OS, there is someone who wants something that quick boots so they can go. Another customer are those who need a second device. Maybe you game but want a PC for non gaming stuff or you need a travel computer; this may be for you. Lastly you just need something with a keyboard to use the Internet on. Say a parent wants to give their kid a computer for college. Something durable to last the four or more years away. Or you’re a person that lives on your phone but sometimes needs a larger screen.

ITS A PC DO WHAT YA WANT

 

The above title was brought to you by SEO.

We are now a week away from Microsoft’s next big event in which they may show off a new piece of hardware (or not).

However we do now that this event will be focused on the Education market.

Now the event is believed to be the unveiling of Windows 10 Cloud; a version of Windows that from leaks appears to be designed to compete with Google’s Chromebooks. For those that don’t know, Chromebooks run ChromeOS (a operating system based on Google’s Chrome browser). Chromebooks have seen steady growth; especially in the education market. This growth, along with data suggesting Chrome has helped grow the stagnating PC market, is cited as reason for the new Windows variant.

Windows 10 Cloud is a version of Windows 10 that locks the system so users can only use applications coming out of the Windows store. In some ways it is similar to Windows RT (the version of Windows 8 for ARM devices) with the difference being Cloud users can upgrade to full Windows. Now according to information from Windows Central, Cloud’s target specs are designed to compete with ChromeOS.

For Windows 10 Cloud and devices running it to compete they have to make a case for why it is a better choice than a Chromebook or an iPad.

For educators and schools a Chromebook has benefits in terms of cost, software, and maintenance. Cost is simple; compared to a Windows PC, Mac, or an iPad Chromebooks are cheaper. For example Dell sells an Education laptop  with both Windows and Chrome. For a 13 inch laptop the Windows device runs for $519 and the Chromebook for $299. Compare that same Chromebook to a 9.7 inch iPad (sans keyboard) that runs for $309; Chromebooks make sense. With software the benefit of running Chrome is it’s lightweight and limited. ChromeOS is basically a browser so it doesn’t have the same overhead a PC or Mac does. Also a lot of the materials used in schools today are web based like testing. Lastly ChromeOS is easier to deploy and maintain. Chromebooks limited nature makes it perfect for schools and school districts that have little or no IT support. This is not mentioning Google’s services like G Suite; which are free or discounted.

 

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image: Windows Central

 

 

Another factor in the education space is the differing needs of students according to age. The needs of a teacher with First graders is much different than a 10th grade History teacher. One reason iPads work well in schools and had larger adoption than Macs is they are excellent tools for K-5. In those grades the simpler and more intuitive tablet works. Touch is an easier concept for early learning. Making an iPad work beyond this period requires extras like keyboards and sometimes isn’t the best solution for older students.

So Windows 10 Cloud is facing a few hurdles.

And this was just the education market.

Windows 10 Cloud’s first hurdle will be explaining why it exists and why customers should consider it. Microsoft went down this path with Windows RT and it was rejected. Now there have been improvements. Windows Store and Windows 10, unlike RT, allow all apps to run on the desktop. Also Cloud will allow users to upgrade to “real” Windows whenever they like. But it also brings back something RT did have; a light weight, faster version of Windows.

Windows Cloud’s education and student focus allows for it to be sold as a secure OS. The fact it only runs pre-approved apps means it avoids a lot of the things people associate  Windows with; viruses  and undeletable junk software. One of the benefits of having a simpler system like a Chromebook is its built to work as an appliance. They are designed to be easily picked up and used. In an education environment that ability to pick it up and just use it without a lot load time or checking for updates is benefit. And this brings us to cost and deployment.

Perhaps the biggest factor in what device schools buy is cost. If you are a cash strapped district buying $200-400 dollar iPads along with Apple Pencils and keyboards is a non-starter. Remember they are buying in bulk and for about 4-6 years worth of use (and this is just me spit balling about devices for in school use, not 1-to-1 programs). Microsoft has recently introduced a Windows version for Education along with deals for low cost education PCs. However they are still more expensive than a Chromebook which can be picked up at an OfficeMax (I have personally seen teachers in stores looking).

The other factor in choosing devices is maintenance. Some schools have dedicated IT staff; others have at least one teacher who is the dedicated tech support. So deployment and upkeep are big factors. iPads and Chromebooks work in part because they are easier to deploy. They are also easier for teachers to fix without calling tech support. Microsoft has simplified management and deployment with Intune for Education (simplified computer management). However I am unclear if they have solutions for triaging apps and devices.

Now I haven’t talked about software yet and I guess its as good as time as any.

So at the 800 word mark I will switch it up and describe how I think Microsoft will sell Windows 10 Cloud.

 

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image: Windows Central

 

 

From an education standpoint, Windows 10 Cloud’s selling point is that it can grow with the student. The fact that Windows went touch three years ago means it runs on tablets but also on those clamshells kids upgrade to as they age. For institutions the argument is they have a one stop shop. Also this is Windows which means Office and in particular OneNote. OneNote is tailor built for students in mind and it’s growing feature set has been designed to appeal to teachers building ad hoc lesson plans. Also Office 365 offers both free and paid options for schools, students, and teachers (including 24/7 customer care). Microsoft also has software like Minecraft for Education (aka Lego Crack). With Windows 10 Microsoft has inking and touch built in.

Unlike Apple they have multiple vendors. In comparison to Google they are more expensive. Or not because Windows 10 Cloud will probably be a free version of the OS. In terms of manageability Windows 10 Cloud Microsoft will argue it has more flexibility; from homegrown offering like Active Directory and Intune to 3rd party vendors. In terms of third party apps and other features I think Microsoft may ink new deals with education software vendors and tout their Edge Browser.

And as far as hardware goes, if there is branded hardware it will be around 10-11 inches (good middle ground for K-12), 6GB of RAM, 64/128 GB, and a SSD. It will have an attached keyboard and come with a pen. I also think it may be built with a different type of material than the magnesium of Surface.

(Now this isn’t certain, but I’m betting on two devices; a clamshell and a smaller tablet)

Okay that’s it turn in later for a nice (and brief) piece on Windows 10 Cloud for everyone else.

 

So I want to talk about Windows Cloud and what it means; but I want to start by talking about Microsoft’s loss of trust amongst Windows enthusiasts.

Microsoft is a software company. The bulk of its money comes from enterprise. Things like Azure, SQL, and SharePoint have way more impact on their bottom line than say Windows. In fact I would argue that Microsoft is far more comfortable and competent when it comes to services than it is on delighting the person PC buying at BestBuy.

Microsoft’s consumer facing products are a mixed bag; for every Xbox there is a Zune, or a Kin. Windows is their biggest consumer facing product but there are times when one wonders if its a stone throw away from mothballs.

Right now many are disillusioned with the company for a myriad of things that revolve around consumer. And a lot of it revolves around commitment.

Commitment to mobile (beyond making iOS and Android apps).

Commitment to gaming (in terms of first party and exclusive games)

And overall commitment to Windows as Microsoft’s platform.

Enthusiasm is waning because the feeling many, including myself, have is Microsoft has quit.

After a period in which it shifted to Windows Phone , premiered Windows 8 and RT, started the Surface line, and pushed out the Xbox One they seem to have hit a rut. Now don’t get me wrong there have been hits, but also failures. Microsoft’s failure to gain traction in mobile has seen them buy Nokia’s hardware unit, they take a write off because they weren’t going to turn into a phone maker. The Xbox One trails the PlayStation 4.

So now Redmond is scrambling and scraping initiatives that leave users and enthusiasts wondering if Microsoft’s product are worth the time. If Microsoft won’t invest in its platform why should anyone else? Microsoft of late acts like it wants to be an app maker for iOS and Android and not do anything with the mobile platform it owns.

And this raises questions for Windows Cloud.

How committed will Microsoft be with it?

In a period in which Microsoft is running silent in regards to the future of Windows Mobile you have to wonder. Will Cloud have the firm backing of Redmond or is it another flash in the pan.

 

 

So on May 2, Microsoft will be holding an education focused event. The rumor is the event will cover Windows 10 Cloud and a new computing device from Redmond.

Now the device will NOT be an update to the Surface Pro or Surface Book.

It will also not be the long rumored Phone.

Many are taking cues from an early DigiTimes rumor saying Redmond will be premiering a Surface clamshell device. That rumor said this device would sell for $1,000 and be positioned as an entry model. Given past devices there is debate on whether this PC will be a straight up laptop or something like the Lenovo Yoga (folds into a tablet).

This is just my take on what may go down beginning with the software.

Windows Cloud

Windows 10 Cloud is a new version of Windows in the vein of Home or Business. Microsoft has not been public about Cloud; it hasn’t stated its existence and what we know comes from leaked information. What we do know is Cloud is a fairly locked down version of Windows 10 that only runs software coming from the Windows Store. Also for a price, a user can upgrade the system to full Windows.

On paper Windows Cloud resembles Windows RT; the early ARM based version of Windows 8 that ran only WINRT based apps. Now that where that comparison ends because Cloud can run apps in the modern Windows store that includes x86 applications and apps built on UWP (the updated version of WINRT). Also those apps run in windowed mode which RT did in a limited fashion. So beyond that we don’t know much about Cloud. It’s a locked down variant of Windows.

The thing with Cloud is its widely considered to be a competitor to Google’s ChromeOS. ChromeOS is an OS based of the Chrome browser; the apps you run are web apps and some Android apps (depending on the device). Unlike MacOS and Windows Chrome is a lightweight system; like a mobile OS. Google does most of the maintenance and updating without user input. ChromeOS and Chromebooks basically offer what most of us do with computers now; the browser. While ChromeOS has had some traction in the consumer market it has had serious success in education.

So Cloud exists because of ChromeOS but what does that mean for May?

Windows Cloud is just one part of Microsoft’s possible education play. I say that in part because most of the leaked info about Cloud doesn’t limit it to devices aimed at schools. There is also a version of Windows aimed at the Education market which no one has said is being merged with Cloud. So in my opinion Cloud if its shown off will be a new initiative around offering lower cost entry devices. The education angle will come in the form of new services and updated applications. Things like OneNote, Word, Sway, and Intune for Education.

 

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Surface Cloudbook

So what about hardware?

Now my personal opinion is there is a 50/’50 chance this event will see no branded Microsoft hardware but PCs from partners. I say this if the event’s focus is on Widows Cloud. But if there is a new Surface device this my idea on what it will be.

Given the focus of the event, past Surface devices, and Windows Cloud I think the device will likely be similar to the Surface 3. It won’t be based off the current Surface Pro as that is too large for kids in Elementary and Middle school. I am going under the assumption that this PC will be positioned as a device that can grow with the child; also work for younger students. So I do think the screen size will be around the 10 inch mark; 11 would be pushing.

Second if we go with the rumor about the clamshell; then this device will look like the Lenovo Yoga Book. This device will be a deviation from what we think of as a Surface device, but not by much. I expect it will use the same aspect ratio use touch, and function like a tablet. The difference will be if the keyboard stays attached. There is a possibility that this may look like a smaller Surface Book. If the keyboard stays attached we could see a new design around a Yoga styled device. I expect a pen will be included. Also if this is an education facing device we may get the first non Magnesium built Surface. Like the Surface 3 this thing will run on a mobile Intel chip (possibly Qualcomm).

 

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Lenovo’s Yogabook a possible guide to Surface Cloudbook

 

My best guess is the May 2 event will focus mostly on Windows Cloud and it’s benefits to education. I’m also guessing Cloud will be a free offering and Cloud devices will be aggressively priced.