Microsoft corporate vice president Joe Belfiore confirmed on Twitter that Windows 10 S, a feature-locked version of Windows 10 that is limited to running UWP apps, is going to be replaced by an “S mode” that companies can decide to enable on their products.
Windows 10 S will end up as one of Microsoft’s shortest-lived OSes. The news of its dissolution comes less than a year from the OS’ announcement in mid-2017. Currently, Windows 10 S is a distinct version of Windows that has its own license. The license can be upgraded to a Windows 10 Pro license for free or a fee (depending on what the system OEM chooses to offer). Even then, the OS has only been adopted on a select few systems, such as Microsoft’s Surface Book and all of the announced Qualcomm-powered PCs, so it’s not exactly ubiquitous.
According to Belfiore, Windows 10 S’ functionality will be replicated in a special mode that will be available in all versions of Windows. This new “S mode” will presumably arrive with one of Windows 10’s bi-annual feature updates. Although it will reduce the number of versions of Windows available, however, this news brings into question the future of Windows 10 licensing.
Rumors of Microsoft’s decision to change Windows 10 S due to its unpopularity appeared earlier this year. If they’re correct, then Microsoft won’t actually be removing a paid-upgrade option. Rather, system OEMs will be able to sell systems with versions of Windows that are locked in “S mode.” These can then be unlocked to a full version with a similar upgrade process. We asked Microsoft if this is true, or if Belfiore’s tweet implies that systems which ship pre-toggled in “S mode” can be toggled out of it freely. We’ll update this article if the company responds.
All of this means that Windows 10’s marketing is about to get even more complicated. Microsoft is already asking customers to distinguish between Windows 10 on Arm and Windows 10 on X86. Things could get even more confusing once the company flips the switch to make “S mode” a feature instead of its own OS, especially if the upgrade path is less clear than before.