Windows 10 S just got axed: Meet "S Mode"

Windows 10 S is being axed in favor of a so-called "S Mode" for any Windows 10 version, as Microsoft revamps the streamlined version of its OS to better challenge Chrome OS. Announced back in May 2017, Windows 10 S was the software giant's attempt to claw back customers in the education and home markets from Chromebooks, a locked-down version of the full operating system finessed for performance and security.

That meant some significant limitations new to Windows, however. Rather than being able to install software from any source, Windows 10 S machines are only able to load apps from Microsoft's own download store. There's also greater support for customization by schools and other organizations.

Although it was fairly confusing initially, Microsoft also offered a clear path from Windows 10 S to regular Windows 10. That could be completed on-device, and although initially there was a charge announced for such an upgrade, Microsoft has been waiving it in a temporary – though long-running – promotion. The transition was one-way only, however: once you'd "unlocked" a Windows 10 S laptop to full Windows 10, there was no going back.

Now, Microsoft is changing up how it's handling Windows 10 S. It'll no longer be offered as a specific SKU by Microsoft, Thurrott reports, but instead Microsoft will have "S mode" iterations of each of its Windows 10 versions. It will affect not only what software features are available, but the upgrade process from "S mode" to fully unlocked.

For example, Home and Education versions of Windows 10 will be able to transition from Home S to regular Windows 10 Home for free. Windows 10 Pro S will cost $49 to convert to regular Windows 10 Pro. There'll be Pro S commercial versions for Core, Value, Entry, and Small Tablet models, though not Core+ or Workstations. Microsoft's assumption is, most likely, that buyers of those machines wouldn't be interested in a locked-down OS anyway.

While this might seem a little more confusing, going by Microsoft's numbers on exactly how Windows 10 S users work with the OS would seem to suggest it's a sensible shift in strategy. According to the company, 60-percent of users of the low-end PCs – Surface Laptop excluded – running Windows 10 S actually stay with the OS as installed. The remainder switch over to full Windows 10, and 60-percent of those who do so, do within 24 hours of having the device.

It's possible that such a rapid changeover is down to the availability of a "must have" app. Although the Windows Store will try to suggest alternatives to software that isn't available there, if there's a particular program that Windows users want that isn't replaceable then unlocking the Windows 10 S machine to Windows 10 is the only answer. With this new system, home users will be able to do that without having to pay more, but Microsoft will be able to claw back some extra cash from business and professional users.