Microsoft launches Windows 10 S, its Store-centric version of Windows 10

Microsoft is adding a new more locked-down version of Windows 10 (formerly known as Windows Cloud) to its line-up.

Microsoft has rechristened its Windows 10 Cloud product as Windows 10 S, and officially launched it at its Microsoft Education event in New York City on May 2.

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The "S" in Windows 10 S doesn't stand for "student," officials said -- even though this is a version of Windows aimed squarely at the education market and meant to help Microsoft and hardware partners take on Chromebooks.

Instead, the "S" stands for "security, simplicity and superior performance," officials claim -- or "soul" as Terry Myerson, head of Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group quipped at Microsoft's rollout earlier today. PCs running Windows 10 S also will be available to anyone looking for more secure, locked-down Windows devices, and be available from both third-party PC makers and Microsoft itself at a variety of price points.

As previously known, Windows 10 S is meant to run Windows Store applications only. This includes Win32 applications that are wrapped using Microsoft's Desktop Bridge technology (codenamed "Centennial").

Windows 10 S will include all the same features that Windows 10 Creators Update does, including support for mixed reality. The difference is that it is more of a locked-down variant, with Microsoft verifying and managing the overall experience via the Windows Store requirement.

By restricting Windows 10 S devices to running Store apps only, Microsoft's pitch is that the devices will be more reliable, secure, and manageable, as all the apps in the Store will be verified.

Thanks to tweaks Microsoft has made to its Edge browser and work it's now doing around power-throttling (a "Redstone 3" feature coming this September), Microsoft is trying to make Windows 10 S devices as fast to set up, sign-in with, and reset as Chromebooks are known for being.

Microsoft is adding an out for those who find Windows 10 S too restrictive. As previously reported, Windows 10 S will be upgradeable to Windows 10 Pro. For educators, this upgrade will be free. For those who don't get Windows 10 S through the education channels, the upgrade to Pro will cost $49.

Microsoft and its OEM partners are going to be making a variety of devices that will run Windows 10 S starting at $189, and which will be available as of this Summer.

Although there are currently a number of lower-end, cheaper Windows PCs on the market, Microsoft needs something to help it get some leverage against Chromebooks.

According to the latest Futuresource Consulting numbers, the Windows share of the K-12 mobile computing market actually grew from 56 percent to 65 percent between 2015 and 2016. But in the United States, the Windows share held steady at 22 percent, while the Chrome OS share grew from 50 percent to 58 percent between 2015 and 2016. Apple's share in both the worldwide and US markets in K-12 is fairly minor.

Here's a checklist for a smooth and fast installation of Windows 10 PC:

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