Microsoft to add new Windows 10 Home editions to its line-up

Microsoft has a plan to try to grow the consumer side of its Windows 10 PC business. More additions to its Home line-up and Windows 10 'S Mode' play a big role, a new report says.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is planning to expand the number of Windows 10 editions that it offers, according to a report on Thurrott.com.


Starting April 1, Microsoft will be expanding its current low-end Windows 10 Home edition into three different variants: Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Home in S Mode and Windows 10 Home Advanced, says Paul Thurrott, citing internal Microsoft documents he says he's seen.

Thurrott says the first high-end PCs running the Home Advanced edition will begin rolling out as of May 1. It's not clear (to me, anyway) whether Home Advanced is just a new brand for Windows 10 Home running on more capable/higher end PCs -- or if Home Advanced includes any Windows features that won't be in Windows 10 Home.

(Update: It seems from this additional post on Thurrott.com that Windows 10 Home Advanced is to Windows 10 Home the same way Windows 10 Pro for Workstations is to Windows 10 Pro -- something that will only work on higher-end hardware and might include a new feature or two.)

This Thurrott.com report dovetails with a brief appearance of Windows 10 Home in S Mode, noted on February 2 by Neowin.Net. Microsoft officials had not said publicly that such a variant existed, but Neowin's Rich Woods saw it mentioned as part of the Windows 10 Redstone 4 Bug Bash Quests. (It's no longer listed in the quest list, as of February 3.)

I noted recently in a column on Redmond Magazine that even though Microsoft originally positioned Windows 10 S as an operating system edition, it actually has always been a "mode" of Windows 10 Pro. Microsoft officials said last year that a Windows 10 Enterprise in S Mode variant would be coming, and there are hints that a Windows 10 IoT in S Mode could exist, too.

Any device running Windows 10 in S Mode is limited to only running Universal Windows Platform apps. Microsoft and its OEM partners have been offering customers a way to "unlock" their PCs -- currently for free -- so they aren't subject to this limitation.

Thurrott.com is reporting that Microsoft seems to be planning to allow Windows 10 Home users to move from S to Home for free. Microsoft officials have said they plan to charge everyone (except students) $49 to move from Windows 10 Pro in S Mode to Windows 10 Pro, starting this March.

Some OEMs which are readying Windows 10 "Always Connected" ARM-based devices are planning to extend that free upgrade from S Mode offer period further. Microsoft officials haven't said (yet) how much it will cost to go from Windows 10 Enterprise in S Mode to Windows 10 Enterprise.

Why is Microsoft adding more tiers to its Windows 10 line-up? In part, as Thurrott notes, the answer is about trying to increase Windows' penetration in non-premium consumer markets. (including education).

Businesses are Microsoft's biggest market for Windows PCs and have been for some time. Microsoft has been aiming to grow its consumer share for Windows 10 with its "Creators" push and associated features (Mixed Reality, 3D, inking, etc.). Now it's going to try to grow the consumer side of the Windows business from a revenue standpoint. And one way to do that is by charging OEMs more for features that are only available if they license pricier editions with more features and functionality.

Thurrott's report includes a bunch of reported OEM/partner pricing information. It's not clear how much of these higher prices will be passed on to customers. As I noted earlier this year, Microsoft already was planning to use the addition of the new Windows 10 Pro for Workstations edition to increase the amount it charged OEMs for higher-end versions of Windows. And some OEMs planned to pass that price increase on to users, as they warned them last Fall.

I've asked Microsoft to see if officials will corroborate the new Home edition line-up plans. No word back so far.

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