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Rumored Windows 10 S Mode Plans Could be a Game Changer for Microsoft in 2018

Microsoft’s upcoming Redstone 4 update to Windows 10 has been in the pipeline for quite some time.  Initially, a list of features for it was revealed – and some were fairly impressive from a quality of life standpoint. Having softer effects on-screen makes the UI look a little better, while being able to choose colors for parts of the action center should allow users to customize things more easily. Muting audio in certain tabs for Edge is a great feature – especially for those who go to a lot of general news sites. Those generally feature pre-roll ads that can stack on top of the actual auto-playing news report. Being able to disable this means that you will soon be able to just focus on the text of a given piece if you so desire, or at least avoid the annoyance of having two different audio feeds on a single tab at once.

While the general changes to the OS itself seem great, new reports have emerged about the Redstone 4 update also leading to a shift over to Windows 10 S Mode for devices. Windows 10 S took shape last year and was met with mixed reactions depending on what users needed to do. Those using their PCs for every kind of use, like media creation or gaming, generally found it to be a burden because you were limited to Windows Store apps. This isn’t an altogether bad thing as there are plenty of games and media usage apps on there, but you do naturally lose freedom when your device is limited to a single ecosystem for programs.

The walled garden approach has been a popular one for Apple for well over a decade, so the concept has been a proven success elsewhere – but was something Windows users weren’t used to. Having the ability to use any program you want on your device means that instead of using Windows Media Player, you can go with something like Media Player Classic and get similar functionality to it – but also far more compatibility with media files, do frame by frame video screenshots, or even do live video capture with the proper hardware if you wanted. Windows 10 S came off like an experiment due to it taking so many cues from Apple, but also being something that Microsoft allowed a free upgrade from for a limited time to the fully unrestricted “Pro” version of Windows. Of course, there was nothing about it that screamed “only professionals should use this” – it was just the regular Windows 10 OS that had shipped with devices for quite some time.

Windows 10 S has been fairly popular with students though, and elderly users and kids being limited to a single app store does help minimize the chances of malware being downloaded accidentally. With most college-age students, they’re perfectly comfortable with downloading things wisely – but the ease of use of having a device be more reliable because they don’t have to worry about malware or other virus-laden software hitting their computer enables them to buy with confidence knowing the device will last them all four years. That kind of piece of mind goes a long way, and some find that just having an S device for schoolwork and then an unlocked version of Windows 10 on a desktop is a perfect overall solution.

With younger users and much older users, there is a greater risk of not being fully aware of what is being downloaded due to naivety. This adds risk for the user and means that they are more susceptible to malicious attacks. These can ruin a device in a hurry, and for younger users who may be more impatient, or older users who have a lifetime of memories stored on a single device, can lead to disaster. It would appear that Windows 10 S will no longer be a separate option, but ship as a default option for all versions of hte OS. For Home and Eduction-based evices, upgrades will be free. However, users going from Pros S to Pro will be charged $50.

Antivirus and security apps will apparently be offered, and will seemingly go beyond Windows Defender – which is good news overall. Defender is a fine piece of software, but isn’t industry-leading in any way and is generally good enough for anyone using the web for schoolwork and light business purposes – but isn’t something I would recommended as the only means to ensure the safety of a device. Hopefully, the company partners up with a well-known security software group to make something that is optimized for S Mode – AVG would be a solid partner for that, and I would expect either AVG or Norton to get the nod there given their high level of brand awareness.

It also looks like they will be breaking S Mode down into five different options – Entry, Value, Core, Core+, and Advanced. Entry will be smaller-capacity and low power devices, while Value is a minor upgrade. Core will be an option for devices above that level, but below anything with a high-end CPU and less than 4GB of RAM. Core+ is for anything with 4GB of RAM or more, while Advanced is going to be for anything running an Intel Core I7, Core i7, AMD Threadripper, or AMD FX/Ryzen 7. The licensing cost for companies putting S Mode in the devices is $25 for Entry, $25 for Value, $65.45 for Core, $86.66 for Core+, and $101 for Advanced. There will also be a $50 charge for Pro S users going to the full version of 10 Pro, so you can still upgrade the OS if you want – there just won’t be a free grace period unless things change.

If this setup is received poorly by the public, it is possible that Microsoft will do an about-face to some degree and redo the free upgrade promotion they launched the Surface Laptops with. They have shown a willingless to adjust to meet consumer wishes before, especially if the public’s reception is largely negative – which was the case for the mid-2013 Xbox One DRM announcement and then they quickly shifted plans to better suit what the marketplace wnated. Edge being a default browser may not work for everyone, but doesn’t come as a shock either. They want that browser to do well and have made great strides to improve it from its Internet Explorer days to fit in with more modern lifestyles. Redstone 4 is set for launch in April, and could easily shape Microsoft’s future for 2018 and beyond.

Jeremy Peeples :I've been using PCs since the late '80s and love seeing the rise of consumer-level computer building. The industry has grown exponentially in the last decade and being able to see new technology make life easier never gets old.