Microsoft on Tuesday unveiled its response to Chrome OS’s rapid ascension in the education market: Windows 10 S. The new lightweight version of the company’s popular desktop platform has been stripped of many Windows 10 features. As a result, it’s less resource intensive and less expensive for Microsoft’s vendor partners, who will now be relied upon to churn out low-cost Windows 10 S laptops that will compete with Google-powered Chromebooks.
It has only been one day since Microsoft laid out its strategy to win back the classroom, so it remains to be seen how this new breed of affordable Windows laptops will be received. Overall, Windows 10 seems like a solid operating system, but for me personally, there’s one reason Windows 10 S is a complete non-starter.
Since Windows 10 S is a stripped-down version of Microsoft’s desktop platform, it has some pretty significant limitations. Core Windows features and key software like Microsoft Office are still supported, of course, but there are some technical limitations that are causing some people to balk. For example, Windows 10 S will only support apps downloaded from Microsoft’s app store, meaning much of the Windows software people use on their current Windows 10 machines will not work on Windows 10 S laptops.
That’s a big deal, of course, but there’s one issue that’s even more of a drawback for me. In fact, this issue alone will prevent me from ever even considering a Windows 10 S laptop. For whatever reason, Microsoft has decided not to allow Windows 10 S users to adjust defaults regarding the web browser.
There are actually two separate problems buried in this one issue. First, Microsoft will let Windows 10 S users download new web browsers from the app store, but it will not allow users to change the default browser on their computers. You read that right. Microsoft Edge will be the default browser on all Windows 10 S machines.
“Microsoft Edge is the default web browser on Microsoft 10 S,” Microsoft wrote on its Windows 10 S FAQ page. “You are able to download another browser that might be available from the Windows Store, but Microsoft Edge will remain the default if, for example, you open an .htm file. Additionally, the default search provider in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer cannot be changed.”
Chrome, the world’s most popular web browser, isn’t even available for download in the Windows app store right now. But let’s assume that Google decides to add it in the near future. Once you do install Chrome on your Windows 10 S laptop, you won’t be able to make it your default browser. Instead, any links you click on in emails or other apps will open in Edge.
Now, once you’re in the Edge browser and you type a search into the URL bar, your search will be processed by Bing. Would you rather use Google as your default search engine like most people on the planet? Too bad, you won’t be able to change Edge’s default search settings.
Nope nope nope.
Windows 10 S looks like a reasonably good Chrome OS rival, and Microsoft has support from plenty of hardware vendors who are already planning to release Windows 10 S laptops. You know what? I won’t bother with a single one of those laptops knowing that Microsoft won’t let me take full advantage of apps and services I find to be superior to the company’s own alternatives.