What is Windows 10 Cloud?

There seems to be a lot of confusion around one of Microsoft’s upcoming products: Windows 10 Cloud. The name of Windows 10 Cloud is not “ideal” for lack of a better word, and that’s because the product literally does not have anything to do with the cloud. Instead, it’s simply a new SKU (read: version) of Windows 10 built for affordable laptops. Microsoft is yet to officially announce Windows 10 Cloud, which means we don’t have any concrete information on the product — in fact, it’s not even clear whether the product is called “Windows 10 Cloud” or just “Windows Cloud.”

Today, we are going to explain some of the functionalities of Windows 10 Cloud, its purpose, and how it performs against the competition based on some of the existing details we reported in the past.

What is it?

So what is Windows 10 Cloud? It is essentially a slimmed down version of Windows 10 that’s theoretically a bit more secure, too. Windows 10 Cloud will be Microsoft’s take on Google’s Chromebooks, which are apparently immensely popular amongst students, schools and other educational organizations. With Windows 10 Cloud, Microsoft is planning to bring something more powerful than Google’s Chromebooks but at the same or possibly lower prices.

What type of apps can it run?

Windows 10 Cloud will only let users download and install apps from the Windows Store, which means you basically won’t have to worry about malware on your PC. Windows 10 Cloud blocks installation of any apps downloaded from outside of the Windows Store, including the classic Win32 apps and even UWP apps.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to use the classic desktops apps. Microsoft has a new Desktop App Bridge for Windows app developers that allow Win32 app developers to bring their apps to the Windows Store. Apps like Evernote, Slack, Kodi and others have already brought their powerful desktop apps to the Windows Store — and all of these apps will be downloadable in the Windows Store, along with the thousands of other UWP apps.

As Windows 10 Cloud is mainly for Microsoft’s education audience, the company needs to make sure that its Office suite of apps run on Windows 10 Cloud. And thankfully, that’s also happening — Microsoft will soon bring the full-fledged Office apps to the Windows Store, which means students will be able to try out the full-featured versions of apps like Word, PowerPoint and the other Office apps on Windows 10 Cloud.

What about Win32 apps?

But what if you want to use a Win32 app that’s not available on the Windows Store? Just like most other SKUs of Windows 10, Windows 10 Cloud is upgradeable, which means you will be able to upgrade it to Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro. This will give you access to some of the more powerful features and of course: the ability to install Win32 apps from anywhere.

Windows 10 Cloud sounds a lot like what Microsoft did with Windows RT — but it actually isn’t the same thing. For one, you have the option to upgrade to a more powerful SKU whenever you want, but that wasn’t the case for Windows RT. And that’s really a major advantage for Windows 10 Cloud, plus it also has the classic Windows look, so it should look and feel like the full-featured version of Windows 10.

Windows 10 Cloud vs. Chrome OS?

While we don’t know a lot of the important details about Windows 10 Cloud, some may wonder how Microsoft plans on differentiating the OS from its biggest competitor: Chrome OS/Chromebooks.

The major benefit of Windows 10 Cloud is the fact that it can run rich apps from the Windows Store, including some classic Win32 apps. Chrome OS, on the other hand, can also run Android apps. But most of these apps aren’t optimized for laptops which have a major effect on the user-experience. Most of the Android apps also include a user interface that works best with touch input, but the majority of Chromebooks do not have a touch screen. Windows 10 Cloud, on the other hand, will presumably run on devices with touch screens — thanks to the Universal Windows Platform, however, most of the apps on the Windows Store are optimized to be used in a laptop.

More importantly, Windows 10 Cloud comes with inking built-in and that is going to be crucial for Microsoft. After all, Windows 10 Cloud is meant for students, and being able to take notes with a stylus such as a Surface Pen will be a very nice feature, Chromebooks or Chrome OS don’t come with inking built-in, which is a major disadvantage — especially for students who will use these type of devices to take notes and sketch diagrams in their classes.

And lastly, Windows 10 Cloud will let users upgrade to the slightly more powerful version of Windows 10 whenever they want. That’s not the case for Chrome OS, which is a bit similar to Windows RT where you’re only “locked” to using Chrome OS on a Chromebook. Windows 10 Cloud, of course, let’s you upgrade whenever you want, but at a price that’s currently unknown. But the fact that you can upgrade to the pro version of Windows 10 whenever you want is a huge advantage for Microsoft.

When can I try it out?

It is not known when Microsoft plans on releasing Windows 10 Cloud. Whether the company will release a standalone version of Windows 10 Cloud remains to be seen, but we should get to see the first device running Windows 10 Cloud at the company’s event on May 2nd. At the event, Microsoft will introduce a new device called the CloudBook and going by the name, it will probably be powered by Windows 10 Cloud.

Similar to Microsoft’s Surface line of devices, the CloudBook will act like a reference design to Microsoft’s other OEM partners who will likely launch similar devices powered by Windows 10 Cloud later this year. In fact, Acer already has a Chromebook competitor called the CloudBook — but we should start seeing a lot more of these devices coming out very soon as Microsoft and its partners get ready to take down Chromebooks.

Windows 10 Cloud might be huge for Microsoft if it succeeds, but the pricing of Windows 10 Cloud will be crucial. Making Windows 10 Cloud free to OEMs will mean that we will be able to see some very cheap laptops running Windows 10 that will be able to compete directly with Google’s Chromebooks. But whether Windows 10 Cloud is free to OEMs is unknown at the moment, so this is probably the most important thing we’ll get to know at Microsoft’s upcoming event on May 2nd.

We will be covering Microsoft’s May 2nd event live, where the company is expected to introduce Windows 10 Cloud as well as the CloudBook device, — so make sure to stay tuned to MSPU for the latest on Windows 10 Cloud.