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Windows 10 Cloud OS has steep hill to climb

IT experts are skeptical that Microsoft can deliver a quality OS in Windows 10 Cloud, which the company is expected to announce this week along with a new, low-end PC.

The Windows 10 Cloud OS could entice some organizations, but others have concerns around performance, application support and more. 

Microsoft on Tuesday is expected to unveil its Windows 10 Cloud OS and a lower-cost PC at an event in New York. Other PC vendors will likely make low-end hardware that supports Windows 10 Cloud, as well. IT experts question the operating system's reliance on web applications, however, as well as its performance.

"If you want to keep the price of the PC down, you have to gear it toward less memory and less of a processor," said Jack Gold, principal and founder of J. Gold Associates LLC, a mobile analyst firm in Northborough, Mass. "The kiss of death of this thing would be poor performance."

What is the Windows 10 Cloud OS?

For local applications, the Windows 10 Cloud OS will support only apps downloaded from the Windows Store, according to multiple reports. Because of this restriction and the lack of storage space on lower-cost PCs, users will also be expected to rely more heavily on web applications. The Windows 10 Cloud PC that Microsoft will announce, the Cloudbook, will only come with 32 GB of storage, for example, according to Windows Central.

Users' reliance on web applications in the Windows 10 Cloud OS and Cloudbooks could open organizations up to problems, said Doug Grosfield, president and CEO of Five Nines IT Solutions, an IT consultancy in Kitchener, Ont. Any app downtime would leave workers useless.

Dominic Namnath, CIO at Tri-Counties Regional Center, a Windows 10 customer in Santa Barbara, Calif., agreed.

"There are times you can't do anything," he said. "You need apps locally, too."

Still, limiting local applications to the Windows Store has some appeal. It will be easier for IT departments to manage these devices because there will be less content on them.

"People don't load a lot of software on that class of device," Gold said. "In theory, you don't manage it, because nothing is on it. There is less to defend against."

Plus, Microsoft certifies all Windows Store apps, which makes them less susceptible to malware.

There are many popular applications that aren't on the Windows Store, however. For example, the Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers would not be available to Windows 10 Cloud users.

Who wants Windows 10 Cloud?

Organizations that want lower-cost PCs might choose Windows 10 Cloud if they are more accustomed to the Windows interface, because it has the same look as other editions of the operating system, Gold said. Prior to Windows 10 Cloud, these organizations may have opted to go with Google Chromebooks, he said.

Organizations with temporary employees or employees who don't run a lot of high-powered applications, such as call-center workers, may also be interested. Others may not want to adopt PCs that run Windows 10 Cloud right away, however, because it's the first version of the OS.

If I'm choosing between a similarly priced device and Microsoft's unproven version, I'm not sure I want it.
Dominic NamnathCIO at Tri-Counties Regional Center

"If I'm choosing between a similarly priced device that I trust and Microsoft's unproven version of the Chromebook, I'm not sure I want it," Namnath said. 

Microsoft wants the Windows 10 Cloud OS and Cloudbook to compete with Google's Chrome OS and Chromebook in the education market to keep up Windows' dominance in the business market, said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of Moor Insights and Strategy in Austin, Texas.

Students get familiar with their computers' operating system and productivity applications while they're in school and will want to use them at their jobs later in life, Moorhead said. Schools want PCs that are inexpensive and easy to set up, so Microsoft has to deliver on that if it wants to be successful with Windows 10 Cloud, he added.

Windows 10 Cloud will be upgradable to Windows 10 Home or Pro, according to MSPoweruser.

Update: Microsoft announced the new operating system, officially named Windows 10 S, on May 2. Its target audience is teachers and students. The company will also sell "education PCs" running Windows 10 S, which users can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

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