We wrote yesterday about Windows 10 S, the new version of Windows 10 that limits users to installing applications from the Windows Store. As it turns out, Microsoft's published a Windows 10 S FAQ that revealed the new OS will have a couple more relevant restrictions. Users will not be able to select a default web browser other than Microsoft Edge, and they can't change the default search provider away from Bing. Windows 10 S was ostensibly developed for use on PCs used in the education sector, but it's also the default operating system on Microsoft's MacBook-fighting Surface Laptop.
Windows 10 S isn't Microsoft's first aggressive push towards having users embrace its browser and search provider. Windows 8.1 with Bing offered vendors of low-cost PCs a reduced-price copy of the operating system in exchange for pushing its search service. In that OS, users could still change their search provider. More recently, Windows 10 uses Edge and Bing as the defaults, often resetting users' customized settings after major OS updates like the recent Creators Update. Edge is a major step up from Microsoft's previous web browser efforts, though, and many users won't have a problem with it. Still, users who like browser extensions probably don't pick Edge as their first choice, given the grand total of 31 extant Edge extensions.
Not letting users customize their search preferences is likely more concerning. In my personal experience, Bing's results for technical and troubleshooting information are markedly inferior to those provided by industry leader Google. Microsoft's strong-arm tactics in the browser and search arenas aren't unique, though. Users are stuck with Google as the default search provider on the company's Android and Chrome OS operating systems. Apple limits iOS users default browser choice to its own Safari, too.
Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are just two examples of popular PC applications that aren't available at the Windows Store, so it's not a surprise that the pair of popular browsers can't be used on Windows 10 S. An app called "Get Opera browser" is available there, but it's little more than a link to download the normal Win32 version from Opera's website. However, denying users the ability to select a non-Microsoft browser as the default seems unlikely to encourage third-party developers to fill some of the large holes in the Windows Store's offerings.
The good news is that end-users bothered by these limitations can upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro for a reasonable $50—half of the sum needed to upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Pro. Educational users can do it for free, too, and professional Surface Laptop owners also get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro until the end of the year. Gerbils looking to know more can look to the Windows 10 S FAQ for more details.
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