Microsoft confirms Windows 10 S will become a ‘mode’ in other versions, no longer a standalone product

Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group, introduces Windows 10 S last year.

Microsoft will make Windows 10 S a “mode” inside other Windows versions, no longer offering the streamlined operating system as a standalone product, a top Windows executive has confirmed.

The move is a new twist in Microsoft’s effort to compete against Google’s Chrome OS in schools and other key growth areas. New market research shows Microsoft making headway in U.S. K-12 education, but Google and its Chromebooks still dominate that segment of the computing market.

Windows 10 S, launched last year, limits users to apps downloaded from the Windows Store, one of the precautions designed to maintain device security and performance over time. It’s part of a longstanding effort by Microsoft to adapt its operating system to the realities of mobile devices and cloud computing.

Hints of the new Windows 10 “S” mode were first spotted by Neowin last month, but the news hadn’t previously been publicly acknowledged by the Redmond company. The acknowledgement by Joe Belfiore, the Microsoft operating systems vice president, comes in advance of Windows Developer Day, which kicks off at 9 a.m. Pacific.

Users can currently convert Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro free of charge, although a report by Brad Sams on Thurrott last month said that 60 percent of users remain on Windows 10 S.

It’s not yet clear how the new “S Mode” will be enabled or disabled. The decision could be made by PC makers when configuring devices, or by schools or other institutions when ordering them. The decision does risk additional confusion over which versions of Windows can run specific types of apps — something that helped to torpedo Microsoft’s earlier Windows RT operating system, which also limited users to Windows Store apps.