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Windows 10 S vs. Chrome OS: Which is Better for Business?

Windows 10 S vs. Chrome OS: Which is Better for Business?

Credit: ShutterstockEditor's Note: Microsoft recently revealed that Windows 10 S will no longer be a standalone operating system. Instead it will become an optional mode in Windows 10. 

One of the big reveals that came from Microsoft's recent developers conference, Build 2017, was the introduction of Windows 10 S. It's a more tightly controlled and secure version of Windows, limiting users to only those applications found on the Windows Store.

For many considering deploying a simpler and streamlined operating system, the closest comparison is Chrome OS, which has won over some IT departments for the robust security and relative ease of deployment and management.

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To evaluate these contenders, it's important to look at the capabilities Chrome and Windows 10 S. There isn't a clear cut, right choice for all, but by knowing the strengths and shortcoming of each and the needs of your organization, you'll have a better viewpoint of whether to consider Windows 10 S, Chrome OS, or perhaps upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

A new take on Windows

While Windows 10 S was meant to appeal to schools, a Microsoft spokesperson said the S, "stands for streamlined, security and superior performance." It won't exclusively be sold to schools, so it's appeal might extend to your company.

The main draw is that this version of Windows is built exclusively for apps from the Windows Store. The upside is that means Microsoft is taking command of the security, individually approving apps and checking their security details before making them available for download.

This could lessen IT administrator's headaches, as they won't have to worry about employees installing rogue apps. The inability to run any command line applications or download other third-party applications will ease the burden on management.

However, there's also a potential downside. Restricting you to the Windows Store means no opportunity to install Chrome, which is currently the most popular browser. Microsoft's documentation restricts any browsers to ones that are built atop "HTML and JavaScript engines provided by the Windows platform."

This won't bode well for organizations that use G Suite, which is optimized to perform best in Chrome. Google theoretically could build a different version of Chrome for the Windows Store (much like it does for iOS), but that decision would likely come after enough time to see if it makes sense for the company to do so. So at least in the short term, 10 S is a tradeoff of convenience vs. flexibility.

Microsoft is currently doing what it can to push developers of the more popular apps to get their Microsoft Store version ready. At Build the company announced that it would be adding iTunes (no joke) and Spotify to the app store.

Chrome Alone

Chromebooks have been popular in enterprise deployments. On the deployment and management side, they offer a lot in terms of ease, security and control. IT departments have several options available for keeping the devices as secure as possible, with tools to manage G Suite app access and now 200 different policies for controlling the deployment. While Chromebooks, such as Windows 10 S, gain a lot of interest from education, business use remains an area of increasing interest.

But there are still limitations. A Chromebook, of course, is only going to run web apps that work in the Chrome browser. While G Suite apps can provide some of the functionality you may have had through Windows software, that may not suit everyone's needs.

Google is working on fixing this "app gap" by bringing the Google Play Store to Chromebooks. However, this integration has been very slow coming. The Samsung Chromebook Pro was delayed, with the main culprit the improvement of Android app integration. According to Google's documentation, only a small number of Chromebooks offer the Play Store in the stable channel. But that is scheduled to change in the short term.

The advent of Android apps holds promise for making Chromebooks even more useful, but there isn't enough yet to truly knock off Windows for many use cases.

Making the choice

In the end, both operating systems speak to the desire from companies for a lightweight, secure operating system that can be easily managed. Both Microsoft and Google will certainly leverage their Office 365 and G Suite services to serve as a bridge to hardware. Yet for many a full-version of Windows 10 Pro might offer exactly what one needs  ̶  the familiarity of Windows with the flexibility to install Chrome and other non-Windows Store software. The way each company works and preferred cloud services may make the difference with such a choice.

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