Earlier this month Microsoft took the wraps off its new operating system, Windows 10 S, which many saw as a striped-back version of the main Windows 10 Pro.

With many questions about what it is exactly, how it works and who it’s aimed at, we spoke to Windows Product Marketing Director Robert Epstein to explain some more.


How is Windows 10 S different from Windows RT?

Windows RT

Windows RT.

“Completely different,” Robert made clear. “Windows 10 S is fully Windows 10. It can do everything that Windows 10 can in terms of support for pen and touch and Windows Hello, and even mixed reality on the right hardware. You get the full user experience of Windows.”

Outlining what Windows 10 S can’t do, Robert said: “The only thing that it doesn’t do is it doesn’t allow you to install software outside of the Store. And that’s done for a very specific reason, which is to ensure both the security and the streamlined performance, so that we can ensure that the user experience for a customer on day one thousand is as it was on day one.”

Windows RT was first released in October 2012 as a stripped-back version of Windows 8 but it was a commercial flop and was soon discontinued. Windows 10 S’s restrictions on software installations have drawn parallels to Windows RT, but Robert says there are very distinct differences.

“If you think back to Windows RT there were things you couldn’t install because functionally they just wouldn’t work on an ARM processor,” he explained.

“Here [with Windows 10 S] we’ll have the full Office desktop applications in the Store, so you’ll be able to run the full Office suite. Spotify is coming to the Store, Apple iTunes is coming to the Store, so all the apps are you’re used to are there and we expect to see many more in the Store.”


[Read more: 7 things to know about Microsoft's Surface Laptop]

What makes downloading apps from the Windows Store so secure?

One of Microsoft’s biggest arguments for downloading apps from its Store is that it’s more secure. But how exactly is it more secure?

“Apps are submitted by developers, then  they go through some automated testing, and there are teams that will also check and analyse apps in the background so we can ensure that we don’t get malware in the Store,” Robert told us.

“It’s also the technology around how apps are then deployed into the system – it’s not necessarily saying that Store apps themselves are better than desktop apps. People are writing great software, some historically haven’t been made available in the Store but more and more is.”


Is Microsoft Edge the default web browser for Windows 10 S?

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge will be the default web browser on Windows 10 S.

With software and apps only available through the Windows Store, many were quick to notice that it essentially meant that you won’t be able to use Google Chrome because it’s not in the Store.

“Microsoft Edge will be the default browser, that’s not to say that the browser manufacturers can’t submit versions of their own applications to the Store,” Robert said.

“That’s not a Microsoft decision that’s keeping them out, that’s the developers having not yet put them in.”


[Read more: Microsoft puts security and speed first with new Windows 10 S – everything you need to know]

How does moving from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro work?

Surface Laptop

Windows 10 S will be available on the Surface Laptop first.

Although you can’t download software outside of the Windows Store, Microsoft said users could switch to the main Windows 10 Pro – albeit at a price.

The cost of switching is yet to be confirmed in pounds, but in dollars it’ll set you back $49.

“Windows 10 S is a configuration of Windows rather than a different edition of Windows,” Robert clarified.

“So basically Windows 10 Pro is configured specifically to give you this streamlined performance, security and apps from the Store only. So it is possible to switch that configuration back to Windows 10 Pro.

“It’s done via the Windows Store – there is a fee involved. So when you switch configuration, it’s then just Windows 10 Pro forever more. You can install apps in a normal way, it is Windows 10 Pro.

“Having said that, we don’t really want people to buy a 10 S machine and then for whatever reason convert, it’s really important that we get the message out there that says that these different configurations of Windows will always exist and the right people need to buy the right product.”


Is Windows 10 S for me?

Windows 10 S

Windows 10 S interface.

Microsoft largely aimed Windows 10 S at the education sector, but Robert says it’s not limited to schools and students.

“There are users who may be less technical and not quite as confident in what they are doing and definitely want to ensure that they get that guaranteed security and performance ongoing, then a 10 S machine may well be right for them,” he explained.


Will Windows 10 S be available to buy as an operating system itself?

No. Robert says Windows 10 S is more a “configuration” and not a separate operating system – therefore Windows 10 S will only be available pre-installed on machines.

Read more: Surface Laptop, Windows 10 S and more - What we learnt from Microsoft's education event