What is Microsoft's Windows 10 S and should I upgrade to Pro?

Windows 10 S is a streamlined version of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system designed to improve performance by limiting the programs it can run.

The software can only run apps downloaded from Windows’ Store, making it Microsoft’s answer to Google’s Chrombook.

Announced in May, the company has called the software a “walled” version of Windows 10 that will help computers “run as well as they do on day one as they do on day 1,000”. One reason laptops slow down is invasive software, Microsoft says, so the new system will be welcome to many users.

However, the operating system restricts what apps users can download, meaning some users may want to stick to a more traditional program. For them, there is an option to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for a $49 (£38) fee.

What is Windows 10 S?

Similar in many ways to Microsoft’s current operating system Windows 10 Pro, the new software has the same task bars, multi-tasking and hot keys as the current system, as well as the same look. The operating system has been showcased on Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop, released on June 15.

So what has changed? Apps installed on Windows 10 S are “contained” to prevent them from making changes to the operating system, which should mean the laptop performs better over its lifetime. Microsoft says the system should boot 15 seconds faster on average than a similar machine running Windows 10 Pro.

Microsoft Surface Laptops with Windows 10 S

It also helps to secure the system by limiting the device to apps that are verified and downloaded through the Windows Store, which prevents malicious and unwanted software from slowing the system down.

The operating system is also designed to lock down and secure devices for use as education tools, tapping into the market that has been dominated by Google’s ChromeOS.

Chrome and Firefox will not be available

One issue that may cause some people to change their operating system from Windows 10 S is the limitation of popular apps. The operating system limits users to Microsoft’s Edge web browser and makes Bing the default search engine.

The restrictions mean users cannot set Google as their default search engine or download the Chrome app. Other search engines like Firefox aren’t available either, while popular systems such as gaming platform Steam and Adobe’s Creative Cloud Suite cannot be downloaded.

More apps are coming to the Windows Store, however, with Spotify and iTunes some of the latest additions. Any user attempting to install an app that is not approved by the Windows store will be met with the following pop up.

Windows 10 S pop up
Windows 10 S pop up CREDIT: MICROSOFT

Should I upgrade to Windows 10 Pro?

If you really want to use apps that can’t be accessed on the Windows Store you have the option of upgrading to Windows 10 Pro, Microsoft’s current software.

The quickest way to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro is by attempting to download an app from outside of the Windows Store, which triggers a pop-up offering the upgrade.

Windows 10 Pro install
Windows 10 Pro install CREDIT: MICROSOFT

The download will be free to users on the Microsoft Surface Laptop until December 31, after which users will incur a fee. The software upgrade cannot be reversed, meaning once you switch to Windows 10 Pro you cannot easily return to 10 S.

The update also won’t be free on cheaper Windows devices, with those under $700 (£550) incurring a $49 (£39) fee for upgrading. Microsoft has not yet confirmed UK pricing.

What devices will run Windows 10 S?

The flagship device for Windows 10 S is Microsoft’s new £979 Surface Laptop. It will also come on a range of new devices from Acer, Dell, HP Acer, Asus and Samsung. These devices will largely be cheaper than the Surface Laptop, although few are available in the UK at the moment.

Microsoft's AI Mocks Humans by Notching Up Perfect Score in Ms. Pac-Man

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Welcome our new Ms. Pac-Man overlords
  • The AI program scored nearly 1 million points in Ms. Pac-Man
  • Previous recorded high score (by a human) is 266,330

If there was ever a doubt that artificial intelligence could one day overtake humans, then what follows should be sign enough that the day isn’t too far away. Microsoft’s AI has managed to hit the one million mark in cult-classic game Ms. Pac-Man, something humans never managed to achieved in the 35 years of the game’s existence.

Maluuba, a deep learning startup that was acquired by Microsoft earlier this year, created an AI system that learned the ways of the game to reach the coveted score of 1 million points by level 201. So, not only does Microsoft’s AI manage to achieve the highest possible score in both human and AI history, it managed to do so before hitting the all-too well known level 256 glitch. In a video posted by Microsoft Research, you can see the AI reach the game’s maximum point value of 999,990 on Atari 2600, after which the game seems to start over.

Microsoft's AI Mocks Humans by Notching Up Perfect Score in Ms. Pac-Man

It will also interest you to know that the highest recorded score in Ms. Pac-Man – by a human, of course – is 266,330 points, as recorded by HighScore.com. This makes Microsoft’s AI look truly remarkable and gives us a glimpse at how machine learning has evolved over time.

Maluuba was able to set the new Ms. Pac-Man record using machine learning and breaking up the game into small problems with “a separate reinforcement learning agent for each problem,” which the team calls Hybrid Reward Architecture. Here, individual agents are rewarded based on their assigned task. Through this ‘divide and conquer’ method, the top agent gets a feedback from the little agents to understand which is the best route for Ms. Pac-Man to take to avoid being eaten by ghosts, the video explains.

Recently, Google’s AI AlphaGo once again defeated a human, Ki Jie, at the ancient game Chinese game, Go.

Games like Ms. Pac-Man and Go, though quite old, are revered for their complex gameplay, which is why companies in the field of AI test out their machine learning algorithms on them.Maluuba sees an expansive, practical real-world applications though the Hybrid Reward Architecture used in the game, like helping a company predict which potential customers to target, or advancements in natural language processing.

Microsoft's Skype Bots Get New Features

Microsoft's Skype Bots Get New Features

  • Microsoft said 30,000 developers are using Skype Bot Platform
  • Skype Bot developer tools are merged with Microsoft Bot Framework
  • New update allows bots to be part of and respond to groups

Microsoft has been seen to be pushing strongly for development of chatbot or bots, and on Friday the company announced new features like group chat functionality, visual cards, and third-party service sign-in for its Skype Bot Platform. The company also announced that it has merged Skype Bot developer tools and Microsoft Bot Framework into a single entity named ” Microsoft Bot Framework V3″.

According to the latest update from Microsoft, Skype Bot Platform, which was announced back in March, now has around 30,000 developers.

With the update to the Skype Bot Platform, developers can now make bots for group conversations, apart from present users with visual cards such as images and carousels. The new framework also allows authentication for third-party services, letting user to sign into another service to complete transactions and bookings without ever leaving Skype.

Skype Bots will now also be able to provide you with a receipt of the items that you purchased recently, the company said in its blog post. Microsoft also said that natural language abilities of Skype Bots have also been boosted using the Bing framework.

“Skype has collaborated with Bing to showcase a preview of Bing Entity and Intent detection so that natural language understanding is built right into Skype Bots-an industry first,” the company said in a blog post.

From Friday itself, the developers have had access to all the new features within the new bot framework, the company said. While the new SDK is available, developers will only be able to publish their revamped bots after compatible Skype applications are rolled out the desktop and mobile platforms in a “few weeks.”

The announcement from Microsoft comes shortly after the Messenger bot updates from Facebookearlier this month, where the social media networking site enabled users to rate their favourite (or least favourite) bots, similar to apps on various app stores. Facebook also added a feature named “quick replies” to allow users to respond to messages faster.