Microsoft has been trying to keep PC makers away from Chrome OS for years, and consumers far away from Apple’s iPad alternative. While Windows RT largely failed at going mainstream, and Windows 8.1 with Bing was never widely used, the software giant is experimenting with another low-cost version of its popular Windows operating system: Windows 10 Cloud.
References to the new variant have started appearing in recent Windows 10 test builds, and ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley reports that Windows 10 Cloud will be another simplified version of Windows designed to run Microsoft’s Universal apps from the Windows Store. Such a simple version of Windows 10 is clearly designed to take on alternatives like Chrome OS, and Microsoft will be able to position it as low-cost or free to use for PC makers willing to build machines with the operating system.
It’s not clear when Microsoft plans to deliver this new Windows 10 Cloud version, but early references in the Creators Update to Windows 10 (due in April) suggest it could arrive soon. Microsoft may also be preparing to test the new version and deliver it later this year with the second planned update to Windows 10.
Microsoft isn’t discussing this new Windows 10 Cloud OS publicly, but the naming doesn’t mean it’s literally powered by the cloud or streamed to a device. Microsoft will likely bundle its key services as default, including Bing, in an effort to keep consumers well within its ecosystem of software and services. Microsoft revealed last month that the company plans to bring Windows desktop apps to mobile ARM processors later this year. Windows 10 Cloud could take advantage of that work, if Microsoft plans to deliver this particular variant to ARM-powered chips.