Could Windows 10 Cloud be Microsoft’s answer to the Chromebook?

Chromebooks, in the greater scheme of things, are a teeny-tiny slice of Google’s business. But that’s still a slice of pie that isn’t Microsoft flavoured – and with Chromebooks proving increasingly popular in the classroom, rumours are circling that Microsoft has plans to move into the cheap-and-cheerful laptop sector.

Eagle-eyed users of Microsoft’s Insider preview builds have spotted multiple references to Windows 10 Cloud. True, this product name could apply to pretty much anything from a version of Windows streamed from Azure to a subscription version of Windows in the Office 365 mold. But, according to sources talking to ZDNet, neither of these are on the money.

No, according to them, Windows 10 Cloud is a streamlined version of Windows 10 that will run just Unified Windows Platform apps directly from the Windows Store.

If you’re getting a sense of deja vu at this point, you might be one of the few people who bought a Windows RT tablet before third parties – and finally Microsoft – withdrew support for the underwhelming operating system. Windows RT lasted just over a year before the company started shipping its Surface tablets with full-fat Windows 8.1.

While Windows RT – optimistically with hindsight – had the Apple iPad in its sights, sources say that Windows Cloud has a slightly less formidable target in the form of Chrome OS. Chromebooks are cheap and cheerful, aimed squarely at users who value battery life, portability and price over heavyweight hardware and performance.

In the business and education markets, the Windows Store doesn’t seem quite so underwhelming. No, it still doesn’t have the high profile games and creative apps that Apple’s App Store boasts, but for schools and small businesses that just want productivity apps, Microsoft has a far better chance of making its mark.

If the rumours are correct, we’d expect to see further news of this Windows 10 spin-off around April time, when the Window 10 Creator’s update is expected to launch. If it’s still alive and kicking by the end of 2018, it’ll have outlived Windows RT.

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