Microsoft Reportedly Prepping Chrome OS Rival

Is Microsoft ramping up to compete against Google’s Chrome OS?

Rumors that Microsoft is planning a more lightweight version of Windows have circulated for some time. Earlier this year, for example, ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley reported that outside developers picking through Windows 10 software builds had discovered references to “Windows Cloud,” a version of the operating system designed to run only Unified Windows Platform (UWP) apps from the Windows Store. (UWP apps run on a variety of devices, including lightweight ones such as tablets.)

That scuttlebutt gained additional momentum last week when Windows Central posted what it claimed was a Microsoft internal document comparing performance benchmarks of Google Chromebooks and “Windows 10 Cloud.”

Minimum specifications for a Windows 10 “Cloudbook,” Windows Central continued, include a quad-core processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a fast eMMC or solid-state drive (SSD), and a 40 WHr (or larger) battery.

Yet another piece to add to this puzzle: Microsoft is hosting a May 2 event in New York City that’s billed as education-focused. Combine that with the Windows 10 Cloud rumors, and it seems probable that the company will roll out a Chrome OS/Chromebook competitor for schools. According to The Verge, multiple manufacturers may even use the event to roll out cheaper Windows laptops designed with students in mind.

From a business perspective, that seems like a sound strategy: over the past two years, Google’s Chromebooks have swallowed an ever-larger portion of the education market, placing Google products front-and-center in front of millions of students. Considering that the students of today are the workers (and credit card-bearing adults) of tomorrow, neither Microsoft nor Apple can afford to cede that new audience entirely.

The big question, of course, is whether Windows 10 Cloud can deliver a lighter version of Windows that’s also smoothly functional, or if the platform will have issues. Remember that Chrome OS and iOS were built from the ground-up as lightweight operating systems; paring down an enormous platform like Windows is another matter entirely, and potentially fraught with risk. The last time that Microsoft attempted such a project, with Windows RT, things didn’t exactly go as planned.