Wed. Nov 30th, 2022
Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney.

Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney.

The rumor that Microsoft is building a version of Windows 10 that can only install apps from the Windows Store has been criticized before it’s official. Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney went to Twitter to attack the operating system. Although its real name is Windows 10 Cloud, he calls it “Windows 10 Crush Steam Edition”.

Sweeney is convinced that Microsoft wants to take total control of the Windows platform and destroy Valve’s Steam. Last year, Sweeney attacked the Universal Windows Platform API. He claimed (falsely) that third-party stores like Steam wouldn’t be able to sell and distribute UWP games, putting them at a disadvantage compared to Microsoft’s own store. He followed this statement with the claim that Microsoft would systematically modify Windows to make Steam run worse and worse so that gamers get tired of it and switch to the Windows Store.

A version of Windows 10 that can only use software from the Windows Store, like Windows 10 Cloud would be, would certainly be bad news for Steam. Steam can’t be found in the Windows Store and because of the way it works, it’s unlikely it ever will.

But Sweeney’s concern nevertheless feels misplaced. While these are all rumors at this point, and Microsoft’s plans could be something completely different, the current belief is that Windows 10 Cloud will target markets where Chromebooks are advancing, especially education. Chromebooks are attractive to this space for many reasons, but one of the biggest advantages is that Chromebooks are not PCs and are not a platform that supports the installation of any software (be it game software or something else). This makes Chromebooks very robust, with little risk of malware or other unwanted software.

In this context, Windows 10’s ability to install Steam or any other traditional Windows application is not a feature. It is an obligation. A version of Windows 10 that is limited to a browser and a sandbox, strictly limited Store applications, resolves this liability.

Plus, Chromebooks do all this by default. Many schools don’t have substantial IT resources on hand, and they certainly don’t have the infrastructure to support a number of domain-joined Windows 10 PCs, all with a carefully configured locked-down environment. They need systems that offer this kind of security by default, along with simple cloud-based user and device management.

In his tweets, Sweeney acknowledges that Microsoft wants to compete with Chrome OS. But he doesn’t understand what the company has to do to actually offer that competition. He wrote that “it’s great for Microsoft to compete with ChromeOS, but NOT BY CLOSING COMPETITIVE WINDOWS SOFTWARE STORES.” This statement represents a lack of understanding that “locking out competing Windows software stores” is positively desirable for this market. It’s fundamental to avoid the hard-to-support free-for-all that a Windows system would otherwise represent.

A later tweet acknowledges the value of this lockdown, but Sweeney say that Windows 10’s “great management features to limit user software installation” should be used instead. This again suggests a misunderstanding of the target market: systems will be used with little to no oversight and little to no administrative oversight. To compete with the Chromebook, Windows 10 Cloud must be locked by default and must not provide a ready-made way to disable that lock.

In his complaints, Sweeney also fails to consider what will happen if the Chromebook threat is not addressed: Chromebooks with Chrome OS will increase. These machines don’t support third-party stores, they don’t support Steam, and they don’t support PC games at all. Sweeney may not want Microsoft to build this world, but even if Microsoft doesn’t create it, Google is already doing it.

Decades of poor quality software riddled with insecurity and instability is responsible in no small part for the consumer appeal of sandboxed, locked-down platforms. They provide an escape from many of the problems that plague PC software. Like many champions of PC, and especially PC gaming, Sweeney is willing to tolerate these rigors in exchange for an open platform that offers few restrictions on what kind of software can be written, or by whom. The success of iOS, Android and Chrome OS has made it inescapable that many computer users prefer security and predictability. Microsoft has realized, perhaps too late, that this demand exists and is building Windows to meet the needs of the full range of its users. It seems that Sweeney prefers that some segments just go unanswered.

By akfire1

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