Chromebooks, inexpensive notebook PCs powered by Google's Chrome OS, are becoming an increasingly common sight, particularly in schools.
A Web leak that made the rounds this past weekend suggests that partnering on inexpensive Windows 10 PCs for classrooms isn't the only way Microsoft plans to compete for budget-conscious technology buyers.
Windows 10 Cloud, a version of Microsoft's flagship operating system (OS) that only runs Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps, was leaked onto the internet by Twitter user adguard (@rgadguard), reported MSPoweruser on Feb. 3.
As adventurous users soon discovered, the lightweight version of Windows 10 can only run UWP software from the company's own app marketplace, a similar tactic the company once employed with its short-lived Windows RT offering.
A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment on an inquiry from eWEEK pertaining to the leak.
Screenshots of the new OS bear a striking resemblance to Windows 10, down to the task bar and integrated Cortana-enabled search field. When attempting to install Win32 applications, however, a dialog box appears notifying users that this version of the Windows 10 OS "was made to help protect you and your device by exclusively running Windows Store apps."
At this early stage, it's unknown whether Microsoft ever intends to allow Win32 applications to run on Windows 10 Cloud or whether such a version of Windows will ever see the light of day.
Meanwhile, Chromebooks are catching on in the American education sector. In the third quarter of 2016, technology analyst firm IDC noted that in the U.S., "Chromebooks had another banner quarter in the K-12 market," helping the region's PC market attain some positive growth despite a worldwide downturn in PC sales.
Recent moves by Google may accelerate Chromebook's takeover of the nation's classrooms.
The company recently announced a new generation of Chromebooks for schools that can also run Android apps at the Bett conference for education technology in London. Google also was quick to address concerns about opening up the massive Android app ecosystem to students using Chromebooks.
"In the coming weeks, Chromebook administrators will be able to create a library of approved Android apps and install them on select managed Chromebooks," wrote Naveen Viswanatha, product manager at Google for Education, in a Jan. 24 blog post. "Students will be able to access millions of Android apps, like Toontastic and Science Journal, for learning both online and offline."
According to Futuresource Consulting, 90 percent of Chromebook sales remained in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2016. Chromebooks also accounted for more than half of all education computer sales in the country.
Some enterprise organizations have also taken a shine to Chromebooks. Netflix uses Chromebooks along with Chromeboxes, compact Mac Mini-like systems that connect to monitors and PC peripherals in its call center. Florida's Chapters Health System deployed Chromebooks to provide quick and secure access to clinical data.