Last week, it was discovered that Microsoft is working on a 'Cloud Shell', a lightweight version of Windows 10. References to the OS appeared in Windows 10 for PCs build 15019 as well, really creating more questions than answers.
But what is Windows 10 Cloud? ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley has the scoop, and as it turns out, Windows 10 Cloud is pretty much a newer version of Windows RT. According to her sources, the OS will only run Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps that are installed from the Store.
This raises two key points. For one, the idea that UWP apps can only be installed from the Store is contrary to statements that Microsoft has made regarding it being an open platform. Currently, Windows 10 allows users the option to sideload UWP apps if they wish.
The other issue is that Windows 10 Cloud presumably wouldn't support Windows 8.1 apps, making it the first SKU of the OS not to do so. This might not be the worst thing that can happen, given the poor state of the existing 8.1 apps that haven't been adapted to the UWP, but it does leave this "lightweight" version of Windows without some key apps and services, such as Amazon's Kindle.
The new SKU is meant to compete with Chromebooks, providing a "simpler, safer, and cheaper version of Windows 10". According to the report, Microsoft will not be publicly positioning it that way, probably because it would imply that full Windows 10 isn't simple or safe.
Windows RT shipped alongside Windows 8 as a version of the OS that ran on ARM processors, only allowing users to install apps from the Store. There's no reason to believe that Windows 10 Cloud should have such a limitation, however, as Microsoft has already announced the ability to run full Windows on ARM PCs. This would be something different, that would likely be supported by both x86 and ARM chips.
Back in March, references to Windows 10 RT showed up in Device Guard. One might wonder if that reference from almost a year ago was an early indication of Windows 10 Cloud.
While we still don't have a timeline for when the new OS will be released, Build seems like it would be the perfect time to announce it, which will be held in May. That would be after the Creators Update is released, so a possible timeframe would be around Redstone 3, which is to be the next feature update to Windows 10.
And before anyone asks, don't expect your Surface RT, 2, or Lumia 2520 to be updated to Windows 10 Cloud.