One of the key differences between Windows 10 S and other versions of Microsoft’s desktop operating system is that Windows 10 S can only run apps downloaded from the Windows Store. Theoretically that allows for better performance, battery efficiency, and security… but it also means that millions of Windows programs that aren’t in the Store won’t run.

While Microsoft has been encouraging developers to convert legacy apps to Universal Windows Platform apps that can be distributed in the Windows Store, there’s one small catch when it comes to web browsers.

And by small, I mean unless something changes you won’t find Firefox, Chrome, Opera, or most other third-party web browsers in the Windows Store anytime soon… which means you won’t be able to run them on Windows 10 S.

Microsoft has already made it clear that you can’t change the default web browser in Windows 10 S. It will be Microsoft Edge from the time you first start using a computer until the day you decide to pay $50 to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

But during the Windows 10 S announcement, officials did make passing mention of your ability to download and install third-party browsers.

What the company didn’t mention was Windows Store Policy 10.2.1, which currently reads:

Apps that browse the web must use the appropriate HTML and JavaScript engines provided by the Windows Platform.

The approach is similar to Apple’s policy for third-party browser for iOS. You can find versions of Chrome and Firefox for iPhone and iPad, but in order to comply with the App Store policies, they have to use the same rendering engine as Apple’s own Safari browser. So essentially all you’re getting is different wrapper for a Safari-like browser, with a few extra tricks like the option to sync your history and bookmarks across platforms.

We could see browser developers take a similar approach with Windows 10 S… but it’s only likely to happen if Microsoft’s newest operating system becomes popular enough that developers feel they have little choice but to comply.

On the other hand, it’s worth considering the target market for Windows 10 S: education. Microsoft is positioning Windows 10 S as an option for cheap and premium computers alike, and plans to offer it to end users through devices like the Surface Laptop. But it was designed first and foremost for the education market, and it’s unclear if educators will be interested in replacing the default web browser on student computers.

And that could be a way for Microsoft to get students hooked on Edge. If it’s the browser they use at school it might be the browser they stick with over time, even after graduation.

For now, the desktop version of Chrome uses the Blink rendering engine. Firefox uses Gecko, although there are plans to transition to a next-gen engine in the future. And recent builds of Opera are based on Google Chromium/Blink, although Opera used to have its own rendering engine called Presto.

Unless Microsoft changes its policies or Google, Mozilla, or Opera decide to create custom versions of their browsers for the Windows Store, it’s unlikely that any of these browsers will run on Windows 10 S.

via @ericlaw and MSPowerUser


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10 replies on “Chrome and Firefox won’t run on Windows 10 S (unless something changes)”

  1. Where’s the outrage we saw when Microsoft was bundling Internet Explorer with, and tying it into, the Windows operating system, to the point where it couldn’t even be uninstalled? Sounds to me like we are going down that same road.

  2. While I can understand the logic of “hooking”students while they’re young, I don’t see it working all that well unless they also by some miracle have Windows phones, otherwise they’ll be using chrome or safari a huge chunk of their time (out Firefox/Opera if the have a penchant for the alternative.

  3. Banning all alternative browsers can kill a platform before it becomes mainstream enough to stand on it’s own. Tell someone that they _must_ use internet explorer (EDGE) and they can’t search with google by default, and now try to convince them to buy this platform instead of the equally good other platform (ChromeOS or Android or iOS or Ubuntu or whatever). So in one hand I can’t use my favorite browser. Okay. what do I get for exchange? Nothing? Well then why should I buy it?

    Also they better put a big-ass warning label on all W10S products that “not a full-fledged computer” otherwise the backlash when people find out the limitations for themselves will damage the desktop Windows 10’s reputation as well.

  4. I can’t use edge or firefox on my chromebook and this doesn’t bother me at all. I would consider a windows 10s machine for someone who is really only checking email, facebook and watching Netflix especially if it turns out to be less susceptible to malware. If I can get low cost, lightweight & long battery in something portable with a decent size screen that works for me because I’m often remoting to another machine.

    1. It’s one thing to be forced to only use the #1 browser out there (Chrome.) It’s another thing entirely to have to switch to Edge, which hardly anyone uses. Especially for Android phone users, who are well entrenched in the Google/Chrome ecosystem. Similarly, the Android Play store (which Chromebooks can use) is so much less limiting to the Microsoft Store. I used a Microsoft Phone for a while, and loved to interface but could not get past the limitations of the browser and lack of 3rd party apps.

      1. I think only three chromebooks have official support for the Android Play store and the reviews are mixed.. Mine is on the list of “may have access later in 2017” but I’m not holding my breath on this one. I think a windows 10s device and chromebooks without Play access are equal for basic internet use. Add in play store access then I agree with you 100%, windows has quite a bit of catching up to do.

  5. This severely limits my desire to use Windows 10s. One of the major reasons I find to use Windows over Chrome OS is being able to change between the Chrome browser, Firefox, Edge, etc… as my needs warrant.

    1. With Android apps this is even possible on Chrome OS, albeit only with their respective mobile counterparts.

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