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Windows 10 Cloud won't stream from the cloud, but will compete with Chrome OS

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Rather than reduce licensing fees for device makers, Microsoft seems to be working on a thin and light version of Windows 10 to address the Chromebook market directly.

Microsoft is reportedly moving to finalize its mission to provide one complete operating system that works on all device sizes and classes. To do this, it plans to roll out a new “shell” that will work with all devices, from smartphones to PCs.

This shell is rumored to roll out in the full-blown version of Windows 10 this year alongside Windows 10 Cloud, which was thought to be a cloud-based version of Windows 10 that can run on any device, with any hardware configuration, due to its streaming capabilities.

But new reports say Windows 10 Cloud won’t be a streaming operating system. Instead, the platform will target Google’s Chrome OS installed on Chromebooks, which relies on web-based apps that can be used online and offline made available through the Chrome Web Store. Chrome OS is light and fast, and is highly popular in the educational and mainstream markets due to its performance and price level.

More: Microsoft’s wish to provide one operating system for all devices may come true

Thus, with Windows 10 Cloud, the operating system will only be compatible with Universal Windows Platform apps sold through the Windows Store. Microsoft may be using the “cloud” term because of this version’s vapor-like lightweight design and dependence on apps that only reside in the cloud. The name may also be used for OEMs to distinguish this license-free version from the full-blown Windows 10 release.

Listings for Windows 10 Cloud began showing up builds of Windows 10 starting with software development kit version 15003. There are actually two versions: Windows 10 Cloud with Media Player pre-installed, and Windows 10 CloudN without Media Player. The platforms are expected to go live later this year, and the company may even officially announce Windows 10 Cloud during its BUILD conference in May.

The news arrives after unnamed industry sources said that Microsoft would reduce its Windows 10 licensing fee for device makers in March to combat the growing Chromebook market. Despite Windows 10 Cloud, which will likely be offered for free to OEMs, Microsoft may still reduce Windows 10 licensing fees for specific laptop sizes and configurations for customers who want a little more than what’s offered on the Windows Store.

Unnamed sources claim that Microsoft wants to offer a version of Windows 10 that’s extremely safe and simple to use, but cheap enough in price to compete directly with Chrome OS devices. However, Microsoft has no plans to publicly market Windows 10 Cloud with that mindset, so it will be interesting to see how Windows 10 Cloudbooks will be sold alongside Chromebooks without a direct comparison being offered.