Windows 10 ‘Lean’ shows up in a preview build for Windows Insiders

A recent Skip Ahead build of Windows 10 served up to Windows Insider participants, version 17650, ships with a new variant called Windows 10 Lean (or CloudE). The x64-based installer for this specific variant is reportedly 2GB smaller in size than Windows 10 Pro and packs a slightly different restricted environment than Microsoft’s recent stab at the education sector with Windows 10 S. It also appears to have a small, limited number of pre-installed first-party apps after installation including Edge, OneDrive, and OneNote. 

With Windows 10 Lean, specific tools are reportedly missing such as the registry editor and the Microsoft Management Console, but the platform doesn’t appear to restrict app and program installs to the Microsoft Store like Windows 10 S. Instead, Microsoft provides a “lite” operating system for the general user stuffed with the basic essentials to get you started. Microsoft doesn’t even plaster the desktop background with wallpaper. 

With Windows 10 S, Microsoft provides a full installation of Windows 10 Pro, but introduces an “S Mode” as a new layer that disables software installation outside the Microsoft Store. It’s also tweaked to run on low-end hardware so the platform and its associated PCs can better compete with Chromebooks in the education sector. Rather than labeling the platform as Windows 10 Pro in S Mode, the company simply shortened the name to Windows 10 S. 

But there’s speculation that Windows 10 Lean could merely be an “S Mode” for the Enterprise or Home version of Windows 10. Given the additional “CloudE” listing associated with this “lean” build, we can’t help but speculate that it’s Windows 10 Enterprise in S Mode. After all, employees have no business tweaking the PC’s registry hence the tool’s removal. 

Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore said in March that S Mode will be offered for Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Enterprise in the next update “coming soon.” He is referring to the Spring Creators Update launching in May, aka Redstone 4, which will see the demise of Microsoft’s Windows 10 S brand. Instead, customers can purchase a Windows 10 Pro, Home, or Enterprise device with S Mode already enabled. 

“If a customer does want to switch out of S Mode, they will be able to do so at no charge, regardless of edition,” he said. “We expect to see new Windows 10 devices ship with S Mode, available from our partners in the coming months.” 

Hands-on experiences with Windows 10 Lean reveal that the platform doesn’t include drivers for optical drives. It also doesn’t provide download prompts in Microsoft Edge, thus you can’t download files “out of the box.” Even more, Microsoft’s traditional Office installer won’t install the software for unknown reasons. 

“With Microsoft’s great tradition of meaningful error reporting, the installer just plays the error sound without displaying any additional dialog whatsoever,” says the user who originally revealed Windows 10 Lean on Twitter. 

We will likely find out more about Windows 10 Lean during Microsoft’s BUILD developers conference in May. Belfiore will be one of the speakers talking about the Windows platform and will possibly spill the Windows 10 Lean beans if CEO Satya Nadella didn’t already in his initial keynote.

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