Following the next major update to Windows 10, expected in April, it will be possible to curtail that freedom, via a new setting that allows the OS to block the installation of all non-Windows Store software.
This will be an opt-in feature, presumably designed to let experienced users limit the damage that the less technically savvy can do by downloading software from the internet. It will also widen the options that smaller businesses have for controlling how staff use company machines. While large organizations can lock down Windows 10 so users can only install whitelisted apps using AppLocker, this feature is restricted to the Enterprise and Education edition of the OS.
Setting up Windows 10 to only install Store apps is very straightforward, as demonstrated in the video guide above. Simply go to Settings->Apps->Apps & features and change the Installing apps drop down menu from Allow apps from anywhere to Allow apps from the Store only.
Trying to install a third party app after this setting has been enabled will prompt the warning You can only install apps from the Windows Store, and, where relevant, a recommendation of a similar app from the Store.
The menu also allows you to set Windows 10 to Prefer apps from the Store, but allow apps from anywhere, which will warn users when they attempt to install software from outside the Store but still allow them to do so.
The merits of the new approach are debatable on several fronts. There are still plenty of examples of low quality and poor value software on the Windows Store, not to mention the large amount of excellent software available online that has no Store equivalent.
There is also the argument, made vociferously by veteran games designer Tim Sweeney of Epic Games, that this move is a step towards turning computers from unfettered machines under the control of users into locked-down appliances, eroding the freedoms that have existed from the days of the first home PCs.
Microsoft is also widely expected to this year release Windows 10 Cloud, a version of the OS that would be locked down by default, only allowing Store apps to be installed.
The edition will, according to sources who spoke to ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, attempt to head off the threat of people choosing easy-to-use and cheap Chromebooks over Windows PCs, and could be revealed in April.
Low-cost convertible Windows laptops are already going head-to-head with Chromebooks in the education market, where Chromebooks are proving increasingly popular, albeit with Windows laptops being slightly-higher specced and costing more.
Foley predicts that Windows 10 Cloud will be aimed at the enterprise and education markets.
While still restrictive, recent leaked builds of Windows 10 Cloud allow users to install Win32 apps, the traditional desktop software associated with Windows, that have been added to the Windows Store. According to the site Thurrot.com, users will also be able to upgrade Windows 10 Cloud to the Pro edition if they find the restrictions too onerous.