Hands-on with Windows Core OS for HoloLens 2 using an emulator

HoloLens 2 with phone
HoloLens 2 with phone (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft released an emulator for developers to test their apps for HoloLens 2, meaning we can finally go hands-on with Windows Core OS on HoloLens 2 for the first time. This is the very first version of Windows Core OS that will be shipping to the public later this year on new HoloLens 2 hardware, meaning Windows Core OS is finally on its way.

This HoloLens 2 emulator is the first time the public can play with a version of Windows Core OS. Don't get too excited, however, as Windows Core OS for HoloLens 2 is pretty similar to the OS that ships on HoloLens 1 on the surface. The only real differences are cosmetic, with UI elements on Start and windows being different.

One such change is that tiles on the Start menu are now rounded at the corners, a design trend I think we're going to see show up on other versions of Windows 10 and Windows Core OS over the coming months and years. The elements on Start also float just above it, giving the whole UI a 3D effect, which is in line with the whole holographic computing idea.

There's also a new "follow me" button that lets you dock apps just below you peripheral vision so that you can refer to it where ever you are. This is super handy if you're in an environment with lots of windows open, and you always need to have one follow you around. Just look down, and it'll be there waiting for you.

So that's Windows Core OS for HoloLens 2 on the surface. Of course, there are also additional OS capabilities enabled by the HoloLens 2 hardware, such as being able to interact with holograms using your hands, and eye recognition. What's more impressive about Windows Core OS however is how it uses the same shell across devices.

In fact, the Start menu and window UI are the same across HoloLens 2 and Windows Mixed Reality on 19H1. This is CShell, Microsoft's universal shell that has been worked on for years now. In addition, Windows Core OS also has an improved update system, that improves update speeds to that of a normal reboot. When an update is ready to restart, it takes no more than 30 seconds to boot back up. It's very impressive.

See more

There's a lot more to Windows Core OS that we haven't yet seen as HoloLens 2 is a very tame version of it. Windows Lite, Surface Hub 2X, and the next generation Xbox are all Windows Core OS products as well, and it's there where we should start seeing the more interesting side of Windows Core OS and what it can do. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on Windows Core OS? Let us know in the comments.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter and Threads