New rumored Windows 10 SKU takes aim at the Cloud and lightweight devices

A new report from Petri published today claims that Microsoft is working on a new Windows 10 SKU that is being internally referred to as Cloud Shell. Although details are still pretty scarce, it sounds like Microsoft is building a new edition of Windows 10 for lightweight devices, similar to the Surface RT.

Windows Central understands that internally, Microsoft does have a new Windows 10 SKU in the works called Windows 10 Cloud, and with this new report referring to a "Cloud Shell", we're hearing the two are likely related. We're told Cloud Shell is separate from CShell, Microsoft's upcoming modular shell for Windows 10.

In fact, a lightweight version of Windows 10 would actually make sense now that full Windows 10 is coming to ARM. With CShell in the works, many have been wondering where that leaves Windows 10 Mobile now that Windows 10 on ARM is a thing. Jumping into speculation territory, but Windows 10 Cloud could end up simply being Windows 10 Mobile but for lightweight laptops and tablets, running UWP only and being fast with low-specs, powered by CShell.

Internally however, at least for now, Microsoft's Cloud SKU is based on the normal desktop variation of Windows 10. This suggests the Cloud SKU may be more for lightweight full Windows 10 ARM devices.

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It's said that Windows 10 Cloud will show up at some point in 2017 (we're hearing RS3). Once that arrives, Windows 10 Mobile, in theory, could be used as a viable lightweight desktop OS replacement, as the desktop continuum experience will look and act almost identically to a normal Windows 10 desktop machine. Stay tuned at Windows Central for more.

Updated January 26th 2017 12:19 PM ET

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: @zacbowden.

  • Yesssssss
  • Away with control panel and all legacy junk. Nice!
  • Along with all non-replaced legacy functionality. No thanks.
  • Then continue to use Win 10 Pro..
  • Could this be Microsoft's answer to Chrome OS and Chromebooks? Would you see this on the Surface phone?
  • We don't need yet another gimped version of Windows for mobile that can't even run macros in Excel.
  • Hehe, I read "macros" as "MacrOS" - some weird operating system that runs inside Excel. ;)
  • For anyone who knows what can be done, VBA can automate an amazing number of things. Perfect for a mobile environment. The only people who are okay with going through the step by step process of manually completing 10 steps, or a hundred or more, are those who are unaware they could have been done automatically with the click of a button. Custom forms are perfect for mobile also ;)
  • Add-in works across mobile platforms. It is super easy to write (html,js,css). Also, since it is based on web stack, you can easily call any of your web services via AJAX. You should definitely try it. :)
  • Thanks fr the tip. Perhaps I'll check into it, if I have the time. But that's the problem. Rewriting what is already working flawlessly seems counterproductive. Opening the same functionality on a new device saves lots of time and expense.
  • Well maybe you don't need a device that doesn't run macros but mose people don't need to run macros in Excel.  
  • I could see one higher end on windows arm and one lower spec on cloud.
  • Noooooooo... Chromebooks, seriously?
  • They're a real threat.
  • Chromebooks are not a threat, it's a web browser on a computer for goodness sake all computers come with a web browser plus a lot more
  • Chromebooks are in deed a threat, otherwise why would MS be investing in developing Windows to run on low power devices. They are looking forward, they don't want what happened to them in mobile to repeat itself on the mobile/lightweight PC front.
  • You've never used a Chromebook before.
  • Chromebooks will now have android apps. A real threat indeed
  • Phones and laptops are used very different, they can have a million apps, it still won't replace windows, not even osx for that matter
  • Some people say using apps on windows laptop is useless. How come using apps on Chromebook is not useless?
  • I've never figured that one out myself. I loaded a bunch of Chrome apps in the browser and they are either no better or worse than their windows native counterparts. I can see why some schools might like Chromebooks from a price, simplicity and security standpoint, but in function? Nope, I don't see it.
  • Because with Windows there is usually a much better desktop alternative to the app. Chromebooks only have the app option.
  • Here is why Chromebooks are a threat. First off, web browsers anymore can be used to do pretty much anything you would do locally, so for most people, a web browser only experience is enough. In addition, it is like comparing a precision screwdriver to a multitool. Sure, that multitool is going to do okay for a lot of different things, but it is not going to be anywhere close to being as good as the precision screwdriver at screwing and unscrewing. Chrome OS is the precision screwdriver, in that it does one thing really well, which is the web browser.  And back to that first point, anymore the web browser is enough for most people.
  • MS edge is pretty good with extensions
  • You seem to think ppl only need to surf the web, not quite. I have a Chromebook and it's only good as a lightweight browser.
  • Oh no, not at all. Of course people will sometimes use their computers for other things. But for many users, a browser really is enough. Not everyone is a gamer, graphic designer or developer or otherwise require special software, so for many people a browser is enough. And if you can get a computer that does only that for a cheap price, decent build and good battery life, a Chromebook is ideal. That being said, I am interested in seeing what Microsoft's Cloud version of Windows will bring to the table, and how it will stack up. If they can get comparable performance out of it on similar hardware, and come close in price on machines that run it, then Chromebooks might be less of an issue for Microsoft.
  • Android tablet, iPad and/or Windows tablet can already run apps and have a browser, why do you need a ChromeOS? A Chromebook is not any cheaper than a tablet.
  • Advertizing. Revenue. Monetization. Control. Google hallmarks in the low price sector that Microsoft wants in on. Low price means gimped by design so-as not to cannibalize sales of the full OS. Hopefully they will also include a full mobile OS rather than only offering a gimped one like RT was.
  • Yeah, I think they aren't, AA well. But that rumored Andromeda thing could be.
  • Nope Chromebooks have apps :P
  • For now
  • I don't care if they are Chromebook like in behavior as long as it supports all windows apps and programs being from the cloud or whatever.
  • Is gonna be the same feel u will never even notice is cloud version all apps will run exactly the way u want . This is good news by the way
  • I feel it must be said that there is a conflict of interest here. On one note (no pun intended), w10m will make a "great lightweight desktop os replacement" and on another ios/android isnt a true os desktop replacement (no, it's not written in THIS article). Its more so true with ios, okay, but android?! User functionality is there. So is it safe to android is a great lightweight desktop os replacement without getting destroyed here?
  • You can say it without getting destroyed :). But I disagree. Yes, android is capable. But interacting with it using a mouse is still unintuitive and clunky. RemixOS can't do it well and it's their goal. So it could be done but hasn't yet. Hasn't been close. :)
  • The wonderful thing is Windows Mobile works beautifully with keyboard and mouse, even without continuum in the mix! Btw we should remember that today's 600 series Snapdragon chipset perform as good as a 800-801 processor, moving onwards I don't see why mid and low range phones can't have continuum / Windows Lite OS. So Windows Mobile has more range and applications in terms of devices than one might think. Plus continuum does run on SD615 and above. Manufacturers need to embrace it :)
  • Yes and no. Android has accepted a mouse and keyboard as input since it was created, and in Android 7.0 there is a Freeform resizing mode that lets applications resize to whatever window the user wants them in.  However, Android 7 is so new that most developers haven't redesigned their app for the freeform resizing. You can run apps in a window, but the app will still an interface designed for a phone. It will be larger, but the UI won't change to take advantage of the extra room.  This becomes more interesting with Chromebooks. Android apps are steadily becoming available on more and more Chromebooks - Google announced last week that all Chromebooks relased this year would have the Play Store out of the box - but the Android application layer is still based on Android 6.0 This means it doesn't have the free form resizing just yet. When it does (allegedly the end of this month), it will be awesome for the applications that take advantage of it.  Side note: Microsoft's own applications are really great on Chrome. Word, Excel and Powerpoint are the same feature wise as the Windows Store versions, so if someone can get by with those, they can get by with them on Chrome. You will need an Office 365 subscription. Also, Adobe announced earlier this week they're going to be tuning their apps to work better on Chromebooks. I played with this earlier in the week, and it too seems like it will be more than enough for most people
  • Will it run on Surface 2 RT?
  • No
  • If it's Windows 10 Cloud, would one have to be connected online to use it? Or would it use the current Continuum feature in place when not connected? "Cloud" causes me to think about a crappy experience in places of bad internet connections...
    But the idea of a very light-weight version of Windows built for Chromebook/Phone-like devices? I'm up for that.
  • If you can use a chromebook offline, you can use this offline too.
  • Oh yeah... great point.
    Hopefully W10C will have more offline ability than ChromeOS...
    Well it should, being based off of a full-on OS than simply a "glorified browser" (My school district really likes CBs. And I can testify that it is truly a Glorified Browser.)
  • Schools like them BECAUSE they are glorified browsers, if there's less distractions on it then you are less likely to skive off (baring in mind they can use their networks to block specific sites) On that note has anyone thought that W10M *might* actually succeed on enterprise BECAUSE of the lack of apps means employees can't waste time on snapchat / pokemon go...
  • What can you do with chrome book offline, with the exception of writing and article and waiting to get an internet connection to post it
  • I used one for a bit, but then got permission from my school for me to use my Surface. My best friend uses one though, and Google does offer an offline-mode, where you can work on docs, slides, and sheets. But it's apparently a pain to set up (and we're both what the teachers consider "tech savvy"), but besides logging in, working and creating Google docs/slides/sheets, and going through flies saved onto the device, I don't think that you can do much (or anything) else.
  • Actually one more thing- play games like Pokémon offline if using the right stuff.
  • There are applications in the Chrome Web Store and Google Play store that work perfectly fine offline. Google Docs also works offline, all your changes will sync once it has a connection again.
  • Ah. Ok.
  • Yep. I don't think it's as big of a limitation as people make it out to be. Any student using one is going to need Internet access for their research anyway. 
  • True- but with W10C and W10 on ARM, cellular capabilities will come. I hope that can help fix problems with that. And then it's only a matter of time before ChromeOS gets that feature too.
  • They've had them in the past - the first Google Chromebook Pixel (released in 2013) had a Verizon LTE option. There are rumors that will be another push once the transition to Android apps is done. 
  • OMG! great news also if is far from my plan...but in a IOT scenario could be strategic!
  • Fantatsic news! currently using RDP on 950xl using continuum to access my win32 apps on my desktop - this is a game changer!
  • If they can synchronize all the SKUs and make windows 10 mobile just windows 10 that would be awesome. One build for every device and then we don't have to worry about what can run what if they can get UWP off the ground.
  • My first thought is a WinRT failure again due to this quote "Windows 10 Cloud could simply be Windows 10 Mobile but for lightweight laptops and tablets, running UWP only and being fast with low-specs.".
    If it's UWP only then there's nothing interesting in it for me. Then W10M is a better OS as-is in my eyes.
  • I think this SKU has been in the works for a while now. I remember having read quite some time ago (here on WinCentral and some more sites) that Microsoft was indeed working on a version for ARM back when Windows 10 was first launched, and some documentation even had the mention of "Windows 10 for ARM". So hopefully this will materialize sooner than later. 
  • doesn't matter. no more apps to run on it anymore...
  • The reality is that APPs matter.... Modern apps are necessary for success.
  • I have yet to figure out a compelling reason to run mobile apps on my desktop, if I wanted to run mobile apps I would just get an Android/iOS device.  
  • Exactly!! Lol.. But, we don't want iDroid.. We want to run Windows, and have apps on mobile.. SMDH. That's been the problem for years!!! 😂😂😂. You're funny.
  • There problem is legacy for MS i.e. Win32... its the same thing that has happened throughout history... IBM and MaBell come to mind.   The legacy makes money but the company is dragged down by the lack of growth.   My guess MS goes for the UWP closed loop and if it doesn't work... abandon windows on a consumer level, at some point.  I for one have zero use for Windows without Win32, but I can see the issue they are having.   
  • Hummnmmmmmm🤔🤔🤔🤔
  • Hard to tell what it could be with just a codename.
    ​Cloud Shell could be a multitasking environment and launcher for Windows IoT (which currently lacks any shell UI).
    ​It could be a simplified tablet-mode-only shell for ARM tablet.
    ​It could be a cloud-apps-centric shell taking advantage of the AppV integration to have a standard foundation to only stream AppV apps without locally-installed apps, simplifying enterprise VDI. ​Thing is, I happen to agree that the full shell is too complex for some users and a no-overlapping-windows and simplified shell might be just what we need to bring UWP to the masses. But I wish we could have that as a per-user setting, not separate SKU.
  • awesome
  • This sounds to me like RT. RT was only a "failure" because I believe it was ahead of it's time. It was the perfect OS for most people. It did just what was needed for basic productivity & was impervious to viruses and malware. Today, Chromebooks do basically the same thing but based from a browser rather than an actual OS environment. With the addition of Android apps comes the probability of viruses & buggieness like it's Android OS cousin. Windows RT was a great OS and has a place in the computing space. Just because people don't understand something doesn't mean that it's not good. RT & this Windows 10 Cloud address the #1 complaint from consumers about Windows machines: Vulnerability to viruses & malware. I used to have a Surface 2 RT & loved it. I'd still be using it today if Microsoft hadn't abandoned RT.
  • It's a problem when you call something Windows and it looks exactly like Windows desktop, but you can't run normal Windows programs. This version would likely use x86-on-ARM emulation and enable traditional Win32 programs.
  • That's not a problem for most people if you know what you're getting. x86 is dying. We're coming to the point in the near future where the only place you'll see it is in business applications. That's slowly fading away as well. If consumer versions of Windows stopped supporting x86 in favor of UWP, then the software companies would adapt to the new standard. There are too many PC users for them to refuse. I, and most others do not use any user-installed x86 software except for Office & maybe a 3rd party browser. If Microsoft dropped x86, Google & Mozilla would be forced to build UWP browsers out of fear of losing users. It doesn't matter if programs are better than apps. Consumers are choosing apps & that's the way the world is going. It's good because it forces creativity & innovation on the part of those tasked with converting the software, so the app platform gets better. The world is moving on, & that's good. You can't stick with the same thing forever.
  • RT was a failure because nobody needs yet another closed system which is the goal in this whole thing.  RT failed because there are already better products with more apps anyway.   Actually, what you are suggesting is exactly what Tim Sweeney was warning about.  There is no real evidence to suggest that consumers want or are purchasing apps off the Windows Store in mass, matter of fact I doubt most Windows users even know the Windows Store exists.     Although, there really is no growth in Windows users.... the existing users are mostly there for Win32.... RT actually proved that.   Consumers aren't just purchasing apps... they are actually purchasing Android and iOS devices.... why would they switch?   They probably won't, that shipped sailed a long time ago.  I actually think what you suggest is MS's plan, but I think it fails.... and I think they are ready to abandon Windows completely in the event they continue to expand on Cloud side things.  I just don't think there is anything compelling about a MS OS which doesn't have win32.   imo apps are okay for simple applications which are useful on mobile.... I don't really need mobile apps on my desktop.... if I did... I would just go get a iOS or Android device and hook it up.
  • Well the difference with RT and what I expect with Windows Cloud will be that WIndows Cloud will get OEM support. RT was only on MS devices and not any OEM support which Chromebooks have
  • I would speculate that cloud shell would more likely be a lightweight enterprise related sku that would connect to Azure and run applications through the various virtualization options.
  • If it's anything like Chromebooks, it's a definite no no for me. No way am I putting all my data in that skynet storage...better not force that **** on our everyday PC.
  • I like the idea because personally I think that would be great for
    1) Low spec ARM devices
    2) Could tie in with Cortana Voice Interface, Autonomous(AI) Cloud Computing.
    3) Is a good business opportunity in consumer space. Although if it arrives as a subscription service, it will negate the whole point of low spec ARM that is to bring affordable devices to the masses. And masses won't benefit from it if they have to pay additional charges to take advantage of high end computing through cloud. *Fingers crossed* Really exciting times ahead for Microsoft.
  • Sounds like we are headed back 40 years to the age of dumb terminals. What goes around comes around as they say.
  • Well, hopefully they have learned from the IBM PC Jr fiasco... The biggest difference now is speed and reliability of the network.  However, I won't partake.  I like having my data in my possession. Plus, when it comes to engineering, hospitals, schools, the military - a lot of those places use programs that are decades old and run in DOS.  This could present a problem if the application suite is stored off site.  I don't see this as a replacement, as much as it could be an augmentation.