Understanding Windows Core OS and Microsoft's 'Polaris' for modern PCs

MS logo
MS logo (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Microsoft has big plans for Windows, and it involves stripping the OS down to its components, removing older legacy portions, and making it modular. Known as "Windows Core OS (WCOS)," the retooling will let Microsoft drive development faster and deliver new device experiences while maintaining the familiar look of Windows.

One aspect of Windows Core OS is referred to as "composers" – the user interface (UI) experience. Windows "Polaris" is one of those composers. Here is how it all fits together and why Microsoft sees this as the future of computing.

Window Core OS and OneCore

To understand how Microsoft's vision of Windows will work, it is essential to understand some of the OS architecture. Here's a list of key elements:

  • Windows OneCore – Microsoft successfully unified its kernel and OS core system across devices in 2015.
  • The Universal Windows Platform (UWP) – Microsoft unified its app platform, which runs on Win32 systems (x86, x64), ARM, and Xbox.
  • Windows Core OS – As reported by our Senior Writer Zac Bowden, Microsoft is making Windows 10 modular. Once finished, Windows 10 will look the same, but components like Win32 and telephony support for cellular calls can be added or removed easily by Microsoft. Windows Core OS will also pave the way for a true UWP-version of Windows 10 without any native Win32 support that will eventually supplant Windows 10 S.
  • Windows CShell – With the same kernel, a flexible core, and unified app platform, the last piece is the shell – or UI – that itself adapts to the screen. Taking the idea of Continuum to the OS level, CShell lets devices adjust their UIs for different tasks and experiences. A foldable mobile device would be able to scale between a phone-based UI and a tablet-based UI, and even extend into a desktop mode via Continuum, for example. Or, a Windows 10 PC could take on the Xbox UI when in gaming mode.

The idea here is simple: Windows will share the same kernel (OneCore) and now the same OS-level components (Windows Core OS), but the shell is variable and configurable based on the hardware being created.

Before this model, Microsoft had the unified kernel (OneCore), but the OS-level stuff was different across Windows 10 Mobile, Windows 10 PC, Xbox, HoloLens, and Surface Hub. Each one required its own team to maintain. While they all shared the kernel (OneCore) and app layer (UWP) the "middle" of each needed its own engineering team.

With Windows Core OS this model is killed off. The kernel, app layer and now OS-level components are all the same. The one difference will be the shell or the UI. In the Windows Core OS model, these are also referred to as "composers." For instance, there can be a tablet composer, one for desktop, and one for mobile.

Composers: Andromeda, Polaris, and more

Proposed OS structure of a device running "Polaris" and Windows Core OS.

Proposed OS structure of a device running "Polaris" and Windows Core OS.

Composers are part of the flexible shells that Windows Core OS will express. There is a mobile shell (Andromeda), desktop shell (Polaris), Surface Hub (Aruba), and mixed reality shell (Oasis).

New devices – in theory – could have multiple composers. For example, a device could act as mobile (Andromeda) but also shift to a desktop-mode (Polaris).

There could be even more composers – there are no limits. Microsoft would already have the kernel (OneCore), core OS (WCOS), and app layer (UWP) finished but it could drop in a new composer for a new type of experience, like gaming or collaboration mode.

Sound like Microsoft's Continuum experience juiced up? It is. This model is a form of Continuum built across all versions of Windows so that the OS can live on and adapt to new hardware without redoing the actual OS.

Simply put, Windows is now modular with the shell-level being the variable.

What makes a Polaris PC different?

The first time you see a Windows Core OS laptop running Polaris the software will look just like Windows 10.

Underneath, though, things are different. No longer are many legacy systems built into the OS, for example, the old File Explorer, or Fax machine. Legacy components are being gutted to streamline Windows for the next decade.

It is doubtful that all legacy systems are gone including some deeper hooks for "classic" Win32 APIs. Instead, think of Windows Core OS as a subset of the older, heavier Windows operating system.

But what about legacy apps? Microsoft has a few solutions reportedly under consideration. For one, Centennial bridged-apps from the Microsoft Store still run. Microsoft will likely put many of its own legacy apps into the Store as well to make up for their removal, like the old Microsoft Paint app.

Another solution may involve app-streaming – basically running your legacy app through the cloud to your device. But the real goal of Windows Core OS and Polaris for desktop and laptop users is UWP. Microsoft wants to get consumers using the Microsoft Store and apps on the UWP platform.

Windows Core OS: New device experiences only

Finally, it should be noted that Microsoft is not forcing Windows Core OS – whether Andromeda or Polaris – on anyone.

This streamlined version of Windows will only come to new PCs marketed with the leaner OS. In marketing talk, this is referred to audience targeting. Even then, consumers are likely not the first target. Instead, it will be positioned in the education market, including primary and secondary schools, first-line workers (FLW) and information workers.

There will also eventually probably be new consumer laptops and devices running this OS, like the new Always Connected PCs running Windows 10 on ARM. It is safe to say that future Always Connected PCs running Snapdragon processors will eventually come with Windows Core OS. They will have a lean, modern PC OS that has 4G LTE connectivity, instant-on abilities, and battery life that lasts weeks.

Windows 10 S is also likely to be supplanted by Windows Core OS and Polaris.

None of this is to say that Windows 10 Pro will be retired. Many companies, hospitals, governments, and even pro-level consumers need all that legacy support for desktops and laptops. Those devices will continue to be supported, and new hardware with it released.

But long-term, Microsoft sees Windows Core OS as the primary play for desktop, mobile, gaming consoles, mixed reality, and ambient displays (Surface Hub-like devices).

Why Windows Core OS is the right move

Windows Core OS is the right model for computing going forward. Google's Chromebooks are gaining market share – mostly in schools – but also for consumers (see this recent ZDNet article). The idea of a light, flexible, secure and utterly modern OS is needed for Microsoft if Windows is to have a future in the next decade.

The consumer market is headed towards a more mobile future. Google is selling its Chromebooks with the tagline "If you wish computers were more like phones." There's a very good reason why that message resonates, and if you have not yet figured it out, it's because you not paying enough attention.

Windows Core OS with its composers (Cshell) is the bridge to that future. For students, workers out in the field, ambient computing, and even the majority of consumers, such a model is the one taking hold. While there are a lot of questions about the future of Windows, this new architecture looks promising.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • I honestly like this. It's basically one OS that's unified and offers different features on different devices. Only thing is I hope the shell is consistent. Kinda irritated with it right now.
  • Yep, MSFT is way ahead of unifying the OS where the others lag today.
  • I said all of this months ago...
    One Windows that's "Modular", and can adapt to any form factor..
    Adaptation may be a set composition of W10COS, or adaptation may be allowed to happen on the fly, in real-time, as the device itself modulates. It all depends on the type, size, configuration, and purpose of the device.
    Composition Desktop
    Composition Mobile portrait
    Composition Mobile landscape
    Composition Mobile Multi screen
    Composition Laptop
    Composition 2/1
    Composition infotainment
    Composition IOT
    Composition Retail
    Composition user customizable..... All the same One Windows10
  • And it's going to take years to get it right
  • And, by then, the world will have moved on.
  • Right.. Boeing is gonna design the next UCAV with Chrome OS, or iOS, using an iPad pro... Sure🙄
  • hahah
  • So Microsoft is going to scrap Windows 10 S, too?!?
  • Are you slow? Windows 10 is modular. MS can make adjustments when, and as they see fit. W10S is but a stepping stone. Quit trolling
  • Soo, now they call it modular to try to avoid people saying they scrap things :))) PATHETIC!!! MS idiots.
  • Thanks Zac and Dan for explaining Core OS and Polaris.  After watching your video I agree with WinOMG that this is a good idea.  It's a crying shame though that MS is playing such catchup with iOS and Android though.  By the time Polaris gets here (in probably LATE 2019) will there by be ANY consumers left on planet earth that haven't already switched to the iOS and Andorid ecosystems?  Especially seeing that MS has basically abandon-wared Win 10 mobile and now Windows S in the meantime.  Driving its last loyal fanbase and developer commuity into a panic, and forcing us to all wait in anxious suspense for the next "new shiny object" to chase. Also, I hope that MS will put as much effort into its App Store as it is putting into its new OS.  Sure, Itunes on UWP will be a win.  But there are still HUGE app gaps on the store.  Case in point Personal Finance: Where is Mint?  Where is any major bank?  Where is any major Credit Card company?  Sure, you can use a browser.  But really?  Sorry, but for many people browsers feel "old school".  They feel 1998, not 2018. Microsoft could help itself and its customers by kicking it's internal UWP app development in gear.  Personal finance case in point... resurrect MS Money as a UWP app.  Go head to head with Quickbooks and Mint.  Create a sister Win32 version and bundle it with Office 365.  Heck, create iOS and Android versions and sign those people up for Office 365 with MS Money too.  But start with UWP.  Show its fanbase and the developer community that MS itself is committed to UWP.  Instead what do we hear from Redmond... crickets. Bottom line... Polaris is a great idea, no question.  But it will be too little too late if MS doesn't throw the full weight of its resources and marketing into the App Store.  Because it all centers around the App Store experience for most light-weight OS users NOT THE BROWSER.  And as much as I hate to say this (because I love Edge), but especially not the Edge browser, which is the only browser available right now for Win 10 S... and I'm assuming Core OS.  
  • Playing catchup? Explain
  • Too much for you to understand?? Rodney fanbaby?
  • Now that Windows Mobile is dead, its time to get rid of UWP and revert Windows back to its true form.
  • I'm sure someone can sell you a copy of Win7
  • They might be better off with Windows 3.1 instead, none of that modern 32-bit crap that Windows 95 onwards added to get in the way :D
  • The problem with UWP is that was never a viable replacement for Win32 developers, far too limited in function and lacking even in basic areas. Who does Microsoft think is going to make software for this future UWP only operating system, they are smoking only the finest crack to be this delusional. Look at the years wasted with UWP and little to show for it, there is no interest in UWP amoung the people who still make software for Windows. For MS's Windows Core UWP only strategy to work they need a huge mega hit that rivals the iPhone, that is never going to happen. What is going to happen is that these gimped/modern versions of Windows will be met with contempt and disdain, no-one will touch them because thats not the reason people use Windows, consumers will be told to avoid them by everyone. It's the deaf leading the blind at MS.
  • Just like they were told to avoid Mac?  and then were told to avoid Chromebooks?  Yeah, that worked out really well....  
  • Even today, the Universal Windows Platform is under development and is improved with each Redstone release, adding more features, APIs and more. Today UWP can't remplace Win32, but Microsoft is working for make it possible in the future.
  • Why do closed minded people like you continue to post? Win32 is legacy even if it's more dominant than UWP. I believe that will continue to be the case for the next couple of years at least. Unlike you, Microsoft is looking towards the future and is building a new platform to accommodate that. UWP will continue to be developed for the next decade plus while Win32 will become a legacy platform that is not updated. 
  • But when Win32 dies, Windows may die with it. Is there any reason to use Windows outside of Win32? UWP certainly hasn't caught on at all. If Windows future is dependant on UWP, it isn't looking good.
  • as a deplovers my self can not more that agree UWP is to far limitation compire to Win32, but that is a explation for that, Win16 was borin in Win 3.1 and Win32 into Windows XP, so they have ben had like 23 year to build up the API for Win32, when UWP only had like 3 year to build the API is not gonna be a fast way build up all API into UWP some Win32 has in a short time, problie gonna take atlest 5-10 more years with only 2 update per year. For remove the limitation of UWP compire to Win32.  Darkness690 if you was a real software deplovers you should know what we dont like limitation you should be possibol to do what ever you want only you mind should be possibol to stop you frome do it and need more teching and learn build more for do the job.  You dont want to get stopped frome build stuff becouse is dosent support it.  If i want to build a software but some OS or device dosent allow me to build it, am just spend the time to build it for another OS, that is the cashe in here. Microsoft has not give the tools need for make UWP and modern stuff a chance to surirvel, dont blame the software deplovements blame it one Microsoft. 
  • I agree.  We absolutely need a Surface Phone, or at least a mini Surface Note (with GPS, motion sensor and LTE).  The abandonment of Win 10 mobile, and now Win 10 S, and now this whole Core OS re-write of them only seems to put that dream further and further into the future.  By the time it ever gets here there will be no light-weight consumers left on earth who haven't already switched to the iOS and Android ecosystems?
  • You didn't read the article, I see.
  • Thank you. Many people seem to be confused. This might help.
  • Informative, thanks
  • Good read. This clarified a lot for me.
  • ..The break down. Thanks Dan!
  • So, in order to appreciate what the hell is Microsoft doing, we need to untangle that mess. And it is highly possible that after understanding the whole idea, it will be already dead. Why not make a freaking OS that just works, and stop confusing consumers with all that chitchat, versions, editions, releases, builds, etc?
  • The average consumer doesn't have to understand any of this. This article is for enthusiasts and techies.
  • Are you sure? The legacy-less Windows is not a new concept. Actually, it was part of Windows RT's philosophy, and yet people was confused as hell when they failed to run regular Win32 apps on Windows RT. So, how should I explain the "advantage" of not being able to run legacy apps to average non-techies customers without getting too technical?  
  • Apparently you didn't read the article it will have a legacy component that is modular instead of being integrated into the OS. This is no different than the technologies in Windows 10 Enterprise 1709 such as device guard and app guard where they take components out of the OS and compartmentalize them into virtual spaces. Device guard does that to the kernel and app guard does it to edge.
  • But... That's what they are doing...
  • No it isn't. They are making it complicated. You will have to go into the store and know what version of Windows you want. If you get the wrong one, it isn't going to do what you need. It is Windows RT all over again. They need to stop with this RT nonsense. People don't want it. If Microsoft insists on this path, they need to rename it. Leave the Windows name for classic Windows experiences. Stop confusing people.
  • Amen brother!!
  • Indeed.
  • Are you that easily confused? 
  • Here we go with the hip shooting again. It's a modular OS to the consumer it isn't going to be any different than what they are used to. Plus most consumers just use Windows media consumption, word processing, social media, and web browsing so how are they going to miss what they don't use. There will be an optional legacy app component that can be added in. I mean how is this any different than Windows 7 basic? It was a nerfed home that had limited capabilities. It's not RT because RT couldn't do anything outside of the store
    this OS has the ability to do things outside of the store you would just need the OS module for it.
  • "You will have to go into the store and know what version of Windows you want. "
    With Win32 app support via containers/emulation and/or streaming the consumer won't know the difference. They'll see "Windows" just faster, lighter, better battery life. No need to bring this up to consumers (which won't happen for awhile anyway). Regardless, you still need to explain how Microsoft is to maintain Windows yet make it relevant for the next decade. Keeping the OS "as is" is a road to failure. This is only complicated because we're telling you what is happening internally. Consumers don't care about this stuff, don't need to know about "composers" or app layers, APIs, etc. Never have, never will.
  • Most people consumers dont need win32 apps. But professional instead need win32 registry for network app communication. So i would like to see somethike like Microsoft windows for  advanced workstation that is a plugin that you get throught the store. Maybe download win32 legacy support from the windows store. there somany apps outthere that still need win 32. NLE DAW CAM CAD IDE SCADA Projection mapping and many apps still use win 32 api many people wrote code with win32 in mind ex: audio software pligins Even office in win32 is supperior to his UWP counterpart. UWP is for most home users but sometimes people would like to run a specific software that will be written for win 32 ex: a father who want to edit a small family memory video with a cheap video editing software
  • Consumers who don't need Win32 don't need Windows. Period. Moving away from Win32 is the wrong direction for Windows. If Microsoft wants something new, they need to build something new.
  • Did Apple marry themselves to OSX? Were they worried about how to keep it relevant for the next decade? Did they try to shoehorn it on an iPad? No. They started fresh and made something new and exciting. They didn't limp along dragging a 30 year old anchor while wondering why they are so far behind the competition. Windows has been holding Microsoft back.
  • Yes It seems they are being masochisitic and have taken on an unbelivably hard engineering challenge :)  However, I think Google is working on something like this - one OS for everything...so they have to do this?  I wish they would get rid of the windows name for consumer market and come up with some new and exciting branding!    If my wish comes true Windows Central also has to change it name! So Dan & co are going to downvote my comment :)
  • Read your comment again bleached.  OSX IS a boat anchor.  It has close to no market share,  it's old, clunky and terrible to use as a consumer.  Graphics professionals are moving to windows and the studio line up because they offer time saving value.  
  • Everyone makes mistakes including Microsoft, Apple and Google...
  • Every company makes mistakes, but MS is the king of failures and lies. They are an embarassment to the tech world.
  • Composers should be made open source and allow different OEMs to bring their own UX/UI. Problem android?
  • No thanks. Is enough awful on Android, keep Windows far from this.
  • Microsoft must be ready to go it alone then. The manufacturers really embraced this with Android and it worked out quite well for them. Android now outsells Windows 5 to 1. Microsoft could still have their own UI while allowing the OEMs to innovate with their devices.
  • The reason why Android is a total security disaster is because of open source. 
  • all this is useless if the UWP developer experience is not vastly improved to where there are virtually no API limits as to what can be programmed.
  • Including Malware?  So they should allow the system to be completely open so that anyone can write the next exploit for something like Spectre or Meltdown?  How about Rowhammer?   There is a reason why on large computers, "system" programming was always separated from "Application" programming.
  • I was never confused in the first place. I knew what they were doing, I simply disagreed with some of it, and vehemently disagreed with a lot of how they were choosing to go there.  But I'm the outlier. I'm not the target demographic. I'm the extreme minority that understood the Metro experience and loved it, understood Hubs and their potential, appreciated that VERY touch-friendly approach that still allowed for full legacy desktop support.  I'm the minority that does music arranging & recording, video editing and understands these high-power legacy programs place demands on a system the Polaris, et al, will likely never be able to address.   Yes, I love the idea of a fully adaptable single platform.  I'm not against that.  That part I agree with.  But Microsoft has built a HUGE reputation of enticing us with great ideas and promises, stringing us along and then yanking the rug out from under us and giving us lame answers like Jason's "things change".  To which I just say "bite me".  It would serve Microsoft right if they blew this Next Big Thing again and finally lost everything to Apple and Google.  As much as I hate Apple and Google, I'm at the point where Microsoft deserves to finally fail.
  • This is the truest comment you've posted I can remember. I too feel like MS is just going to keep screwing thepooch
  • +1000 Unlike many I am a huge fan of Windows 8.  It's shame Microsoft was frighened away from a beautiful concept.  I'll use it until my main computers fall apart.  
  • So why aren't they there yet? They've given up on Windows Mobile for a long time now & still lack ' what's next ' out in the market. My L950XL isn't going to last forever, & so far MS has had no plan to bridge users over, except get this, making Google Android(whom they are trying to compete with) feel a little more like a MS experience. They really need to hit some sort of goal that resonates with users.
  • The predicament that MS finds itself in, is an interesting one. If they broke it down, I don't think they make that much money on Windows OS anymore. I am assuming that the majority if their growth, and profits are based on MS cloud, and Office 365 subscriptions. Me, personally, I've paid MS more on my yearly 365 subscription, in the last 3 years than I have ever (other than the 1 time purchase of my SP3 like 3.5 years ago..........bottom line, I think that even if Windows goes away, which will be a long time from now, too many professionals out there need the software, and security to give it up.......they will still make boatloads of cash on their other ventures.
  • It will be interesting to see what new form factors will come out of this. Thanks for clearing this up Dan.
  • So, just to see if I got it right: Windows 10 Core will essentially be the base SKU of Windows, completely rewritten in UWP and only running UWP apps natively, correct? In that case, some questions: 1) Will Home, Pro, Enterprise, etc SKUs be Windows 10 Core with Win32 subsystem included? Because while I want to see Microsoft fully port the Shell, File Explorer, Task Manager and other OS elements into UWP I'm not ready to give up running Win32 apps natively, and may never be. 2) What is the schedule regarding porting Microsoft's own major apps fully to UWP? Because while the company may consider Centennial Win32 apps to be UWP my understanding is that they're more like hybrid beasts that run both Win32 and UWP code, thus their legacy look and feel. That means that out of all Office apps only Store OneNote is fully UWP, with the others essentially only pretenders. And then there's Visual Studio, which hasn't even been desktop bridged yet to my knowledge. 3) Does Adobe, Corel, Autodesk and other major companies have any ongoing plans regarding porting their major apps to UWP?  My concern here is that it seems a year from now we'll be entering a world where the Windows that'll be the focus of Microsoft will be the one that runs UWP and only UWP and the major fully UWP apps that we can name are OneNote and Adobe XD. That concerning, to say the least.
  • First, UWP apps runs natively even today, thanks to the WinCore OS. But with Polaris, all the OS will be based on UWP for better performance and energetic efficency. Also, is mentioned that the actual versions like Pro, Enterprise, etc, will exist like today, but possibly things like UWP file explorer will be added, thanks to Cshell and Redstone 5(?) development. Also, do not forget that Polaris will have someday some type of Win32 support, but yeah, i want to see Adobe for example, fully suporting UWP. But i think that Microsoft must to improve the WinRT/OneCore OS first.
  • next give shell AI touch, integrate cortana into shell...:)
  • I like modular way better.  .net was modular from 1.0 to 4.0, so you could chose not install a version if you didn't need it and new version didn't mess with old versions.  Around 2011-2012 they started contious improvement of 4.0 which meant that obsolete portions could never drop off.  If a new version broke your old software, then you were stuck as your only resolution was to never move forward or try to find get the contractor back to fix the software.  I hope they are going modular for everything. They could do stuff like install the uwp module on windows 7 if they wanted 
  • Windows will be dead by the time we take profits from this. No mobile, no future.
  • Andromeda? 
  • I heard this back in 2012 too. iPads were supposed to replace laptops. How'd that go?
  • Daniel,  to be fair,  They have replaced laptops for ALOT of users.  Power users,  NOPE.  but for the average facebook dweller.  They 100% have replaced laptops.  
  • Dan to the rescue, thanks for this thorough article.
  • This is all find and good but will app developers and OEMs support it??  Right now app developers are continuing to focus on Android and iOS. Look at how there is already a new app gap with Cortana. Microsoft needs to develop a device that will entice app developers back to their platform. If Microsoft doesn't have the apps, they are doomed.  
  • Hence why they have Andromeda, Windows Core OS and Polaris. However the future of Mobile development is moving towards PWA, which Microsoft is already moving towards, so in the future Microsoft will simply scan the web for PWAs and add them into the Store. 
  • In a world of PWAs, why would you need anything but Chrome?
  • Because some people would rather stay away from Google products?
  • Is that a large number of people or just some Microsoft fanboys?
  • It's no longer about OSes anymore in the age of PWA, it's about ecosystem and what specific things that OS offers that PWAs can't do. Windows 10 is obviously Win32 and it's diversity. That'll be still be there, however With Polaris and Windows 10 Pro S Mode, it's clear that MS Store is where the future is.
  • For the last years, that futuristic App Store has been nothing but a junk yard..so, pardon me for not being so delusional.
  • Well, get back to me when a PWA can be used to play Crysis!!!
  • Nice article Dan. This new os should get its own name. Like windows open edition. It should be free and installable on modern windows mobile handsets. Dropping the 10 from the name will help differentiate from the legacy additions.
  • Sounds a lot like everything MS has already tried before. I'm missing the explanation as to why anyone would choose this Core OS over the alternatives. I've yet to see or hear anything that makes Polaris more desirable than the alternatives (iOS, Chrome/Android, Windows 10). Is MS just going to do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome? That is the definition of insanity. If MS can't even beat late to market garbage like Amazon Alexa (now with Feminism) then what hope does this company have in ever succeeding.
  • "I'm missing the explanation as to why anyone would choose this Core OS over the alternatives. "
    It's mostly about schools, FLWs, enterprise at first. The same reasons why schools go Microsoft today: Teams, OneNote, collaboration, mixed reality, low-cost PCs that support inking and 2-in-1 design. Totally wrote an article about this this week on the topic. For consumers, it's familiarity. It's running apps, Office, Skype, all-week battery life, stability, traditional PC design, inking, Windows Hello, etc.
    "Is MS just going to do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome? "
    This OS architecture has never been done before by anyone. I suggest re-reading the article.
  • "For consumers, it's familiarity. It's running apps, Office, Skype, all-week battery life, stability, traditional PC design, inking, Windows Hello, etc." OK, famililiarty? Why should consumers chose Windows because of familiarity? Are they not more likely more familiar with iOS or Android? Why chose a reduced windows version with less apps (and less familiarity) than what's offered from the competition?
  • consumers also need Entertainment!! All week battery life?? :))) are you serious? Some of us get home after work where we have plug for the personal devices...MS stupid assumption that consumers do nothing but work all day is simply delusional. What familiarity?? in a DEAD junk app store? Again, at home we RELAX!! Office is relaxing?? By your assumption and by some of the delusional fanboys here, all consumers do nothing but office and work more in their free time. Some of us do have a private life after work
  • This sounds very promising, in theory we could make phone calls from our workstation and answer Whatsapp messages, therefore this would compete directly with Android and iOS smartphones, for me it would be great if I can answer my phone using a Bluetooth headset and reply to my Whatsapp messages all from my PC using the keyboard
  • "along with stripping out legacy, unneeded Win32 components and apps like Notepad or Paint" The question is who is it for then? The iPad crowd? They've got their iPads and iPad Pros. The fans? You can count Microsoft fans on fingers. Unless they've kidnapped some PR brainwashes from apple and can launch an insane marketing campaign, nobody will care. I see this OS as dead on arrival. Until they PROVE that UWP can replace WIn32, Until they can build Windows itself using nothing but UWP applications, they should not be pushing this half-baked API onto everyone. It's just not gonna work.
  • "The question is who is it for then? "
    I literally answer this in the article. Education, FLWs, information workers, enterprise. Then, as it branches out, consumers. In the U.S. 24% of the education market is Windows. In Europe and RoW it's 63%. That market is growing as everyone goes digital. Apple is struggling here. Google is seeing a lot of success in the US with Chrome OS, but having issues in Europe.
  • Daniel,  I asked Jason before,  but never got a response.   WIth the PWA's.   Say apple develops a PWA,  and releases it.   Do they have control of what computers use it?  Or,  can anyone then use it on whatever system they choose?
  • PWA is not really "released". It's just a website, so Apple would need a website that is just designed around/implements PWA features e.g. notifications, web service workers, offline abilities, etc. For instance, Windows Central can make its website PWA-enabled. Apple doesn't really have many services that also run through a browser. Spotify, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc. do. Once that site is created the PWA works with any browser that supports PWA including Edge. That's really all that's to it. From there, Microsoft could repackage the site as a PWA/UWP combo for the Store. It's not entirely clear if that will happen, but it's no different than a "web app" except more sophisticated. The "app" would be powered by Edge, but with added UWP abilities like Live Tiles, Cortana, more robust notifications, etc.
  • Ok,  so really.  If/when google develops PWA "apps",  We can take full advantage of them on edge.   Interesting!   Thanks for the clarification.  I was sort of unsure of how that was going to work.  Would be great if apple had itunes pwa in the near future.  
  • Nothing stopping Google from redirecting you if they don't see Chrome. They love messing with Microsoft.
  • We will just have to see.   I am not using chorme unless absolutely necessary.  
  • You mentioned in the podcast with the recent rename of Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro S Mode. My theory is that New PCs will be sold as. Windows 10 Pro S Mode (Ability to switch to full Pro.)
    Windows 10 Polaris.
  • Before understanding Windows Core OS, you should learn how OSes work in general.
  • Not sure who that is addressed to, but everything reported here is accurate and representative.
  • Nice article...I would augment it with the evolution of Windows operating system and known reasons for the decision making of changes in the future updates...
  • Time to ditch some code names. MS marketing need to learn that this is all too much and reminiscent of multiple competing departments that can't pull off a combined effort. The most folk are likely to comprehend are x3 layers (that might = kernel + middle + app layers). Clearly code names are likely to change. We understand 'composers' = OS UI for different devices (AKA andromeda, polaris), but OneCore (an old name) vs Core OS - really? CShell and Continuum are already dead (and confusing). Same goes for UWP. Better to say Core XAML. I doubt future confusions will rub with consumers and devs alike (assuming MS still cares and the camp is not full of 'moles' seeking MS's destruction - one really does wonder at times), so it really is time to jettison 'junk' code names (or keep quiet until release which of course does not make for news).    
  • Hope that this time MS show us meaningful result after many failures.
  • I love the idea, but until you can match Steam or GOG you'll never get buy in.
  • Hence why in the future, we will only see Windows 10 Pro S Mode and Windows 10 Polaris on new PCs. If you need Native Win32 you can use Windows 10 Pro S Mode. If you need Steam support you can use Switch Windows 10 S Mode and unlock to Windows 10 Pro.   
  • Problem is MS still has not convinced most developers to get games on the UWP system or the Store model. People laughed at Steam when they bundled it with the Orange Box, but they grabbed the mind share. Nowadays I tend to go to GOG when possible due to the lack of DRM (anathema to the Big 3).
  • Hence why this is the way to go for the MS Store and UWP. Long term Windows 10 Pro S Mode and Windows 10 Polaris will be preinstalled on all PCs. 
  • Who here wants a Windows that can only use apps from the Store? Everybody knows the developers' position so you have to be mad or mental to want a Windows that runs only apps from the Store. Have they learned nothing from their failures? Microsoft needs to make full Windows as light at possible and put it on a phone. And they have to do it way before everyone else. That might be the only chance to get somewhere. They desperately need a phone that generates market share and attracts developers to the platform. No other device or version of Windows can get developers to the platform.
  • Everybody I know needs Win32 software.
  • This is referred to as anecdotal. It fails to account for the rise of Chromebooks in schools and slowly the consumer market. Also, why Apple is trying hard to market the iPad as a computer.
  • IOS and Android/Chromebooks have APPS. MS's app store is a junk yard. Devs care and develop for both IOS and Android app store, meaning they support the platforms. What do devs do for MS's UWP? Nothing...thanks to that bold idiot in charge
  • He is just ignorant, don’t stress too much. He probably forgot all the articles he wrote about Microsoft’s previous failures with similar products.
  • @Dan - Awesome article!!!!! If you say the average users uses ChromeBooks with 3-4 apps....isn't that pretty much the same as W10m? And if MS is going this way....why isn't MS marketing this stuff?!!!! Feeling a little more hopeful about MS after watching this!!!!
  • They are marketing this stuff, that's Windows 10 S. However Windows 10 S in its current form is basically a temporary thing to get something out of the door. Polaris is their actual response to Chromebooks.
  • Microsoft is doing something for consumers... Are you kidding?
  • Thanks Daniel for taking the time to further define what you guys know and what is happening. In the actual 'geeky' NT aspects of Windows, some of the things are still being conflated a bit; however, I have heard more messed up descriptions and explainations from people in the Windows team. (So I give this article high marks, even though you don't need some random internet troll's approval.)  I hope other readers understand that what Microsoft is doing is not 'taking away' anything, but instead adding more features to Windows that are much like the ideal of 'NT' was designed upon so that Windows can easily adapt to hardware/software/interfaces that have not yet been envisioned. For people more curious about what I am referring to regarding NT, go pick up the 1st or 2nd edition of "Inside NT" from 1993-1994.The reason Microsoft has been able to slap new technologies on NT without breaking everything is because of its inherent 'modular' design. This is where the 'object based' kernel model shines and why 'dumb I/O' isn't at the core of its operation like *nix based OSes.  I also would recommend finding talks and speechs from the 80s and early 90s by Dave Cutler as he would make it very clear why NT is like it is and things like the dumb I/O model aspects of OSes were avoided.
  • Thanks. And yeah, Zac and I aren't developers or work on OSs, so our ability to accurately describe/present this is challenging. Plus, our sourcing is what we can gather and have to piece together, which is why there are gaps.
  • As long as Microsoft continues to treat the customers they way they did the past four years, it want matter what they are planning or doing. its like reading an article on how IBM is working on improving their business suite. who cares? only enterprises. This is the IBM 2.0 era, dont expect any exciting thing from this company.
  • "It is safe to say that future Always Connected PCs running Snapdragon processors will eventually come with Windows Core OS" Until then, a *phone must come with Windows 10 on Arm.
    *device with phone capability, 2in1, 3in1, mobile device, it doesn't matter the name I like and support UWP. I have seen UWP's evolution the last 4-5 years and I know (if plans will not changed) that (soon) it will be close "competitive" (not 100%, but close enough) with the Win32 But... it has been proved till now that only Win32 generates market share for MS. So the x86 must be there (even for marketing purposes).
  • UWP evolution? :))) to what? web wrappers? :))) Even MS's own app Linkedin is a junk web wrapper...what has evolved in regards of UWP?? Devs give no damn about it because they've had enough of MS's CRAP talking and zero commitment to their own platform
  • Thanks Dan. Great layout of details. As someone who was in the OS/2 vs Win NT 3.1 WAR (I was on the IBM side) - it is great to see the early 1990's goals of having an overall OS with sub-systems that can be added or removed without blowing up the base OS....as simply a result of a stunning amount of hard work MS teams. Having completed 5 years at Egghead software from 1992 1998....reading the "troll" comments on this page remind me of so many customers. Thanks again Dan. - (Posted using a HP x3 and Lapdock while wearing a MS Band v2 - because YES, I am that 1 percent)
  • Agreed, its taken them a while to get there though.
  • For a work machine I would like this, but some of my software (chemistry) is too specialized for developers to move to UWP, they still maintain it in Java to allow easy use between platforms.
  • When I first heard of this news, the first thing I thought was: Windows RT all over again, Epic Fail, etc…
    But reading this article really made me think differently about this.
    I started to think of Windows on ARM. ARM chipsets cannot run Win32 code natively and therefore the Windows on ARM OS is void of Legacy Code (just like Polaris will be); but via Microsoft’s emulation layer can somehow run Win32 programs (And that is a RISC chipset running CISC code; not easy to pull off for sure).
    If you think about it, In a way, Windows on ARM is an incomplete version of Polaris.
    Now, imagine an x86 / x64 chipset running programs the way Windows on ARM does. (except there may be no emulation needed at all for this to work). Much like Windows on ARM has to have enough understanding of legacy code to get Win32 programs to run, an X86 / x64 version will / can too.
    In short, just because Polaris may not be built upon legacy code doesn't mean it cannot run Legacy programs; much like how Window on ARM does..
    I see the fear in losing Win32 compatibility, but one must think that Microsoft realizes how important Win32 programs are to the Windows ecosystem. Windows on ARM with Win32 support echoes this, right? Why wouldn't Polaris?
  • The emulation of CISC is done on the ARM processor, not in software.
  • Hmmm, didn't realize that.
  • Thanks for article. Just more busytalk.
  • Would you prefer total silence as the OS consolidation work progresses? Our primary local highway interchange has been subject to speed reductions for 5+ years. Knowing why (massive roading overhaul project) is better than not knowing. Of course, a lot of people still moan about it anyway.
  • let's not kid ourselves
  • What's telling about one core will fail? They killed windows 10 mobile before they can exploit mobile users to beta test it. This is assuming that One core could not run on any of the hardware currently running on windows 10 mobile, meaning that hardware requirements will need to be higher performance than any of the last flagship phones. This also means these windows in your pocket devices will be prohibitively expensive for the casual users and won't be able to generate a consumer market big enough to sustain viablity. Microsoft will fail being relevant in the mobile space once again and will most like abandon this product also.
  • So Core OS could be used for mobile, right?
  • Polaris = Win RT 3.0 MS seems to FAIl to understand no one gives a damn about their pathetic app store. What enterprise would ditch win32 for a store only OS???? How delusional can you be?? what user would ditch FF, Chrome and other useful win32 apps to be locked down to a dead junk app store?? LOL, keep dreaming. Windows 10S is failed junk and polaris will be the same. MS has no clue about what mobile world means, they have failed everytime! After their rich history of killing off devices and services and pi$$ing on users and devs trust, what moron would ever trust his time and money to this pathetic company?
  • Awesome.
  • Okay so call me crazy, but I think Microsoft should have released two operating systems back when Windows 10 launched. Windows 10 should’ve just gone back to the Windows 7 days and tried to satisfy that OS’s more hardcore fan base. Polaris should’ve been the second OS and it should’ve been the UWP-only vision for the future that Microsoft has. Totally new kernel, totally new everything. No compatibility with its old-school sibling. Polaris definitely looks like the future of Windows 10 that I’d like to see, and I’m sure it’ll be at least pretty good, but I expect that it will still be held back in terms of UI design because of users who don’t like change, and non-Polaris versions of Windows 10 will still get the same complaints about the modern stuff like tiles and the flat design and such. Look at the built-in apps now. They still don’t look good or work well, because they still don’t do enough to increase or decrease the information density based on the device type. But they’re still leaner and faster than many older applications that ty to do the same things (at least in my experience with a self-built desktop) Microsoft is big enough to just have two products that compete with each other. I get that they want to make a big push for data but I still don’t think the two OS idea would stop them from doing the data collection they’re currently doing. I don’t see any downsides to just keeping user bases separated so each type of user can have exactly what they want.
  • THIS IS VERY BAD. If the goal is as the article states, to make everyone use uwp.  1. UWP is essentually built apon .net framework. Meaning that windows will only ever support 1 framework. Bye bye, things like java, or any other future frameworks that arnt MS owned. Killing inovation. 2. There is only 1 way to install UWP apps for the normal person, which is via the MS store. Which means MS will now have complete control over what apps you can install. There goes steam, and alot of other products. MS HAS to have these 2 points be true, if they dont want to shoot themselfes in the foot.
    1. The ability to still access the win32 API, to by pass the uwp and .net framework. 
    2. Allow UWP apps to be installed, without having to go through the store, and without having to do silly stuff like turn on developer mode and install self signed certificates.   Lately MS has proven that they think that suppliying the OS for a computer means they own that computer. If it continues down this path, its only goinfg to end badly, for both MS and consumers.