Windows is now over 30 years old, which is beyond ancient in technology years. As a result of this, Windows itself is encumbered by features, functions, and components that some devices today may no longer need. In an industry where new device types are being introduced all the time, Windows itself is unable to adapt to new form factors quick enough. As it turns out, Microsoft is aware of this and is working on something internally that looks to solve this problem.
Over the last several months, I've been talking to multiple sources about something internally referred to as "Windows Core OS." According to these sources, Windows Core OS (WCOS for short) is a new, modern version of Windows and is a monumental step forward in making Windows a truly universal OS. In short, WCOS is a common denominator for Windows that works cross-platform, on any device type or architecture, that can be enhanced with modular extensions that gives devices features and experiences where necessary.
In layman's terms, its ultimate goal is to make Windows much more flexible, allowing it to be installed on a wider variety of devices without being based on specific, pre-existing product variants. As a result of this, Windows itself can become smaller, the OS itself can be built faster, and devices won't be encumbered by components and features they don't actually need; speeding up overall performance in the process on smaller or less capable devices.
As it currently stands, OneCore and the Universal Windows Platform are the only true universal elements of Windows 10. Everything else is specific to the many variants of Windows. For example, Win32 programs are specific to Windows on the desktop and aren't found on Windows Mobile. With WCOS, Microsoft wants to remove these specific product variants, and turn Windows 10 into a fully modular platform by componentizing the OS.
As a result of this full modularity, individual Windows product variants such as Windows 10 Mobile or Windows 10 on Xbox become redundant. WCOS allows Windows to be configured and built for a specific device without it having to be its own variant. It gives Microsoft and hardware makers the flexibility of building versions of Windows with different features and functions, quickly and efficiently.
What does this mean for me?
Windows 10 as it is today has a few different variants of itself. It's not one OS that's shared across devices. Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 desktop are two different variants of Windows 10, for example. Now, these different variants do share universal elements, such as OneCore and the Universal Windows Platform, but the OSs themselves aren't the same. WCOS removes these different variants and gives us a universal base that can be built upon. If you want Windows on a phone, instead of using Windows 10 Mobile, you would simply use "Windows 10" with the composer (experience) that make sense for a phone device. It's the next steps in Microsoft's modularity of Windows, which has been ongoing for quite some time.
Right now, if an OEM wants to make a device running Windows, it has to choose from a number of pre-defined variants of Windows 10 that Microsoft has already built. That includes things like Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 S, Windows 10 Mobile, Windows Server, Windows 10 IoT, and many more. This can sometimes be a very limiting factor for OEMs. WCOS makes it so hardware makers aren't limited to pre-defined variants, and can pick and choose experiences that make the most sense for the form factor they want to sell.
WCOS opens the door to many new configurations of Windows that previously weren't possible. Of course, classic Windows 10 desktop SKUs such as Pro and Enterprise will continue to exist alongside WCOS, with all the same functionality and features you'd expect from a desktop OS. Microsoft won't be taking functionality away, and it won't be de-emphasizing desktop with WCOS. The reason classic Windows 10 is sticking around is because WCOS is a modern take on Windows, it removes a lot of legacy features and functions in favour of better performance and battery life. Many users will still need classic Windows 10, at least at first.
Windows Central understands that the initial introduction of WCOS will be mobile-focused, codenamed Andromeda OS, and is internally pegged to be ready sometime in 2018. A theoretical Surface phone running Windows 10 built with WCOS wouldn't be running Windows 10 Mobile or Windows 10 desktop, it would be running "Windows 10" with the new mobile composer it is building for WCOS.
The work Microsoft is doing to Windows 10 with WCOS will help move Windows into the twenty-first century, where devices of all shapes, sizes and power capabilities are being introduced all the time. Windows today can't run on everything because it's just too big and heavy. Even the smallest variants of Windows 10 today can be too much for some device types. WCOS will change this.
As mentioned above, we're hearing the first iteration of WCOS will be for mobile-type devices such as phones and tablets, with WCOS for desktop and Xbox devices coming later. WCOS, along with work Microsoft is doing with CShell, is a huge leap forward for Microsoft's "One Windows" vision. OneCore and the Universal Windows Platform were the first Windows 10 elements to be universal, and now Microsoft is taking the next steps in that vision with WCOS and CShell.
The future of Windows
WCOS and CShell are laying the foundation for Windows into the next decade and beyond. WCOS will help kick-start Windows on modern, mobile devices, along with modernizing Windows itself for new device types that may show up over the next several years. Microsoft needs a flexible, configurable and nimble OS and Windows today isn't that. WCOS will make it that, and that's incredibly exciting.
We already know Microsoft is prototyping new mobile hardware internally, which is often referred to as simply "Andromeda" on the web. Could Microsoft be planning to release a mobile device next year, powered by Windows 10 with WCOS that showcases to hardware makers and the rest of the world what can be done? We're yet to find out. Regardless of who makes new mobile devices running Windows, whether they be phones, tablets, wearables or something else entirely, WCOS will give them a stage to do it.
WCOS is an internal platform that makes Windows far more flexible, allowing Microsoft to build versions of Windows faster, that previously weren't viable. As always, Microsoft may decide to pull the plug or delay its WCOS efforts at any time, too, so keep that in mind.
What are your thoughts on Windows Core OS? Let us know in the comments.