Why 'Windows Lite' will NOT be announced at Microsoft Build 2019

Windows 10X Shell
Windows 10X Shell (Image credit: Windows Central)

For the last several months, we've been talking about an internal project ongoing at Microsoft, codenamed "Windows Lite" which is a new version of Windows powered by Windows Core OS and built from the ground up as a modern platform for new devices. This is the version of Windows that will run on foldable PCs and lightweight computing devices, which will tackle the iPad and Chrome OS head on. For a while, it was believed that Microsoft would take the wraps off Windows Lite at its Build 2019 developer conference in May, as that's arguably the place where announcing a new version of Windows makes the most sense. Microsoft announced Windows 8 at Build, for example.

'Windows Lite' a no-show at Build

Unfortunately, it sounds like that won't be happening. I've been told by people familiar with the matter that Microsoft will not use Build 2019 as a stage for Windows Lite, as it's just not ready yet, and Microsoft doesn't want to take away from all the other developer-orientated announcements related to Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365. A Windows Lite announcement at Build would dominate headlines. So with Lite not happening at Build, when can we expect to see Microsoft announce it?

Windows Lite would be a bad name for Microsoft's upcoming OS

The timeline for Windows Lite is ever-changing, so it's hard to nail down an exact timeframe for when it will be officially announced. There are several different milestones Microsoft wants to reach internally before an announcement is even considered. For example, Microsoft is currently working hard on getting the new Chromium version of Edge to run on Windows Lite. Right now, it doesn't run because the work required to get Win32 programs running on Windows Core OS isn't yet complete.

I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft Edge moving to Chromium has thrown a bit of a wrench into things regarding Windows Lite. From the very beginning, Windows Lite and the old Microsoft Edge have been tied at the hip. Things like Windows Sets and the old Edge played a critical role in the overall Windows Lite experience. But, now that the old Edge is going away, and Microsoft is moving entirely to the new Chromium version of Edge, some things regarding Windows Lite must adapt.

When will Microsoft announce Windows Lite?

I hear Microsoft wants Windows Lite to go into broader internal testing sometime this summer. It's likely that by then, the new Microsoft Edge will be up and running on Windows Lite. So, realistically, the earliest we could expect to see Microsoft announce Windows Lite is sometime this fall. But even then that's not guaranteed, because Windows Lite isn't scheduled to start shipping on devices until sometime in 2020 at the earliest. It all depends on whether Microsoft is planning a public preview for Windows Lite before it starts shipping.

Windows Lite is a new version of Windows that's locked down. As far as I know, you won't be able to simply install it on whatever devices you like. Internally, Microsoft uses the Full Flash Update format (FFU) to load Windows Lite onto devices, not ISOs, which are used for installing Windows onto devices today. So, Microsoft would have to create an FFU for whatever device it wants to test Windows Lite on. Internally, I know Microsoft is currently testing Windows Lite on the Surface Go, and Surface Pro 4, 5, and 6.

An announcement in the fall would only make sense if Microsoft were planning to release preview builds. Otherwise, it'd make much more sense to announce it in 2020, alongside hero devices like "Centaurus" that are supposed to ship with Windows Lite. There's very little reason to announce a new version of Windows several months or a year before people can get their hands on it, in preview form or otherwise.

Either way, work on Windows Lite is still ongoing. And, put simply, Microsoft needs this OS to succeed.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

59 Comments
  • Makes sense. It's too bad it won't be installable though.
  • This is Microsoft/WC playing semantics. They will not announce anything called ‘Windows Lite.’ Will they announce something not called ‘Windows Lite’? Probably.
  • They say that in the article...
  • Spoiler Alert: Edge OS
  • If Microsoft makes a new operating system based on Edge, and Edge is based on Chromium, why not just start with ChromiumOS in the first place!?
  • Sounds like a possible Ignite announcement? Since that is in November this year...
  • "And, put simply, Microsoft needs this OS to succeed."
    But do they? The same was surely said about other past projects. Or put differently, what would happen if it didn't?
  • I don't drink lite beer for a reason. Full-bodied W10 is my brand. It's satisfying.
  • I am officially unsubscribing from anything Microsoft-related. That's enough. Sick of all the horsesh*t rumors and bs about this mythical efforts of Microsoft making One OS with shells, composable bs, WCOS, OneCore, WoA, Lite, Andromeda, Centaurus, Capricorn, Gemini, DoA, wtf, etc. How long has it been since the first news around these bs surfaced? Nadella promised three phones, foldable devices excitements by Bowden, Rubino, MJF etc. It was all just hype and plain bs. It's just enough at this point. Enough WC, enough Twitter, enough all Microsoft bs. Happy with my Pixel, a week away actually from buying a shiny Macbook and dumping Windows aside. Sick of inconsistencies, broken promises, killed product lines, etc. It's a reality Microsoft should stay in the background backing up with boring services like Azure just like IBM and fade into irrelevance in people's minds. Wasting my time here. Bye
  • Oh please shut up and don't come back, you sound like a baby.
  • oraora does have a point, rant aside. The disappointment on the consumer mobile side has been epic. Enterprise, Cloud and xbox have been humming along under Nadella though. That said, I too, just like oraora eluded, am very cautious when it comes to dropping coin down for anything on the consumer side from MS. Unfortunately I have to rely on iPhone and android devices right now and I absolutely hate it, but it is what it is. He/she is just frustrated I wont judge him/her for that. :)
  • Chill. Coding a great operation system takes time. Chromium edge obviously screwed those plans, but Microsoft is still on it. Rumours are everywhere, also from Apple and Google. Rumours that have been going on for years. Microsoft is not the only one, ffs
  • It's totally fine to be frustrated by Microsoft, especially being a consumer, but you don't need to make a huge post about it on a random article. Personally, my stance has always been - if I can stay in the Microsoft ecosystem then that's what I prefer, but I can easily adapt to other systems if I need to. I still buy PC's/use windows, buy surface hardware, subscribe to office 365, use onedrive, outlook.com is my primary email service, etc. The great thing about the cloud and Microsoft offering services across platforms is that I can still use Android (which I own a Pixel 3 XL) and still use mostly Microsoft services. Would i have liked Microsoft to still have a smartphone? Of course! But **** happens. The funny thing is I see almost the exact same kind of complaints about Google on Android central articles.
  • jrealtor1, I agree with your post. I do think the ranting is crude, but I do agree about them having a point. I rarely come here anymore, especially since Windows phone completely died. This isn’t necessarily a random article to mention this since it is another example of a MS product delay. I’d like to see the reality of this in the market, but it’s hard to believe it will come about since it sounds like many promises of the past. I used to be 100% MS for many years - Even being IT support.
    Rumors built up so much, promises broken, delays, or development discontinuation on so many fronts is frustrating. Yes, there are rumors for other products, like Apple or Android, but I’ve never seen them so consistently built up so highly and then discontinued or delayed so often like I have with MS. I was even a part of the “Windows Phone saga”. I really wanted to fully migrate and it had such great potential...Then it was killed...Murdered. I’ve almost completely left the MS ecosystem (Hardware and software). Overall, I’m so glad. I still come here occasionally, it used to be one of my favorite sites. I remember when it was Windows Phone Central with so much hope for the future. Products that were even tested by Dave & looked so amazing. Now, many of those things are like the tumble weed that have just been blown across the flat lands never to return.
  • Yes, their mobile effords are bad. I hate Android Devices really a lot, and i just don't get why this **** could become successful.
  • Maybe it shows how terrible Windows phone really was.
  • Just a friendly tip: You don’t have to use “he/she” when referring to posters on tech sites. It’s safe to assume they’re all males, as it’s rare for females to be tech enthusiasts.
  • But he is exactly right.
  • Man, if you were a guru I would follow you. You just summarize my feelings about that "Microsoft shining in the future; sucking in the present" I endure for so long. I wish I could buy a Mac though.
  • Sometimes you can get Mac’s at really good prices. BestBuy price matched one that I saw on Amazon. (I’d rather not feed the beast called Amazon) I’m glad I got a Mac. In the past, I couldn’t really imagine saying that.
  • Hard to disagree with you. I used to love all things Microsoft / Windows and read every article on here, thurrott, zd net, etc daily......then MS started cancelling things. Band...gone. Phone...gone. Music...gone. Andromeda...gone. Ebook store...gone. Pretty much anything that's even remotely consumer facing has vanished, with the exception of Xbox. And all the hype around how pwa was going to fill the store with thousands of apps to compete with ios and Google....what happened there??? Gone. All the hype around windows on arm?? 2 years on and there aren't even 5 devices available in the market to buy. Microsoft literally could not care less about the consumer space
  • I used to go to those same places almost daily as well. I think that lack of care for the consumer will come to bite them in the future — Even more than it already has.
  • I had 29 years of Apple and Tim Cook isn't Apple. He's about stocks. Respected YouTube Gurus are ditching Apple. You missed the Mac boat. But you don't have to believe me. Go to YouTube and watch a dude called PAINFULLY HONEST TECH. I'm not him promoting him, honest. He's actually been annoying me for taking so long to ditch Apple. But find him and his post on why he's leaving. You might want to check out some Louis Rossman stuff too. Eyeopening. I do understand your frustration, though. Your in the frame of mind where you embrace a tech company like a 'friend' and then you trust everything they say. I avoided Windows forever because, back then, they were the Kings of Vaporware and Apple made stuff that was significantly better. I don't see Apple or Google or Microsoft as that 'one company' I'm going to call my 'friend' anymore. Google Pixel? It's having issues. I'm liking OnePlus for phones, Asus for PCs, and tolerating Windows 10. It's nice to see it slowly improve. It's only that pathetic speed of improvement that's annoying. Maybe before 2022 the File Explorer will actually look like the rest of the OS, a feat every stinkin' Linux Distro typically pulls off out of the gate. Ahem
  • It won't be a success if it arrives too late. Chrome OS is already taking an enormous place, even with consumers. I know: I bought one and sync my phone, tablet and monitor aroud it, and it's great!
  • *US only. ChromeOS is not really that big elsewhere lol. Most people don’t know what it is
  • Even in the US there's a lot of negative connotations attached to Chrome OS. It's absolutely massive with education though.
  • I’ve sensed it is on the decline in the eduction system more now. People are more disappointed with the limitations of Chrome. They left Apple because of the cost and I understand why. I personally trust Apple with my data more than either Google or MS...and I don’t trust Apple or any other company 100% though.
  • Exactly this! I'm cynical about most things, so not trusting any corporation is second nature. All of them the same. Completely agree about Apple, though...
  • I'm very excited to see it come. I'd love to have a fast and portable tablet running Lite.
  • Every year will make it harder and harder to justify. Every year will increase the expectations. Now we just wait for the rumors when Microsoft "changes priorities" or however they phrase it.
  • .... And they will probably HAVE to also. By the time they get this crap ready Google will already move on from Chrome OS to something else they will try to have to catch up to compete with.
  • The perpetual "coming soon" from Microsoft.
  • Isn’t “coming soon” trademarked by Microsoft❓😂
  • “Microsoft has never really been good at naming Windows.” How about, “Microsoft has never really been good at naming - PERIOD!”? I can only imagine what they’ll call Andromeda.
  • Foldy device thingy running Windows arm core os 10 😁 Microsoft marketing and branding and general public relations has been worse than ***** for years
  • Windows Mobile 10 Folding Edition.
  • They won't need to name it as it is canceled, didn't you hear?
  • The big focus with MS shouldn’t be the release date, but rather what is the planned cancellation date? The cancellation date is usually kept secret and the users aren’t allowed to know that secret date.
  • "There's very little reason to announce a new version of Windows several months or a year before people can get their hands on it, in preview form or otherwise." If that were true, then when are third-party developers supposed to get their hands on the new OS to develop new apps for it, and to verify that their existing apps will be compatible? As Microsoft should have learned from past experience, this needs to be nailed down so the software is available at the same time as consumers/end users can get their hands on the devices. There needs to be a lead-in time for developers to be ready for such a launch.
  • If you think that any sane dev will bother writing soft for this new delusion called WCOS you are mad. Devs were burned too much in the past to do any consumer facing development on Windows. It's now azure only baby.
  • If it's truly like Chrome OS, developers won't really have to develop "for it". It runs on a browser, it runs on Core OS. Of course you might ask what its benefit over Chrome OS is then. That's probably the role Win32 ("emulation" or whatever it turns out to be) and UWP (to a lesser degree) are supposed to play (yes, I know there are Android apps on Chrome OS but let's be honest, most Android developers don't care to write their software for tablets, let alone Chrome OS). You need to keep in mind Chrome OS is still irrelevant in most of the world, where most people have never even heard of it. That may give Core OS an edge (pun not intended) in the "lightweight desktop OS" market (i.e. mostly schools, I guess) in those places.
  • Will be DOA.
  • chrome os and google education is google's Trojan horse to microsoft , the same scenario android did to windows phone, children grow up using google gsuite not office and they are locked in google ecosystem
  • Comparing Chrome OS vs Windows with Android vs Windows Phone is apples to oranges, the situations have very little in common. You do have a point with the lock-in, though, I think that's precisely what Microsoft fears most about Chrome OS. Chrome OS per se is a niche OS that on its own and globally speaking poses very little threat to Windows, it's its strength in the education market (in the US) that makes it a long-term threat for the reason you stated.
  • PWA is the Trojan horse. The more popular PWA becomes, the more sense ChromeOS makes.
  • Maybe Intel will release a new 10 nm u series chip to power the new Surface Go (better battery life and performance) to match with Windows Lite, further improving battery power and performance. I would assume Qualcomm will have a Snapdragon ready to rock Windows Lite as well.
  • Sadly time and time again a usual theme is the frustration with Microsoft’s consistency pertaining to cancellations and delays. Broken promises over and over again. Are any of the sites out there hyping up what “MS is releasing” to get clicks❓ It’s a good recipe for making a tech site a depressing place to be. MS is good at saying, “Look at what we’re going to make”, getting us excited about it. Then just hoping that the developers will just try one more time to invest into developing apps and not give up on MS totally because we know without the developers, the product will crash and burn...and we “believe in Microsoft”
    ...I don’t believe (Not hopeful) in Microsoft anymore...Their fruits have taught me to be skeptical of their promises now.
  • This March, I put my Windows 10 Mobile phone to rest and picked up an iPhone 8. I now have completely adapted to using the iPhone and gotten nearly all my Window 10 <-> Windows 10 Mobile workflows working with Windows 10 <-> iOS. This is fairly effective with Microsoft cross platform efforts on third party mobile devices. I find myself losing interest in a small form factor Windows device now. It feels too distant and unknowable when I need solutions now. I work with developers and none of them are even aware that Microsoft is trying to build a lite version of Windows. Microsoft needs to let them in and tell them what is going on. They need to do this just to keep interest up. I would say I am a super fan, and I'm getting tired. What is keeping my interest is the Surface Go. This device is a form factor sweet spot. The Surface Go is very well executed and I use my Go far and above any device I own now. If Microsoft does come out with a phone, I probably would buy it. I told my wife we are getting at least three years of use out of the $599 iPhone 8s. I made her promise she would switch back to Windows phone in three years (we stay unified on our technology platforms). She used to love her Windows 10 Mobile phone. She was very reluctant to put it to rest, but it started to malfunction, so our hand was forced. Now she has an iPhone 8 and has forgotten about her Windows 10 Mobile phone that she used to love. She now loves her iPhone 8. I have a feeling, in three year, it will be very hard for her to switch off the iPhone and back to Windows.
  • grab a mac too. you can still love windows and also love MacOS. it's not cheating. it really is ok to like more than one OS at a time ;p
    Apple's ecosystem is pretty amazing the way devices meld together as one.
  • I really do like MacOS. However, the pricing is a joke, compared to what you get for the same price in a surface book.
  • Or just don't post if there is no news
  • Imagine Windows Lite as Windows 10 Mobile replacement. That sounds tempting to me.
  • Disappointing to watch MS slowly move into full stagnation on consumer side. 6 months from now this OS will disappear like the foldable. 5 years, no more surface and windows will be legacy support only. MS will only be Office, Azure, and Xbox. All will be services that run on others hardware and OS.
  • Will you still be saying that in 5 years?
  • I think Microsoft should continue to work with with it's core OS ideas but unfortunately they
    have failed to realize all they have to do is cut the Fat from their versions of Windows 10.
    The OS they have to today is designed to be a DO EVERTHIG OS. so it"s FAT WITH
    THINGS AVERAGE PEOPLE OR SMALL DEVICES LIKE TABLETS DO NOT USE OR
    NEED. Microsoft must Realize a lot of People use a computer to do light Computer tasks like
    surf the Web, Run MS Office, Read a document or E-books, listen to Music, look at
    streaming video sights like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon prime, Microsoft Movies, play a DVD
    or CD, Microsoft knows it can make an Operating system that can just do these things very
    Well. This kind of OS does not require the excess dills drivers and other Programs a
    Fully augmented Desktop PC or a true Work Laptop Work Station with a DVD burner
    needs because these devices are designed to do high level Video editing ,
    Computer Aided design work, Advanced math work, special business Programs,
    operate specialized Machinery & Military devices. It Microsoft cuts the fat from Windows 10
    to just do the light Computing work it will have the OS it needs to compete with the
    "Chrome book" OS. All Microsoft has to do is cut the FAT out
    of Windows 10
  • I actually like the idea of it all. I'd buy like a Surface branded device that ran a 'Windows Lite' OS. I'd pay sub $400 for something first generation.
  • I am sorry W10M folded. I still can not find a phone (iOS or Android) that worked as well with cortana and my aftermarket $200 bluetooth radio in my 20 year old van. I used to hop in my van and say text my wife headed home and off went the text. But everyone else wanted social media apps. Who cares. Social media is not the end all be all of computing. operating systems are always changing. iOS still won't support a mouse. OSX will not support touch. Android is just a bunch of different flavors depending on the device you have and when it was made. At least Windows is backward compatible for many years, which can be a blessing or a curse based on your perspective. Besides, MSFT is moving its business model to a subscription model. Sure some stuff will be free, but in reality, MSFT wants to develop software that people are willing to pay through a subscription. They are interested in building an OS that can be easily structured around the specific use cases of the hardware/software device. Why write the article? To let us know that Windows Lite, courier, etc is being pushed back, which is frustrating for everyone because everyone wants MSFT to succeed.