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Author Topic: What is Windows Core OS Ė a comprehensive guide  (Read 432 times)
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« on: March 25, 2020, 04:59:17 AM »

So there has been a lot of chatter about the next iteration of Windows and questions about where Microsoft is going with Windows.

Will there be a Windows 11? Will Windows 10 stay the same way forever? What about Windows 10X? The future of Windows as an Operating System seems to be something called Windows Core OS.

To understand what Windows Core OS is, you first have to understand a little bit about what Windows 10 is and is not.

The limitations of Windows 10

From the very beginning, Microsoft said that Windows 10 would be one Operating System that would simply work on multiple form factors. The reality though was significantly different.

Windows 10 for desktops, Windows 10 for HoloLens, Windows 10 for IoT devices, Windows 10 for Surface Hub, Windows 10 for Xbox, etc are all Windows 10 but they are each unique and different Operating Systems. The truth is that Microsoft had to make substantial changes to each version of Windows to make them work on the specific hardware they were marketed for.

Without those modifications, Windows 10 for desktops would be horrible or downright incompatible with an Xbox.

While Windows 10 is different for each version, there are some common elements across all of its versions. OneCore and OneCoreUAP are some layers of Windows 10 that you can find across all versions of Windows 10 but unfortunately, most of the OSs are unique and built from scratch.

The true cost of multiple Windows 10 versions

Itís real simple here. If most of the Windows 10 Operating Systems for different devices are different code, it has to be tremendously inefficient to create, test, maintain and support each version.

Itís an inefficient and expensive pain in the ass. Period.

In addition, itís a pain in the ass every time Microsoft wants to build a version of Windows 10 for a new device type, such as foldable, which seemed to come out of the blue in the last couple of years.

What is Windows Core OS?

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 give devices features and experiences where necessary.

Basically, Microsoft is building a universal base for Windows that can be used across all these different devices.

The advantage of Windows Core OS

Windows Core OS strips Windows down to the bare minimum. It doesnít include any legacy components or features and sticks to UWP as a core for the operating system as itís lighter and already universal.

From there, Microsoft can build out Windows Core OS with different components and features that it can then apply to devices where necessary. But this time, those components and features can be shared across the many different devices Windows Core OS will run on.

Instead of having to develop a new version of Windows 10 for every new device type that comes along, Microsoft can simply begin with Windows Core OS and pull in common features and functions that are prebuilt. This would be infinitely more efficient for Microsoft with way fewer development dollars needed to make this happen.

The big selling point for Windows Core OS for Microsoft is that for the people working on Windows, it takes way less time and resources to build new Windows experiences when itís required.

If Microsoft or any of its partners want to develop new device form factors running Windows, they no longer have to wait years for Microsoft to build up a version of Windows 10 that works for it. Using Windows Core OS, they can create new Windows experiences in a fraction of the time and way more efficiently.

The Windows Core OS Platform

Windows Core OS is basically a modular platform.

Microsoft could build out a feature once and then would be able to use that feature on any Windows Core OS device that it wants.

For example, If Microsoft builds out an antivirus feature as a component for Windows Core OS for desktop and laptop devices. Since that work has now already been done, Microsoft can also bring that antivirus feature component to HoloLens 2 or Surface Hub 2X running Windows Core OS, enabling that functionality on those experiences too.

The shared component idea extends to the UI as well, thanks to a universal shell Microsoft has been building called Composable Shell, also known as CShell for short.

CShell is the other half of this universal idea for Windows Core OS, and allows Microsoft to build shell experiences that can be shared across devices, and even bundled up together where it makes sense.

For example, any shell-facing feature like an Action Center, Start menu, or taskbar, can then be used across all CShell-powered devices without having to rewrite them to fit on different devices every single time.

An example of how Windows Core OS would work

Zac Bowden (from Windows Central) has a really great example of how this could work.

Imagine a gaming PC that changes to an Xbox ďgame modeĒ when an Xbox controller is connected.

Letís imagine Microsoft decides to finally build a Surface Phone running Windows Core OS. Itíll feature a mobile experience primarily, but if you connected it to a Continuum dock, Microsoft could also bundle the actual desktop experience it built with CShell. So instead of getting a fake desktop experience as you did with Windows 10 Mobile, youíd boot into the real desktop experience Microsoft made for CShell, which runs on actual desktops. Thatís pretty cool.

Unfortunately, Microsoft seems just about done with trying to build phones that run Windows, so instead, we can apply this idea to something a little more plausible. Tablets! Microsoft can build out dedicated desktop and tablet mode experiences with CShell, and apply them to 2-in-1 devices like the Surface Pro. So whenever the user enters tablet mode, instead of getting a mediocre experience, it can boot into a dedicated tablet mode that Microsoft built for CShell. On some devices, maybe tablet mode is the only experience available, and on others, thereís more than one.

Or imagine a gaming PC, which, when being used with a mouse and keyboard, uses an actual regular desktop interface with a taskbar and Start menu. When an Xbox controller is connected, however, it boots into a ďGame ModeĒ that enables the same Xbox shell you can find on Xbox consoles, except itís all running on your PC and has all your PC games ready to go. That would be pretty cool. These ideas are all very possible with CShell and Windows Core OS.

The different flavors of Windows Core OS

Now we know all about Windows Core OS and what it is ó letís take a look at all the different configurations of Windows Core OS we know about so far. Officially, there are two devices that Microsoft is shipping with Windows Core OS: HoloLens 2 and Surface Neo.

There are a whole bunch of different codenames and words used to describe the different versions of WCOS. So weíve tried to include all the names Microsoft uses for these editions of Windows Core OS.

Windows 10X, Windows Holographic, GameCore, Windows Core OS for laptops and foldable PCs, Windows 10X Shell

Windows 10x

Windows 10X is a flavor of Windows Core OS that appears to be for both foldable PCs and traditional laptops and tablets.

Microsoft is building out Windows 10X as the version of Windows Core OS that runs on consumer and education-oriented foldable PCs, laptops, and 2-in-1 tablets. Itís a new take on what Windows can be, introducing a brand new user experience thatís a little more like Chrome OS and less like old-school Windows. It has deep ties with web experiences and puts universal Windows apps front and center, but can also run traditional desktop apps from outside the Microsoft Store too.

Windows Core OS Updates and Performance

Now, this would be cool.

Allegedly, Windows Core OS will feature an improved Windows Update system that installs updates in the background and requires less than a minute to restart once those updates are ready to do so.

It would work using mirrored partitions.

Basically, the OS would run always using one of two separate mirrored (aka identical) partitions. When an update is ready to install, the update would be downloaded and installed to the offline partition that is not in use.

Once complete, the OS would ask you to restart, and would actually boot you into the alternate partition that just installed an update in the background. Once youíve booted into the partition where the update is installed, the partition you were just in becomes the offline partition for newer updates to be installed to down the line.

This is major.

This would eliminate the Windows 10 Update pain in the ass download and install process and the inconvenience to users would be kept to a minute or less. Obviously, if you had problems with one partition you would be able to boot back to the other and technically even that would be much faster.

Windows Core OS Legacy Support

No Windows Core OS will support legacy Win32 programs only when it makes sense.

Windows Core OS, out of the box, will not ship with any of the legacy Win32 programs you find on Windows 10 today. Many of them will be made available as optional features that you can either enable from Settings or download from the Microsoft Store. Things like the legacy Control Panel or File Explorer wonít be part of Windows Core OS, however.

Is Windows Core OS a Windows 10 upgrade?

No. Windows Core OS will be designated for new device experiences only.

The Windows 10 we know today (Windows Classic) will continue to be an option for users who want the fun functionality of Windows we use today.

Windows Classic will still be updated with new features and remain on par with Core OS.

Is Windows Core OS the end of Windows 10?

Windows 10 as you know it today is being positioned as the power version of Windows. Windows Core OS devices will be for a new device and for consumers or businesses who donít need everything Windows 10 today has to offer. Windows Core OS will be positioned as offering powerful but simple experiences for those who prefer something like iOS or Chrome OS as opposed to fully-featured like Windows 10 is today.

There is speculation that over time, Windows 10 will become the option for power-users, enterprises, and gamers, and Windows Core OS will become the option for everyone else.

Both Windows Classic (Windows 10) and Windows Core OS will continue to get updates from Microsoft.

An interesting Windows Core OS video

To sum this up, Windows Core OS is the future of Operating Systems for Microsoft.

   ■ Itís not an upgrade for Windows 10 devices.

   ■ Its higher performance and modular

   ■ Allows for faster updates

   ■ Allows Microsoft to quickly deploy versions of Windows for new form factors

   ■ Saves Microsoft time and money

   ■ It allows Microsoft to be super-efficient with Windows in the future.

Stay tuned for more updates.


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