In my recent article, “Hello Andromeda: Microsoft’s Cellular PC“, I wrote how Microsoft is breaking Windows down into different modules or components to make the OS light and fit the OS for different needs and device types. Do read this article if you haven’t read already, link above.
Continuing with the same topic with some more interesting news pouring down. Microsoft seems to be working on another flavor of Windows called, Polaris.
As Microsoft makes Windows modular, it is going to be stripping down a lot of components that makes Windows big and bulky, one of them is Win32 legacy system. Win32 framework is basically the million of traditional desktop applications that we have come to know, eg, iTunes, Office suite, Adobe Photoshop, and many other. Microsoft wants to kill or deprecate Win32 functionality in favor of Universal Windows Platform (UWP), their new development platform. Most modern apps that you search and download from Microsoft Store are UWP apps which are more secure and perform better than traditional desktop apps.
This benefits Microsoft in various ways, like development of Windows will be faster and deliver new experiences to different form factors which is limited today.
So what is Polaris?
Polaris is going to be one of the different experiences of Windows.
For example, the full Windows version, that includes Win32 stuff, will be one of the experiences or composers. Windows (without Win32) will be targeted at lighter PCs for light weight computing tasks.
Think of it in the same lines as Chromebooks, iPads. They are light, fast with good performance. Today, making Windows run on a tablet is a nightmare. I own a Dell Venue 7″ tablet, and running Windows 10 on it is a nightmare. It is just slow.
Enter world of Polaris. Polaris will feel and look just like the traditional Windows 10 minus the Win32 baggage. This means Windows will be a lot lighter, faster with better connectivity, just like iPad and Chromebooks.
This suddenly changes the game. If Microsoft does this well, it means there will be various device types from Microsoft (first party) and its partner OEMs, the likes of HP and Dell taking advantage of the light weight Windows.
Just like Andromeda running on mobile like form factor giving it mobile like experience with LTE connectivity, Polaris will serve the desktop/tablet market with more secure and modern Windows.
Think of it, most of the average/normal consumers use computers for specific tasks. It could be browsing the web, watching Netflix, playing casual games or writing in Word. For such tasks, why would anyone need to have unnecessary components that are not going to be used?
What we also hear Microsoft may bring Win32 into Polaris via either emulation technology, containers or even stream the app through cloud. There are various options here.
To understand the image above (bottom up):
- OneCore – This is the base KERNEL level of the operating System. OneCore is shared across any type of device or OS build since 2015. This includes the desktop, Xbox, HoloLens, Mobile (if it returns), Surface Hub.
- CShell or Composable Shell – This is the User Experience shell that adjusts itself depending on the device type. For example, if Windows detects it is running on a desktop, then it will scale to fit large screen size. If it noticed it is a mobile form factor, Windows automatically present itself to fit on a mobile device.
- Composers – These are the actual device types or experiences, linked to CShell, they are the different Shells part of the Windows Core OS. As mentioned earlier, there is going to be a Desktop shell, Surface Hub shell, Polaris, Xbox and Mixed Reality.
With Polaris, Microsoft will rewrite the legacy stuff currently found in Windows 10, like the File Explorer, this should change into UWP file explorer, that we have all been waiting for.
What this could mean, there will be some flavors of Windows:
- Windows 10: The Windows that we love/hate today. This is going to be the Windows for the Pro market, for pro users, for businesses and Enterprises who need to use all the legacy stuff of the Windows, can carry on using it as usual.
- Windows Polaris: This will be targeted towards the average users, home users, who do not need to do much on their desktops and laptops but watch movies, do emails and write letters on Word, browse Internet. Windows will no longer include unnecessary components, apps such as Fax & Scan (yes it still exists), the old Paint app, the old school Control Panel, Windows Explorer, Command Prompt and many other desktop applications. However, Microsoft may bring some of this applications via virtualization, Desktop bridge, stream through cloud.
- WOA: Windows On ARM, I have written about it already, you can check it out here. One form of WOA will be Andromeda, this too you can read in depth analysis in my article, link here. WOA fundamentally targets long battery life, LTE connectivity, Instant On experience, all running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chip.
For Windows to stay relevant in today’s modern world, it must get rid of its legacy stuff and step up with Google’s Chrome OS and Apple iOS (iPads). As they computing devices are slowly getting the traction, like iPads and Chromebooks in education markets (true for US), and the majority of the market, the consumers invest their time on mobile, or iPads, Chromebooks, MacBook Air type devices.
In all this, Windows need to bounce back and Windows Core OS, modularity, WOA, all these are the stepping stone towards a more mobile future. It needs to reclaim user base of such as Field workers, who use iPads or Android phones or tablets, students, who care less for Windows and more of MacOS and Chromebooks and the average consumers that I talked earlier about.
If Microsoft pulls this off properly, then the future looks bright for Windows.