New Windows OS rumors explored

Microsoft's LiteOS is said to be small, lightweight and efficient, with modular architecture that changes depending on platforms' needs.
6 December 2018

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO. Source: Google

Like any large enterprise in tech, Microsoft has its fair share of dedicated pundits and rumor-followers. One of the big stories that began to spread about a year ago, was of a new, lightweight operating system from Microsoft being built around the work of an internal project called Windows Core OS (WCOS).

The idea of WCOS is that it will provide the basis for a modular version of the ubiquitous Microsoft operating system which will run on any device or architecture. Wherever there are device-specific needs, for instance for a server, or a touchscreen laptop, modular extensions provide the necessary features.

The WCOS itself can be very small, lightweight, and fast and will, therefore, consume less power, increasing the number of its possible uses. On install, Windows would be configured on a per-device basis, losing elements not required (32-bit support, for example) and adding those specific to the platform (LoRa controller support for IoT, for instance).

At present, an OEM has to choose from several pre-defined variants: Windows Server, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 S, Windows 10 IoT and so forth. This range would essentially become simultaneously null and void, and yet much more comprehensive by means of the platform’s granular nature, with the manufacturer building an OS that makes sense for each device.

At present two variations on Windows built on WCOS are under development: codename Andromeda for mobile devices, and Centaurus, destined for laptops like the Microsoft Surface. Andromeda was due to be released much more widely in beta sometime this year, but like its larger sibling, it has not yet seen the light of day.

The latest to add grist to the Microsoft rumor mill is long-time Microsoft-follower Brad Sims, who’s been making educated guesses as to how the new operating system might manifest. He believes Microsoft may drop the Windows moniker altogether, preferring something along the lines of “LiteOS”.

While the Andromeda and Centaurus projects continue, LiteOS is said to be destined, in its initial manifestations, for low-end portable hardware, such as ultrabooks– a market dominated by ChromeOS at present. Chromebooks currently offer a way in which a full working environment runs on minimal hardware, with the majority of apps running in a browser, or at least, a browser-like interface. It’s also thought that LiteOS will run on the new Snapdragon 855 chip, announced just a few days ago by Qualcomm.

The new OS is said to represent more than a break in naming convention, too. The GUI (graphical user interface) will offer a complete redesign, rather than an apparent attempt to cobble together something from an existing Windows look-and-feel, such as the company tried (and failed) with Windows RT on its early Surface models.

With Microsoft’s increasing emphasis put on cloud computing and CEO Satya Nadella’s attempts to steer the company away from its desktop OS roots, the move to a modular, lightweight OS seems to fit in with an overall plan. A lightweight operating system that can slot neatly into cloud-hosted services and applications on– plucking an example at random– the Azure platform, is fully congruent with Redmond’s perceived direction.

The new LiteOS will supposedly provide instant-on, always-connected functionality, and will run on any processor, starting with low-end mobile-compatible chips. Similar hosting on lightweight SoC (system on chip) hardware such as in use in IoT and IIoT also seems a logical route that the company could take.

As ever, watch this space to see the latest news on the story as it develops.