Windows Client OS

Microsoft's Lite OS Starts Simple With Plans to Scale Up

Windows Lite OS Mockup of what the OS Currently Looks Like

A few weeks back, I uncovered Microsoft’s next steps in trying to push back against the growing threat of Google’s ChromeOS. Currently known as Lite OS, this ‘new’ operating system from Microsoft is a rebirth of Windows, or so the company hopes.

The company is currently working on an aggressive schedule to get this OS out the door. I expect Microsoft to begin talking about the operating system this year in the spring, likely at its Build conference in May but more importantly, the company will begin wider testing this summer. While I don’t know if that will include a public preview, Windows Lite is moving forward at a feverish pace as the company understands the importance of this new platform.

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As I stated previously, the UI of the OS will look familiar but it is also different as well. The mockup I created at the top of this post is an accurate portrayal of what the OS looks like in its current iteration. Despite the updated UI, the OOBE (Out of Box Experience) is still similar to that of Windows 10.

Microsoft is targeting entry-level devices with Lite but also expects to target heavy users as well. The reason the company chose the name Lite, for now at least, is that they categorize users into lite and heavy; lite users they expect to use Lite OS whereas heavy users will use Windows 10.

You might be thinking that the company is headed down the path of having two ‘different’ operating systems but that’s not quite the case. The company envisions that in the future, the Lite OS will grow up to cover most of the features that heavy users will need but I don’t quite expect it to overtake the entire enterprise portfolio quite yet.

Currently, Lite OS will only run UWPs and PWAs, but Microsoft is exploring how they can eventually support Win32 applications. One potential option could be full containerization of the application and the other option may be streaming as well. For now, know that the company is placing an absolute emphasis on simple interactions and maintenance – they do not want to end up with a new version of Windows that has the same overhead as Windows 10.

But it’s not completely bare bones either, the File Explorer is still present, windowing still works as you would expect, and the underlying components like Settings are still present (at this time).

As I wrote previously, there is a family of devices like Pegasus, Centarus, and others that will be running the operating system. Third-party manufacturers are also working on hardware as well, and Microsoft is currently supporting both Intel and ARM chipsets but if both will ship, this is not known yet.

Because of the past failures of Windows RT and other attempts at modernizing Windows, Microsoft knows that it must move into a new direction if they want to capture any market share at the low end. Windows 10 is currently the do-all, be-all OS, and that’s not what everyone needs for casual computing.

By starting with simplicity and scaling up, the company hopes to follow a similar model of iOS and Chromebooks but they are still taking Windows and stripping it down to make it simpler to use, which is fundamentally different than what Apple and Google are currently doing where they are scaling up a simple OS with more complexity.

We should hopefully learn a lot more about this new strategy at Build 2019 this year and I’m also hearing that the company plans to seed out hardware with the new OS. That being said, I’m not quite sure to what scale or when they will distribute the hardware but it is being considered at this time.

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Comments (8)

8 responses to “Microsoft’s Lite OS Starts Simple With Plans to Scale Up”

  1. <p>I guess what'd I'd really be interested in, is if it's quite a bit lighter than Windows 10, yet it's the same core (or something) that'd be nice if Windows 10 users could download and boot to it. Obviously that wouldn't be how it was marketed, it would be something you select and it does all the work…not expecting a user to know how to change or touch boot settings. If it's any good, I'd switch my wife's Windows 10 laptop to it.</p>

  2. <p>So the Core OS and CShell is over again? No, there is no way to <em>regain </em>trust in Microsoft regarding smaller than PC devices. Nadella has clearly communicated Microsoft no longer care, by killing the Window 10 Mobile and ignoring Windows 10 tablet mode basic issues. There are no UWP apps nor developers interested anymore and the legacy desktop Win32 apps aren't optimized for small touchscreen devices anyway.</p><p><br></p><p>The battle is already lost and it is your fault, Microsoft. Instead of showing us the future of Windows 10, Microsoft tells customers to move to Android or iOS. I haven't seen anything like that in the past. </p>

  3. <p>I dont understand why this cannot be a UI choice in Windows 10 today. Also dont get why they cannot have the Windows 8 style as well.</p><p><br></p><p>Android has it already its called a launcher. Why cant Windows 10 have launchers. </p>

  4. <p>I think this is the right approach for Microsoft in rebuilding their OS from the ground for a more modern era of computing that is mobile centric and not desktop centric. The only problem is that this is what Microsoft should have done all the way back when they where prepping the dumpster fire that become Windows 8. </p><p><br></p><p>Ironic that Apple is known for being late but getting it right. Meanwhile, Microsoft is known for just straight up missing the train despite being a leader on the bleeding edge. </p><p><br></p><p>If Microsoft is going to have success with Windows Lite by taking the burn it down and start over with a simple set of functionality they are going to have to iterate quick. Even faster than Google is iterating ChromeOS; because Microsoft will have a lot of ground to cover in order to catch up yet again. </p>

  5. <p>I think with using virtualization and sandboxes, Microsoft can fill the gaps between a new OS and backward compatibility with other Windows versions.</p>

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Brad Sams has more than a decade of writing and publishing experience under his belt including helping to establish new and seasoned publications From breaking news about upcoming Microsoft products to telling the story of how a billion dollar brand was birthed in his book, Beneath a Surface, Brad is a well-rounded journalist who has established himself as a trusted name in the industry.