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.

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.