Microsoft Reportedly Less Tied to Legacy in Windows 'Polaris' Revamp

Microsoft's vision of a streamlined, modular Windows operating system includes a desktop environment that isn't as tied to the past.

Windows 10 Polaris Desktop

Microsoft is revamping its flagship Windows operating, and according to news reports, the Redmond, Wash. software giant is ready to ditch some legacy components in order to slim it down and bring it to market.

Windows 10 may boast a more modern look and feel, along with features such as Cortana, the AI-powered virtual assistant that is now baked into the operating system. But many it retains many legacy components of earlier Windows versions.  

For IT professionals, business users and enthusiasts, it's evident in the way the operating system still runs their old applications and software utilities. Traces of older versions of Windows typically pop up even for average users when they dig deep into the operating system's settings and more advanced configuration tools.

Microsoft appears ready to abandon some legacy components for a lightweight and modular version of Windows 10, according to reports from Windows Central.

Microsoft coders are reportedly working on Windows Core OS, the foundation of the upcoming operating system, along with a new desktop shell that runs top it codenamed Polaris for a 2019 release. Other shells, or "composers" as Microsoft calls them, include Andromeda for mobile devices, Aruba for the Surface Hub and Oasis for mixed-reality devices.

Mixed reality is Microsoft shorthand for its burgeoning ecosystem of Windows-based augmented- and virtual-reality technologies like HoloLens and a new generation of headsets from hardware partners.

Although Polaris is expected to favor UWP (Universal Windows Platform) applications, Microsoft doesn't appear to be ready to abandon the vast library of Win32 programs that Windows has accumulated over the years, nor those that the developer community has contributed to it. In terms of Win32 support in Polaris, Microsoft seems to be working on some form of virtualization.

IT professionals whose workplaces are riddled with legacy business applications will still have a full-featured version of Windows 10 Pro at their disposal, for the foreseeable future at least.

Polaris will initially be included on new PCs from vendors that target the education market, information workers and frontline employees. It's a similar tactic to the one used by Microsoft when it launched its own Surface Laptop.

Announced in May 2017, the Surface Laptop is aimed at students and runs Windows 10 S, as stripped-down edition of the operating system that is configured to run only those applications that are downloaded from the Microsoft Store (formerly Windows Store). Windows 10 S is also available on PCs from hardware partners including HP and Asus. Buyers seeking the full Windows experience can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Microsoft's efforts to prune Windows doesn't stop at the desktop.

In a recent preview build of Windows Server, Microsoft was able to shrink the size of the base Windows Server Core container image to 1.58GB, a third smaller than the version that shipped with Windows Server 1709. Microsoft accomplished this by dispensing with features, server roles and components that are not supported or go unused in container deployments.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...