Microsoft has been working toward unifying its Windows operating system for some time now. At this point, “Windows” is running on desktops, laptops, 2-in-1s, the Xbox, tablets, and smartphones (technically), among other devices. I put Windows in quotes there, however, because while UWP, or Universal Windows Platform, apps will run across these versions of Windows, the underlying OS isn’t always based on the same core. The Windows 10 that was installed on ill-fated Windows Phones, for example, wasn’t the same OS that’s installed on a Windows 10 laptop. The kernel was similar, but the shell and other components were not.
According to new reports, Microsoft plans to jettison little-used legacy code and revamp and unify Windows across all devices with a streamlined version based on the Windows Core OS. Specifically, the latest news to come out of Windows Central covers a future desktop version of the Windows Core OS, reportedly codenamed Polaris.
The goal with future version of Windows is to modernize, modularize, and unify the operating system so only the components necessary for a particular device are used. The underlying core of the operating system will be the same across all devices, and it will be stripped of legacy code and modules, which could slim-down Windows and reduce its memory, storage, and processing requirements significantly. That means there’s not only potential for performance improvements – especially on low-power devices – but increased battery life on mobile devices. Developers should benefit as well, because they can create applications once, that’ll run across every Windows-based device.
Native Win32 support, which is required to run legacy (i.e. non-UWP) applications, is not part of Polaris, however. Support for legacy applications will likely come through some sort of emulation layer, similar to what Microsoft has done for upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon-based Windows devices, but the final solution for handling Win32 support is still reportedly up in the air.