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Microsoft ‘Andromeda OS’ aims to turn Windows 10 into a modular platform for the future

Posted: September 21, 2017 at 7:58 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Microsoft is taking the next steps in its “One Windows” vision with an internal project called “Andromeda OS” that turns Windows 10 into a fully modular platform and lays foundations for the future of Windows.

Windows is now over 30 years old, which is beyond ancient in technology years. As a result of this, Windows itself is encumbered by features, functions, and components that some devices today may no longer need. In an industry where new device types are being introduced all the time, Windows itself is too old and heavy to be able to adapt to those new devices (an example of which are smartwatches) quickly enough. As it turns out, Microsoft is aware of this and is working on something internally that looks to solve this problem.

Over the last several months, I’ve been talking to multiple sources about something internally referred to as “Andromeda OS.” According to these sources, Andromeda OS is the future backbone of Windows and is a monumental step forward in making Windows 10 a truly universal OS. In short, Andromeda OS is a common denominator for Windows that works cross-platform, on any device type or architecture, that can be enhanced with modular extensions that gives devices features and experiences where necessary.

In layman’s terms, its ultimate goal is to make Windows 10 much more flexible, allowing it to be installed on a wider variety of devices without being based on specific, pre-existing product variants. As a result of this, Windows itself can become smaller depending on the device, the OS itself can be built faster, and devices won’t be encumbered by components and features they don’t actually need; speeding up overall performance in the process on smaller or less capable devices.

As it currently stands, OneCore and the Universal Windows Platform are the only true universal elements of Windows 10. Everything else is specific to the many variants of Windows. For example, Win32 components are specific to Windows on the desktop and aren’t found on Windows Mobile. With Andromeda OS, Microsoft wants to remove these specific product variants, and turn Windows 10 into a fully modular platform by componentizing the OS.

As a result of this full modularity, individual Windows 10 product variants such as Windows 10 Mobile or Windows 10 on Xbox become redundant. Andromeda OS allows Windows 10 to be configured and built for a specific device without it having to be its own variant. It gives Microsoft and hardware makers the flexibility of building versions of Windows 10 with different features and functions, quickly and efficiently.


What does this mean for me?

Windows 10 as it is today has a few different variants of itself. It’s not one OS that’s shared across devices. Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 desktop are two different variants of Windows 10, for example. Now, these different variants do share universal elements, such as OneCore and the Universal Windows Platform, but the OSs themselves aren’t the same. Andromeda OS removes these different variants and gives us a universal base that can be built upon. If you want Windows on a phone, instead of using Windows 10 Mobile, you would simply use “Windows 10” with components that make sense for a phone device. It’s the next steps in Microsoft’s modularity of Windows, which has been ongoing for years at this point.

In fact, it’s very similar to how Windows 10 Mobile itself is handled today. Windows 10 Mobile is provided in separate packages to OEM’s, which gives said hardware makers the flexibility to pick and choose which OS features and functions (such as Continuum) are bundled onto a device. It’s the same idea here with Andromeda OS, except it’s applied to all of Windows 10 instead.

Right now, if an OEM wants to make a device running Windows, it has to choose from a number of pre-defined variants of Windows 10 that Microsoft has already built. That includes things like Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 S, Windows 10 Mobile, Windows Server, Windows 10 IoT, and many more. This can sometimes be a very limiting factor for OEMs. Andromeda OS makes it so hardware makers aren’t limited to pre-defined variants, and can pick and choose features and functions from each for their devices instead.

Andromeda OS opens the door to many new configurations of Windows that previously weren’t possible. Of course, Windows 10 desktop SKUs such as Pro and Enterprise will continue to exist, with all the same functionality and features you’d expect from a desktop OS. Microsoft won’t be taking functionality away, and it won’t be     de-emphasizing desktop with Andromeda OS.

Windows Central understands that the initial introduction of Andromeda OS will be mobile-focused, and is internally pegged to be ready sometime in 2018. A theoretical Surface phone running Windows 10 built with Andromeda OS wouldn’t be running Windows 10 Mobile or Windows 10 desktop, it would be running “Windows 10” with whatever components Microsoft deems fit. That may include Win32 components, or it may not. It will depend on the kind of device Microsoft, or hardware makers, are planning to build.

The work Microsoft is doing to Windows 10 with Andromeda OS will help move Windows into the twenty-first century, where devices of all shapes, sizes and power capabilities are being introduced all the time. Windows today can’t run on everything because it’s just too big and heavy. Even the smallest variants of Windows 10 today can be too much for some device types, such as smartwatches. Andromeda OS will change this.

As mentioned above, we’re hearing the first iteration of Andromeda OS will be for mobile-type devices such as phones, tablets, and wearables, with Andromeda OS for desktop and Xbox devices coming later. Andromeda OS, along with work Microsoft is doing with CShell, is a huge leap forward for Microsoft’s “One Windows” vision. OneCore and the Universal Windows Platform were the first Windows 10 elements to be universal, and now Microsoft is taking the next steps in that vision with Andromeda OS and CShell.


The future of Windows

Andromeda OS and CShell are laying the foundation for Windows into the next decade and beyond. Andromeda OS will help kick-start Windows on modern, mobile devices, along with modernizing Windows itself for new device types that may show up over the next several years. Microsoft needs a flexible, configurable and nimble OS and Windows today isn’t that. Andromeda OS will make it that, and that’s incredibly exciting.

We already know Microsoft is prototyping new mobile hardware internally, which is often referred to as simply “Andromeda” on the web. Could Microsoft be planning to release a mobile device next year, powered by Windows 10 with Andromeda OS that showcases to hardware makers and the rest of the world what can be done? We’re yet to find out. Regardless of who makes new mobile devices running Windows, whether they be phones, tablets, wearables or something else entirely, Andromeda OS will give them a stage to do it.

It is important to stress that Andromeda OS isn’t a consumer-facing feature, and won’t be something Microsoft is planning to market openly. It’s an internal platform that makes Windows far more flexible, allowing Microsoft and hardware makers to build versions of Windows 10 that previously weren’t viable. As always, Microsoft may decide to pull the plug or delay its Andromeda OS efforts at any time, too, so keep that in mind.



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