Microsoft has been trying to modernize its Windows operating system for years. Its most recent attempt at this was with Windows Core OS, an effort that aimed to deliver a modular, UWP-first OS that stripped the platform of legacy features and app compatibility in favor of being lightweight, quicker to install updates, and much more secure.
Unfortunately, Microsoft was never able to ship a version of Windows Core OS for traditional PC form factors, though it certainly tried. Windows 10X was Microsoft’s last attempt at this, but the project was canceled in 2021 after months of internal testing and years of development on Windows Core OS itself.
Since then, work on a version of Windows Core OS for traditional computers has stopped, and as notified by Windows Central there are no further plans to release it. However, the company has not stopped trying to modernize the Windows platform to help it compete with more modern operating systems.
According to sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans, the company is once again working hard on a new project designed to modernize the Windows platform with many of the same innovations it worked on for Windows Core OS, but with an emphasis on native compatibility for legacy Win32 programs. on devices where it makes sense.
The project is codenamed CorePC and is designed as a modular and customizable version of Windows for Microsoft that allows the use of different form factors. Not all Windows computers need full support for legacy Win32 applications, and CorePC will allow Microsoft to configure “editions” of Windows with varying levels of functionality and application compatibility.
The big change with CorePC versus the current shipping version of Windows is that CorePC is state separated, just like Windows Core OS. State separation enables faster updates and a more secure platform via read-only partitions that are inaccessible to the user and third-party apps, just like on iPadOS or Android.
The current version of Windows is not a state separated platform, meaning the entire system is installed into a single writable partition. System files, user data, and program files are all stored in the same place. CorePC splits up the OS into multiple partitions, which is a key factor to enabling faster OS updates.
Microsoft is essentially approaching the Windows vision from a different angle. While Core OS was an attempt to “rebuild” Windows from the ground up as a modern, configurable operating system without legacy compatibility issues, CorePC starts with a full Windows desktop and works backwards to break it down into a modular, configurable system while keeping built-in support for legacy applications and workflows where needed.
Sources say the CorePC will allow Microsoft to finally release a version of Windows that can truly compete with Chromebooks in terms of space, performance and capabilities. A version of Windows that runs only Edge, web apps, Android software (via Project Latte), and Office apps for budget education PCs is already undergoing early internal testing, and is about 60-75% smaller than Windows 11 SE.
Microsoft is also working on a CorePC version that will match the current feature set and capabilities of desktop Windows, but with support for state separation for faster OS updates and improved security. The company is working on a compatibility layer, codenamed Neon, for legacy apps that also need a shared state OS to run.
Sources also report that Microsoft is experimenting with a version of CorePC, in which developers have focused on reducing support for legacy applications, but adding artificial intelligence capabilities and vertical optimization of hardware and software, similar to how it is implemented in Apple Silicon. It’s no surprise that AI capabilities are a key focus for Windows in 2024.
Some of the AI features being developed include the ability for Windows to analyze the content on the screen and provide contextual prompts to launch projects or programs based on the information currently being viewed. Windows will also be able to identify objects and text in images and allow the user to easily cut and paste these elements elsewhere. Some AI functions require special equipment to operate.
Of course, these plans, features, and configurations may change by the time Microsoft is ready to start shipping CorePC devices. The time when the operating system will be ready has not been determined, although Microsoft aims to have it ready for the release of the next version of Windows in 2024, codenamed Hudson Valley.