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article imageMicrosoft planning new Windows 10 desktop called 'Andromeda'

By James Walker     Feb 7, 2017 in Technology
Microsoft is said to be working on a new Windows 10 desktop experience that will form part of its efforts to create a "composable shell." Detailed this week, the new desktop is meant to unify different device families, including PCs and smartphones.
In January, plans for CSHELL leaked online. CSHELL, short for Composable Shell, is rumoured to be a project that will create a single cohesive Windows shell. Rather than the separate desktop environment for PCs and Start screen for phones, every Windows device will run the same core interface. CSHELL will adapt to the device it's running on and seamlessly switch between different displays.
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A related Microsoft project has now come to light. Dubbed Andromeda, it's a new Windows desktop experience that will realise Microsoft's universal platform aims. Uncovered by MSPoweruser, Andromeda seeks to centralise Windows' UI and place it in a single location. This will improve the desktop on PCs and considerably enhance Continuum, the version of the Windows desktop presented by phones when connected to a monitor.
Andromeda components will include core elements of the Windows interface, such as the taskbar, Start menu, Action Center and notification designs. These will then be common to every Windows device, enabling elements to be used individually. The traditional desktop for PCs and the special Continuum one for phones will be built on the same infrastructure, enabling Continuum to more closely replicate full Windows 10.
Andromeda could facilitate Continuum's next evolution. Some of the features it will bring, such as true multi-window multitasking and a complete taskbar, have already been demonstrated by Microsoft. On a wider scale, it will make Continuum a more useful PC replacement though, bringing phones one step closer to powering a full Windows 10 experience.
Technically, that's already possible with Windows 10 on ARM, but CSHELL and Andromeda appear to be unrelated to this ongoing work. They’re part of a wider project aimed at increasing the platform's cohesion and allowing devices to seamlessly morph into different roles. With the interface able to adapt itself on-the-fly, any device could convert into another at a moment's notice.
Components of CSHELL referencing Andromeda were recently found in Windows' filesystem by well-regarded leaker Walking Cat. Andromeda appears to be a "composer" in the "composable shell," suggesting it's one of the interfaces CSHELL can load. Additional composers include "desktop," "phone" and Internet of Things.
Intriguingly, "Andromeda" is also a codename being used by Google. Google's project is almost identical in purpose to Microsoft's, either making the name choice an extreme coincidence or suggesting Microsoft has intentionally coped it. Google is pulling elements of Android and ChromeOS together into a single unified platform, set to be unveiled later in the year.
Microsoft is doing much the same with its Andromeda, centralising its disparate interfaces and form factors into "OneCore," a name it's been using for years. The company appears to be finally making progress towards fully achieving its aims though, a single version of Windows that can run on any device and pretend to be any other.
More about Microsoft, Windows, windows 10, cshell, microsoft andromeda