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article imageReport: Microsoft building new 'modern' Windows 10 version

By James Walker     Jan 26, 2018 in Technology
Microsoft's building a new version of Windows 10 that will break away from the operating system's legacy roots. Intended for devices with conventional form factors, the "Polaris" project will revolve around Windows Store apps and a modular architecture.
Modular Windows
Microsoft's intentions to modularise Windows and throw away old internal components were first revealed last year. In a new report today, Windows Central published the first detailed information on the project. According to the site's sources, Microsoft is preparing to reinvent Windows 10 around a new platform called Windows Core OS.
The company's motivations aren't hard to find. Windows 10 still relies upon legacy system components that have been around for years. The internals of old desktop apps like the Control Panel and Win32 interface shell haven't changed in over a decade. Some components date back further, to the debut of the Windows NT kernel.
Windows Store
Windows Store
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Since Windows 10's launch, Microsoft has heavily promoted its new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) model. This is most visible to consumers in the form of apps downloaded from the Windows Store. Polaris will represent Windows' full transition towards this platform. The legacy Win32 components will be removed entirely, replaced with a new architecture that's more modern, scalable and maintainable.
This has significant implications for current Windows users. Existing devices won't be directly upgradable to Polaris because of the magnitude of the changes being made. Polaris also won't run traditional Windows desktop apps, which means most third-party PC games, web browsers and professional creative software will be off-limits. Polaris will reportedly include some way of running Win32 apps but it will be a virtualised solution.
Third time lucky?
If this kind of Windows model sounds familiar, it's because Microsoft has already tried something similar. Last year, the company launched Windows 10 S, a pared-back version of Windows 10 that only runs Universal Windows apps. Windows 10 S is different to Polaris because it still includes the legacy internal components. Only the app layer was transitioned entirely to UWP.
Windows 10 S has had little impact on the market. Ostensibly designed for consumers wanting a simpler, more secure experience, in practice most device vendors have opted to continue using the full Windows 10 distribution. This is for good reason – the back catalogue of Win32 desktop apps is so vast that most Windows users are reliant on their existing programs.
HP ProBook x360 11 Education Edition
HP ProBook x360 11 Education Edition
HP / Microsoft
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It remains to be seen how Microsoft will solve this problem in Polaris. This is the third time it's tried to move people away from the pure Win32 desktop, with the first attempt being Windows RT and the second Windows 10 S. On both previous occasions, the company failed to succeed in moving away from the legacy components that have made Windows into the platform it is today.
It's also struggled to convince developers and consumers alike that the Windows Store is a viable alternative to Win32, a challenge that will continue to restrict Polaris until it is resolved. Polaris will reportedly launch in 2019, commencing Microsoft's third effort to wean Windows users away from an app ecosystem established over decades.
More about Microsoft, Windows, windows 10, windows polaris, universal windows platform
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