Since the release of Windows 10 in 2015, Microsoft has made it clear that it wants to move away from its earlier style of operating system versions to a new, more unique and unified approach. The Windows 10 desktop operating system has already been merged with Windows 10 Mobile and the Xbox Live infrastructure – and Polaris could be the next step in that trend.
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But what is Windows Polaris? While we don't know for sure yet, as Microsoft hasn't made any official announcements, the common mindset is that it is the PC component in Microsoft's future Windows strategy. The Windows Core operating system serves as the basis for all future Windows iterations. We had evidence that Andromeda OS will be the version used in mobile devices that can be used on an explicitly designed Surface phone. In the meantime, Polaris could be the one you run on your desktop or laptop.
Windows Core OS
The main element needed to make Windows Polaris a reality is the Windows Core operating system. It has been suggested by anonymous sources and reports for the last few months of 2017 and is the base operating system that Polaris and other iterations are likely to be built upon.
The idea behind Windows Core OS is to turn Microsoft's outdated Windows platform into something much more modular so that it can respond more quickly to market changes. If OEMs who are currently looking to build new devices had to go for pre-built versions of Windows that might contain features they don't need, Windows Core OS would do it so that new versions could be designed specifically for devices with little effort.
Windows Core OS would mean that each new form factor of a device could have its own Windows operating system with all, and most importantly, only the functions it needs. This, in turn, should speed up battery life and performance, and make the entire experience more understandable for the casual user. That way, they wouldn't be any different from the operating systems that have dominated mobile space in recent years.
Microsoft began to embrace this ideal back in 2015 when it unified its kernel and operating system kernel across all Windows devices. UWP apps delivered through the Microsoft Store are another component of this plan. With these elements, Windows CShell is the final piece of the Windows Core operating system puzzle according to WinowsCentral. This allows Microsoft and device manufacturers to revise the look and feel of the operating system for specific devices without having to create it from scratch.
It might even allow models to switch between user interfaces based on their particular use – a bit like Microsoft's pre-existing Continuum feature works.
Once these components of the Windows Core operating system are in place, Microsoft plans to release a variety of flavors of this baseline, each referred to as a separate "composer." One of them is said to be called Andromeda and was developed for mobile space, while Polaris is intended for traditional Windows PCs with various form factors.
Benefits of Polaris
While Windows Core OS is a form of Windows that more often mirrors the optimized mobile operating systems like Android and iOS, Microsoft hasn't forgotten about the desktop and laptop market. According to Windows Central, Polaris is Microsoft's attempt to strip away all of the older elements of the Windows experience in order to shed some fat and get far better.
By removing some of the older components that make the modern Windows operating system so compatible with yesterday's hardware and software, it should work faster, especially on lower-priced devices. Security is also improved, and we could see better battery life on portable devices as well.
Polaris is aimed more at casual users and may have been developed as the successor to Windows 10 S. Simplifying settings and back-end systems will likely simplify administration. A new UWP version of Windows File Explorer should make navigation easier for those who are new to decades of Windows usage. Likewise, the Settings app would replace a large part of the typical functions of the control panel and make access to certain backend functions more intuitive.
What will be lost?
However, an important component of this optimization is the removal of functions and features that were part of Windows for several versions. While this is great for casual users who didn't need advanced or legacy features anyway, for those more familiar with Windows, there may be some notable absences from Windows Core OS and Windows Polaris.
Traditional File Explorer and Control Panel might just be the tip of the iceberg. Certain apps like Microsoft Paint and Notepad can be lost along with fax support. There is even talk of removing the Win32 app functionality so anything that wasn't built with Microsoft UWP won't work.
While Microsoft is unlikely to remove this functionality entirely – the suggestion is that virtualization and cloud streaming could allow older apps to continue running on Polaris – Microsoft was keen to make users aware of the Microsoft Store do. There are obvious advantages to this type of ecosystem, and Android and iOS have been using their application marketplaces successfully for years, but this is probably not a "feature" of Polaris that appeals to everyone.
How do you get it
Polaris is currently unavailable, but rumors have spread that it is this project set to start with Windows 11. There is no specific information from Microsoft about the release of Windows Polaris or a launch date for Windows 11, although both updates are very excited.
When Polaris' long-awaited debut takes place, it will be a complementary option. Polaris does not appear in place of Windows 10 systems, but in conjunction with them. You will likely see Polaris sold for entry-level systems or marketed to consumers who want to add it as a customization. Additionally, Polaris manufacturers are targeting the education and corporate industries as the most likely target audience for this product.
Given where we are now with Windows 10 and the latest update to launch in August 2020, we can almost certainly say that there is no upgrade path for Windows 10.
This separation might please Windows users who want full control of a more traditional Windows operating system, but it would be interesting to see how this affects the recording. Windows 10 became widespread as users were able to update their Windows 7 with the new operating system. Polaris won't be replacing Windows 10 anytime soon, especially if a whole new device is required instead of a simple update.