Hidden within some Windows Insider Preview builds have been references to something new called “Windows Lite”. While program code – and sometimes operating system code – can refer to things that will never come to pass, pundits are wondering whether Microsoft is about to branch out into mobile again with Lite.
Back when Windows 10 launched, Microsoft stated that it was targeting a billion devices to run its newest operating system by the middle of last year.
It missed the mark by some margin, and one could say that it was because Windows never regained any significant market share on the smartphone market. It killed Windows 10 Mobile quietly due to worse than lacklustre uptake and a lack of app support from third parties.
It’s not the first time Microsoft has been unsuccessful in the mobile sphere. When Windows 8 launched with the original Surface, there was Windows RT, an attempted tablet only version. That went as well as expected.
But mobile computing isn’t going away. And there is an expanding choice of devices, tablets, two-in-ones, desktops and of course, smartphones for those on the go. Microsoft wants its software on your device. If Windows Lite is what some pundits expect, then it will be a closer competitor to Chrome OS and iOS for iPads.
Some will no doubt point out Windows 10 S exists. But all Windows 10 S does is restrict users to running curated apps from the App Store. Indeed, you can pay Microsoft to unlock that restriction. After that it’s just like any other version of desktop focused Windows 10. What Microsoft needs is a truly light, compact operating system for use in ultra low powered devices. That’s where Windows Lite would come in.
If as expected Windows Lite launches in 2019, along with either of the two planned updates, then it could be on a radically different interface compared to Windows 10. It might even resemble the failed Windows RT experiment, which was optimised for tablets and web experiences.
One big advantage that might make such an operating system successful is the shared base code and Universal Windows Apps on the store that are adaptable to desktop, smartphone and tablet devices. It might even be a signal that the original Windows on ARM push wasn’t working because it needed more computing grunt than anticipated.
What features Microsoft will push on Windows Lite is unclear. If it does emphasise mobility and web experiences, then expect devices with ARM or Intel Atom processors, low local storage and a push for Onedrive and Office web app integration. Can Microsoft make this latest push into ultra-mobile computing work? Stay tuned.