What is Windows Core OS?

Windows Core OS (or WCOS for short) is a new, stripped-down version of Windows that can be adapted to run on a wide variety of devices with minimal work compared to the old way of doing things. Oddly, there hasn’t yet been an official announcement about it from Microsoft – even now that the company has released a Windows 10X emulator for app developers.

The likely reason for this decision is that no-one really needs to know about WCOS. It’s an internal name for a software component that is only one part of any branded Windows product. Important? Yes. Interesting to the end user? Not so much.

In short, Windows can now be fully modular and adapted as needed for the device in question. So, while the Core OS is always present, for a screen-less Internet-of-Things device (such as a smart speaker or security camera) no user interface is required.

But for a device such as the forthcoming Surface Neo, a pretty complex interface is needed. This is where things get a bit confusing. You may already know about the Neo and that it will be one of the first next-generation PCs to run Windows 10X.

That’s the brand name Microsoft is using for the new operating system that’s designed to run on dual-screen foldable devices. What it isn’t is an updated version of Windows 10.

In the past, Microsoft had to work hard to adapt Windows 10 to run on different devices. For example, it had to recreate desktop features such as Action Centre and Live Tiles for mobile devices. What you see may look the same (or very similar), but underneath it is not.

So, while Microsoft could have adapted Windows 10 so it worked on the Surface Neo, it instead took a new route of starting with Windows Core OS and bolted on the required features, such as the new ‘containerised’ support for old, so-called Win32 apps.

The name might sound similar, but Windows 10X is actually very different to Windows 10.

Windows Core OS, then, is basically the underpinnings of modern Windows, which is now a modular system.

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