Polaris could be the most important version of Windows in years. Here's why. Since the release of Windows 10 in 2015, Microsoft has made it clear that it wants to move away from its past style of operating system releases and towards a new, more singular and unified approach. It’s already brought together its desktop Windows 10 OS with Windows 10 Mobile, and Xbox Live infrastructure — and Polaris could be the next step in that trend. But what is Windows Polaris? Although we don’t know for sure just yet, as Microsoft hasn’t made any sort of official announcements, the general line of thinking is that it’s the PC component in Microsoft’s future Windows strategy. Windows Core OS will act as a base for all future Windows iterations. We’ve had hints that Andromeda OS will be the version used in mobile, which could be used on a future Surface phone. Meanwhile, Polaris could be the one you run on your desktop or laptop.
The Store-only version of Windows becomes an installation option instead. With the next big update to Windows 10, version 1803, Microsoft is making some big changes to how it sells the software to OEMs. The biggest casualty? Windows 10 S—the restricted version of Windows that can only run apps from the Store—is going away. Currently, Windows 10 S is a unique edition of Windows 10. It's based on Windows 10 Pro; Windows 10 Pro has various facilities that enable system administrators to restrict which software can be run, and Windows 10 S is essentially a preconfigured version of those facilities. In addition to locking out arbitrary downloaded programs, it also prevents the use of certain built-in Windows features such as the command-line, PowerShell, and Windows Subsystem for Linux. For those who can't abide by the constraints that S imposes, you can upgrade 10 S to the full 10 Pro. This upgrade is a one-shot deal: there's no way of re-enabling the S limitations after upgrading to Pro. It's also a paid upgrade: while Microsoft offered it as a free upgrade for a limited time for its Surface Laptop, the regular price is $49. When announcing Windows 10 S, Microsoft expressed the hope that other premium devices would ship with the version. This doesn't appear to have happened; aside from Surface Laptop, the other Windows 10 S devices are all low-end, aimed at education markets.
Microsoft’s long-rumored foldable Andromeda (also referred to as Surface Phone) is launching later this year but it appears that it won’t have Polaris (CShell) version 2 or support for Win32 applications initially. A new report also claims that Microsoft’s ultimate mobile device could launch as soon as this year, and it will be powered by Windows Core OS with Andromeda Shell. While Andromeda CShell is mobile-focused, Polaris is a CShell for the desktop that would run on top of the Windows Core OS to deliver the best experience on large screen size devices. Polaris is reportedly arriving next year, while Windows Core OS with Andromeda will be unveiled later this year. Microsoft is designing Windows Core OS for desktop without the legacy Windows elements and applications, in other words, the operating system will be limited to Microsoft Store, just like Windows 10 OS but in a much better way. Polaris will compete with Chromebook as the devices powered by Polaris Shell will be lightweight, secure and faster than the traditional Windows 10 laptops. While Polaris won’t support Win32 applications natively, Microsoft is exploring new ways to emulate the legacy applications to fill the app gap. Microsoft is also working on adding support for Polaris to the foldable mobile device, and this will make the foldable device, even more, advance, lightweight and faster without Win32 legacy codes.