Windows, to a certain extent, is still the world’s most-used operating system and, because of that, it is a sordid mess. Microsoft has repeatedly tried to create a “lite” version of Windows, from Windows RT to Windows 10 S, only to backtrack and eventually erase those from history. It hasn’t stopped trying, though, and it might soon come out with its next stab at the problem. Currently dubbed “Lite OS”, this stripped down version of Windows 10 is what Microsoft hopes will stop Chrome OS from encroaching on its turf.
It’s a familiar idea but, each time, the implementation has been different. Windows RT was severely limited by the software available for the ARM architecture at the time while Windows 10 S put seemingly arbitrary limits to what users could install. Windows Lite OS sounds like a combination of both, limited to running Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and Progressive Web Apps (PWA) software from the Microsoft Store and intended to run on low-end devices, both ARM and x86.
Petri, however, makes it clear that this isn’t a separate and new version of Windows 10, though the exact differences are still unclear. In addition to limiting software, Lite OS will supposedly also feature a simpler user interface, not unlike what Chrome OS has. It won’t repeat the same mistakes as Windows RT and Windows 8 made, however. For example, it will have a File Manager installed.
By again limiting users to UWPs and PWAs, Microsoft does risk repeating history. Lite OS would, in effect, take away the singular advantage Windows has over Chrome OS and iOS, availability of thousands of familiar software. If they can’t have those, why both with all the Windows bloat?
That said, PWAs, more than UWPs, are fast gaining traction and could very well cover the basics of what users need every day. In addition, Lite OS and the devices it will run on will mostly be used in limited and restricted scenarios anyway, where Photoshop may not make much sense compared to, say Facebook. Microsoft, however, seems to still consider ways to scale up Lite OS for “heavier” users, though at that point we’re back to the whole Windows 10 S situation all over again.