Microsoft’s Andromeda OS and the evolution of Windows Phone
Clues on the future of Windows Mobile
Microsoft’s plan to merge all separate versions of Windows into a unified OS was unveiled a year before the Windows 10 launch in 2015. Satya Nadella said during one of the Microsoft’s earning calls in 2014 that “We will streamline the next version of Windows from three separate operating systems into a single converged OS”. [source]
Details on how and when Microsoft is going to streamline Windows from three major operating systems (Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox) into a single OS for all screen sizes were lacking until recently. Microsoft still supports and updates the different editions separately, and despite all editions are based on a Universal Core, they are designed with different shells.
But in early 2017, we learned that the software giant aims to bring a new Composable Shell to all Windows versions. This new shell will include sub-components – separate modules providing tailored Windows experience depending on the form factor or the active screen.
With the codename ‘Andromeda OS‘, this evolution of Windows 10 will provide a similar experience on all form factors, but more importantly, will allow Microsoft to support and update all devices at once. Thanks to the new ‘Composable Shell’ for Windows 10, the OS will adapt to the device in real time. Importantly, the adaptive shell is expected to significantly boost phone’s Continuum feature, providing more advanced Desktop-like environment including resizable windows, taskbar and more. Some of the future improvements for Continuum have already been demonstrated during a conference in 2016.
Andromeda OS, the hybrid version of Windows 10 for all devices, will eventually displace Windows 10 Mobile in upcoming generations of mobile devices. But Microsoft is planning at least two major updates for the phones – Redstone 2 (Spring 2017) and Redstone 3 (Autumn 2017). These updates should further improve the phone features before OneCore OS (Andromeda OS).
According to our sources, Microsoft is planning four key steps for the transition from Mobile OS to OneCore OS. We are currently in stage 1 with traditional mobile devices running Mobile OS. Stage 2 will introduce OneCore OS and a phone composer for single screen devices (traditional smartphones). Stage 3 will introduce an Andromeda composer for non-traditional devices like 2-in-1s, while the 4th stage will not only mark the end of the long transformation, but also coincide with a secret dual screen device codenamed ‘Andromeda‘ which may be the long-rumored Surface Phone.
As you could expect, Andromeda OS will run on both ARM and PC processors. Microsoft already announced Windows 10 for smartphone-class processors. Future ARM devices will be able to run all UWA apps published in the Store, including modernized classic Windows apps (Win32) which are converted to UWP using Project Centennial. Thanks to an ARM32 WoW layer in the ARM64 build of Andromeda OS, the future ARM devices will be able to run all Windows Store apps, while thanks to the Composable Shell, future smartphones could be used like real Desktop PCs in Continuum mode with external display.
Microsoft should reveal more details about the future of Windows during the Build conference in May 2017.