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Windows Lite: Everything you need to know

You’ve heard of Windows RT. You may even be aware of an S Mode in Windows 10. But do you know anything about Windows Lite? There isn’t currently much to know, but the alleged next operating system from Microsoft is an intriguing one.

In a nutshell, the rumored OS might be Microsoft’s most lightweight Windows yet, designed to offer credible competition to Google’s Chrome OS and Chromebooks. It may even launch without the longstanding Windows branding and could power an incoming wave of dual-screen Windows devices.

Here’s everything we know about Windows Lite so far. However, before we go any further, please take note: The Windows Lite we are discussing is about a future form of the operating system from Microsoft. It is not the unsupported stripped-back version of Windows 10 (or 12) that can be found through some download sites. Digital Trends absolutely does not recommend installing unofficial operating systems or patches.

What is Windows Lite?

Windows Lite is alleged to be a lightweight version of Windows that will be both faster and leaner than previous versions. A little like Chrome OS, it will reportedly rely heavily on Progressive Web Apps, which operate as offline apps but run through an online service. In fact, Microsoft is leaning heavily toward PWAs in its new Chromium-based Edge browser.

However, Lite will also run UWP apps from the Microsoft Store, similar to how Chrome OS supports Android apps. Reports even suggest that Lite is designed for dual-screen devices — even the Surface Centarus, which has yet to make an appearance.

Building off of Microsoft’s developments with its Always Connected laptops, Windows Lite will reportedly turn on instantly, always stay connected, and work with any sort of CPU to provide a wide array of options for manufacturers and consumers. Considering Qualcomm CPUs have proven very capable at extending battery life beyond 20 hours in some laptops, we wouldn’t be surprised to see one powering Windows Lite laptops when they eventually arrive.

windows 10 october update

A reportedly big part of the new “Lite” OS is that it will not resemble Windows as we know it on PCs. A brand-new user interface that targets modern form and function over legacy support could give the platform a fresh look and feel.

A previous mockup from Petri’s Brad Sams shed some light on what Lite would look like, showing off a clean, modern interface, with the Start button moved to the center of the screen. A search box reminiscent of Chrome OS is also present in the mockup, listing suggested and pinned applications.

Finally, Windows Lite appears to be part of Microsoft’s Windows Core OS (WCOS) initiative. In simplistic terms, WCOS is a universal foundation that allows Microsoft to easily create any flavor of Windows. Lite used to be listed as part of the WCOS product lineup (aka Microsoft.Lite), but was either removed by June 2019 or merged into a new product called ModernPC along with Centaurus.

If Lite does eventually prove to be real and effective, it could, in theory, put a nail in the coffin of S Mode, but we’ll need to wait and see.

When will Windows Lite be available?

Microsoft hasn’t made any kind of official announcement about Windows Lite, with only Petri’s Brad Sams providing any semblance of know-how about it.

However, if hints of the new OS are indeed appearing in Windows Insider builds, the lean OS may be quite far along in development. Microsoft certainly has Windows 10 in S Mode and its long-rumored Core OS platform to draw from in its creation.

Rumors suggest that, like Chrome OS, Windows Lite will not be purchasable individually and will only come pre-installed on specific laptops targeting home and student users. It may not be made available to the enterprise sector.

For now, we have very little to go on about if or when Windows Lite will be available.

Will it be called Windows Lite?

At this time, the rumored operating system is simply known as “Lite.” That’s how it appears in the files within some Windows Insider builds, which haven’t been effectively scrubbed of their mentions.

Petri’s Sams believes that it may not even sport the Windows branding when released, ditching its ties to the decades-old platform. A separate report from Windows Central indicates that Windows Lite is known as “Santori” internally at Microsoft.

However, manufacturers aren’t able to promote and market their products without telling their potential customers about the underlying software. The OS has to be named something, and using the Windows brand will most likely sell many more products than some mysterious name that no one has ever come across before. 

Nevertheless, the blending of a fully updated user interface and a potential name switch may very well be appealing to a large selection of users who had previously abandoned Windows or seen it as overly featured or lacking in user-friendliness. 

Similar to how Chrome OS builds off of the familiarity and user awareness of the Chrome browser, Microsoft’s “Lite,” or whatever they decide to name it, might embark on the same journey: A browser-type structure with a simple, modernized interface and a substantial reliance on web-based applications. If you’re interested in finding out where Microsoft might be going with their Windows Lite innovation, look no further than the Chromium version of Edge.

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Jon Martindale
Jon Martindale is the Evergreen Coordinator for Computing, overseeing a team of writers addressing all the latest how to…
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