When Microsoft releases the next update for its Windows 10 operating system, it might also roll out a more lightweight version of the OS designed to work only with apps from the Windows Store.
Several recent code leaks indicate that Microsoft is working on a version of its operating system called "Windows Cloud" that would run only Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps. If so, the OS could be Microsoft's answer to Google's Chrome OS, which competes with Windows and powers the comparatively inexpensive Chromebooks.
Twitter user Lakshmi "Tito" Ullu first called attention to the existence of Windows Cloud in a Jan. 27 tweet showing a screenshot of code from a Windows 10 preview build released earlier that day. Since then, more details about the new OS have emerged on the IT site Petri, the Windows Blog Italia site and on the Web site of tech writer Paul Thurrott.
Not Really Cloud-Related
Windows Blog Italia writer Massimiliano Cristarella said in blog post Thursday that he had gotten hold of a preview version of Windows Cloud.
"The name does not really have to do with the cloud, but refers to a lighter version of the operating system," Cristarella said, according to a Google translation of his original post in Italian. "Among the strengths of Windows 10 Cloud is the guarantee of better security, leaving the user the ability to install only applications downloaded from the Windows Store."
Brad Sams, a writer for Petri and Thurrott.com, has also been able to take a leaked version of Windows Cloud for a test run, according to an article he wrote Friday.
"To little surprise, the OS looks identical to Windows 10," Sams said. "In nearly every way, it looks, feels, and operates like Windows 10 that you are using today but with the limitation that it can only run UWP apps."
Designed To Take on Google's Chromebooks?
Why would Microsoft build such a lighter-weight version of its operating system? As several observers have noted, Windows Cloud -- if it proves to be real -- could be Microsoft's way of launching a shot across the bow of Google's Chrome OS, which competes with Windows and powers Chromebooks.
Designed to run only Google-approved apps, the advantages of Chromebooks are that they start up quickly and offer greater security than devices that can run a wider range of software from sometimes dubious sources.
ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley compared Windows Cloud to a couple of Microsoft's previous operating systems: Windows RT and Windows 8.1 with Bing SKU. Each of those versions of Windows powered a limited set of devices. And in the case of Windows RT, users were also limited to RT apps from the Windows Store.
"Windows 10 Cloud is a simplifed version of Windows 10 that will be able to run only Unified Windows Platform (UWP) apps installed from the Windows Store, my contacts say," Foley noted on Jan. 30. "Windows 10 Cloud is meant to help Microsoft in its ongoing campaign to attempt to thwart Chromebooks with a simpler, safer, cheaper version of Windows 10, my contacts say, though Microsoft is unlikely to position it that way (publicly)."
Noting that Microsoft's official response has been, "We have nothing to share," Foley speculated that Windows Cloud could make a public appearance when Microsoft releases its Windows 10 Creators Update sometime this spring.