Microsoft Announces Modern OS

Posted on May 29, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Windows, Windows 10 with 104 Comments

Left to right: Microsoft CVP Nick Parker, CVP Roanne Sones, and VP Rodney Clark.

In an otherwise innocuous blog post about new PCs announce at Computex, Microsoft talked up the need for something it calls Modern OS. And it does not appear to be Windows 10.

“A modern operating system is required for these new, modern PCs and innovative devices that the ecosystem will continue to build and bring to market,” Microsoft’s Nick Parker writes after running down a list of new PCs from Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and MSI.

Of this Modern OS—and, yes, it’s both “Modern OS” and “a modern OS”—Parker says it:

Provides a set of enablers that deliver the foundational experiences customers expect from their devices. These enablers include “seamless updates where updates are invisibly done in the background; the update experience is deterministic, reliable, and instant with no interruptions.” So he clearly not talking about Windows 10.

Is secure by default. The state of this system, he says, “is separated from the operating system and compute is separated from applications. This protects the user from malicious attacks throughout the device lifecycle.”

Is always connected. The modern OS includes modern Wi-Fi and LTE 5G that just works. “Users never have to worry about dead spots,” he writes. “All of a user’s devices are aware and connected to each other.“

Provides sustained performance. “From the moment a user picks up their device, everything is ready to go, without having to worry about the next time the PC needs to be charged.” Sounds like he’s talking about a Qualcomm powered PC there.

Includes a set of delighters that deliver innovative human-centric experiences. These experiences are powered by AI, Parker says. “A modern OS is aware of what a user is doing tomorrow and helps them get it done, and it enhances applications making them more intelligent.

Is multi-sense. “People can use pen, voice, touch, even gaze – whatever input method a user wants to use works just as well as the keyboard and mouse.”

Provides the ultimate in form factor agility. “A modern OS has the right sensor support and posture awareness to enable the breadth of innovative form factors and applications that our partner ecosystem will deliver.”

Parker says that Microsoft is now “investing” in these “enablers and delighters” that underpin its vision for the Modern OS.

“They will provide the foundational elements for an evolution of the PC ecosystem and enable partners to deliver the more human-centric experiences of tomorrow,” he explains. “Microsoft [will also] deliver new modern experiences that take advantage of silicon advancements, powerful PCs, the cloud and power of AI. Experiences like an Asian Inking platform, cognitive recognition services that help with photo tagging and new Your Phone capabilities that let users mirror their Android phone screen on their PC and use the PC mouse and keyboard to interact with phone apps and content using either Wi-Fi or LTE.”

Tagged with

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (104)

104 responses to “Microsoft Announces Modern OS”

  1. thalter

    This sounds good. Allow me to read betweeen the lines and speculate:

    ”Seamless” and “invisible” updates sure sound a lot like apt or yum on Linux. Perhaps they are implementing something like live updates (which allows the kernel to be patched without rebooting) on the Windows kernel? Maybe they are even using Linux as the underlying core? Microsoft has been growing a lot of in-house Linux experience lately between Azure IoT and Windows Subsystem for Linux, so I wouldn’t rule this out.

    “System state separated from Operating System” seems to imply some sort of hypervisor, and ”Compute separated from applications” seems to imply some sort of application sandboxing or containerization, either via Docker or some other or proprietary solution. Again, these are very good things that we’ve been asking for for years.

    This sounds like a very promising development, and very similar to Chrome OS. Despite not being called Windows, I would guess that there will be at least limited support for Win32 applications, probably through some sort of add-on containerization solution, and probably just for store apps (no side loading of Win32 apps). As Windows RT and Windows 10 S demonstrated, completely cutting off Win32 is a step to far for many users.

    • zybch

      In reply to thalter:

      Moving away from Win32 will quite likely be a non event for most users now in the exact opposite way in which the Windows RT based Surface bombed (though I still use mine).

      Other than games, most users pretty much just hop into a browser and live there, and even the business world has begrudgingly moved to a mostly-cloud environment from document creation, financial and even once desktop-bound applications are increasingly available to use via some remote data center somewhere.

      Not all of course, and certainly hardly anyone that visits this site, but virtually anything I can think a 'normie' would do can accomplished in a browser. Hell, I even do 3D modelling on the cloud now with not a single local CPU cycle required.

  2. bart

    Sorry, does Mr. Parker work for Microsoft? ;)

  3. Jeremy Turnley

    They used the term "delighters" so obviously this was an announcement written by someone who has no idea what the product actually is. Terms like that are only used by mid level management and higher who lack any sort of useful knowledge in the field they are "managing".

  4. Ron Diaz

    Includes a set of delighters that deliver innovative human-centric experiences.

    what is this some kind of sexbot?

  5. curtisspendlove the Surface EdgeBook. :)

    Seriously, though... If Microsoft tossed Windows onto a Linux kernel, I’d have some decisions to make. Especially is Surface OS Pro supported a W32/W64 container level.

  6. glenn8878

    A modern OS is Android or iOS. Maybe they should fork Android or another Linux variation that's compatible on ARM. What else will it run on that power efficient and always on?

  7. jimchamplin

    Microsoft’s Mr. Parker reminds me of Pete Cetera of the band Chicago. Totally off topic I know.

  8. drbohner

    Why can't they just go back to using the OpenVMS kernel?

  9. MikeGalos

    After discussing rumors of a Modular Windows and Composable Shell and Always Connected PCs for literally years now, why is everyone acting like they're totally surprised to see all those items being discussed and have no idea that these things have been in development?

    No, Microsoft isn't replacing personal computers with a smart terminal like ChromeOS.

    No, Microsoft hasn't abandoned the only successful operating system architecture in 30 years to go to a stripped down version of the Multics 1960s mainframe/terminal OS like everybody else did who couldn't write an actual operating system.

    This is the company that wrote a modern personal computer operating system at a time when Apple, IBM and Motorola working separately and as a consortium failed at their attempts. Repeatedly.

    This is the company that has the only major technology think tank left in Microsoft Research.

    This is the company that has virtually all the world's systems level architects and programmers on staff.

    Did you really think they were all focusing on how to do "Dark Mode" as the landscape and ecosystem of computing devices changed radically?

    I mean, seriously, haven't any of you been listening to Satya dropping hints for the last five years? Haven't any of you been paying attention at all?

    • Jeremy Turnley

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      And yet this "announcement" consists of nothing. It's a long string of buzzwords that get thrown around in boardrooms and meetings with VPs that don't have any meaning to the people who are actually building the product, or the people who they think will want to use it. So despite all of those things you mentioned, they come off like people who don't know anything about their market or their customers, making a product that nobody will understand or want.

      Seriously, this gobbledygook buzzword bingo announcement did more damage to MS than good, and it's going to do nothing but generate bad press for whatever Modern OS ends up being.

      • MikeGalos

        In reply to illrigger:

        This wasn't an announcement. That will come later. I'd guess within a couple of months.

        I'd note that the two paragraphs today said a huge amount to the systems people at Computex. Additionally, Paul managed to put together a bullet list of architectural features. Those who can't translate it or understand Paul's translation probably should wait for the announcement itself when the details can be broken down by marketing into a list of features and benefits designed for non-technical end users.

        • curtisspendlove

          In reply to MikeGalos:

          Those who can't translate it or understand Paul's translation probably should wait for the announcement itself when the details can be broken down by marketing into a list of features and benefits designed for non-technical end users.

          I’m confused. You think this write-up was for technical people?

          In my two decades of software development I’ve never been asked to implement an “enabler“.

          In my half decade of software delivery I’ve never been asked to ship “delighters”.

          The parts of this that aren't architecturally sketchy (Bluetooth Low Energy is a generally more energy efficient way to connect devices together than WiFi or LTE) are fairly obvious (users expect devices to accept and adapt to accelerometer or form factor input).

        • skane2600

          In reply to MikeGalos:

          Nice variation on The Emperor's New Clothes. Obviously anyone who doesn't think Microsoft has clearly described a new OS must be non-technical.

          • MikeGalos

            In reply to skane2600:

            No. It's not a "clear description". It's a first teaser. As I said the announcement will be later. And Paul managed to read the 2 paragraph teaser and create a bullet list of features. If you can't that isn't because the information isn't there.

            • skane2600

              In reply to MikeGalos:

              I think you're making an artificial distinction between a description and a teaser (and of course, teaser is just your characterization anyway). Whatever you want to call it, much of it wasn't technically credible.

              “Users never have to worry about dead spots" Seriously? The OS is the only factor with respect to connectivity?

  10. mike2k

    Sounds like another failed MS product is coming

  11. rmlounsbury

    Maybe the "Year of the Linux Desktop" will still happen... Just from the most unlikely possible source imaginable.

  12. codymesh

    all I want is for windows to have seamless updates.

  13. arthemis

    The headline are misleading. Microsft hasnt "announced" anything about "modern os" other than more or less accidentially on one of their many blog sites.

  14. BlackForestHam

    There are so many mechanical and grammatical errors in that blog post, I wonder if Nick was sober when he wrote it.

  15. Greg Green

    Instead of talking about it, why haven’t they done it? They are an OS company after all.

    And Parker and I have different ideas of what a delightful OS would be. I don’t want the OS to be ‘delightful’, I want it to run programs that may or may not be delightful. A truly delightful OS would be a nearly invisible one. Especially one that didn’t try to help me be more socially engaged.

    When I think about it I find the refrigeration process in my refrigerator delightful because it almost never requires me to think about it. An OS should be similar.

    • skane2600

      In reply to Greg Green:

      The seamlessness of a basic refrigerator results entirely from it's singular and simple function. No meaningful OS could possibly be equivalently simple. The dominant factor in determining how complex a system is, is the depth and breadth of its capabilities. Simplicity and power are always trade-offs.

  16. CloneURpeople2

    In that case, I believe I'll wait for the Postmodern OS, which shall consciously absorb and appropriate all of the above qualities, but then regurgitate a constant stream of bitterly ironic re-imaginings of all of them, at once, so as to show us the folly and sham of our noble pretenses. Dysfunctionality will rule, as apps refuse to comply with our greedy requests, and what we used to believe were flaws and bugs will reveal themselves as intentionally contrarian code laughing at our feeble intentions and illusions of success.

    Jeff Koons may already be designing the flexible, rubbery, water and other stain resistant outer shell, expressly for our computing pleasure. RIP Doris Day, Que Sera, Sera, the Future's not ours to see.

  17. misterstuart

    How can they expect people to get excited over a bunch of buzzwords and little else? Moreover, the name, 'Modern OS' is ridiculously lame!

    This will almost certainly be a bust.

  18. unfalln

    Lipstick on the S Mode pig.

  19. sharpsone

    Bring it I'm game for some Modern OS... We could all use less Google in our lives this gives consumers another option.

  20. hrlngrv

    I can hardly wait for someone to doctor the Ballmer video replacing developers with delighters.

  21. dxtremebob

    I couldn't help but snicker when I read the word "delighters." Guess I watched too many episodes of "Beavis and Butthead" years back.

  22. darkgrayknight

    This does seem like Windows Phone, except in a HyperVisor. If they can make it run Android apps, PWAs, and Win32, then we have something truly viable

  23. Jhambi

    Seems too little too late once again. The target audience have already moved on to Android, IOS and Chromebook. Desktop gaming and productivity will probably stick with Windows for now. But the writing is on the wall. Even Intel has started investing heavily in Linux with Clear.

    • skane2600

      In reply to Jhambi:

      So the target audience is less than 1% of Windows users?

      • Greg Green

        In reply to skane2600:

        No. According to Statcounter Windows is 38% of total os marketshare and android and iOS combined are 50%.

        According to Netmarketshare desktop and laptop os marketshare combine at 40% and mobile is at 55%.

        Most people now use very little windows, and when they do it’s probably for work.

        • skane2600

          In reply to Greg Green:

          The poster said the target audience were those who had "moved on" from Windows. That means people who were using Windows but then stopped when they bought a iPhone or an Android phone. Note that simply quoting relative marketshares doesn't measure that target group.

          All of this is based on the popular but unproven assumption that smartphones are replacing desktop machines instead of just being purchased independently.

  24. datameister

    From their blog post:

    ...seamless updates – with a modern OS updates are invisibly done in the background; the update experience is deterministic, reliable, and instant with no interruptions!

    ...also secure by default, the state is separated from the operating system; compute is separated from applications; this protects the user from malicious attacks throughout the device lifecycle.

    ...sustained performance, from the moment a user picks up their device – everything is ready to go – without having to worry about the next time the PC needs to be charged. experiences that use the compute power of the cloud to enhance users experiences on their devices.

    ...multi-sense. People can use pen, voice, touch, even gaze – what ever input method a user wants to use works just as well as the keyboard and mouse. 

    They basically just described Chrome OS with some minor tweaks and then went on to say Microsoft's vision is to deliver all of that and more. If they can actually get background updates to work like Chrome OS where it alternates between separate partitions, without eating up half of a 128GB SSD, then I will actually be delighted.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to DataMeister:

      alternates between separate partitions, without eating up half of a 128GB SSD

      That's the big question. Part of how Chrome OS manages it is due to separate SMALL /boot partitions for the kernel, and somewhat larger rootfs partitions for /bin, /etc, /lib, /usr, etc. required to run the greeter (login UI) and Chrome browser. Apps are installed and stored per user in parts of user's home directories to which users have restricted access unless they switch to developer mode.

      Chrome OS rootfs partitions are 1GB. I'd be deliriously happy if MSFT could shrink the equivalent of C:\Windows into just 4GB. Would Modern OS need something like C:\Program Files and C:\ProgramData (roughly analagous to /opt and /usr/local)? Maybe a tangent, but Modern OS would seem to be much simpler to implement as a single-user OS (or designated user plus guest account).

  25. bbold

    "Enablers" and "Delighters" sound like catch phrases in a whorehouse. Microsoft needs to fire and re-hire a brand new marketing team, imho! MS should have used at least half of their time at Build to announce this.

  26. will

    Maybe the reason for having this announcement now is to put some noise out there before Apple has WWDC. It is vague enough that there is nothing Microsoft could point too, but it does give Microsoft some news cycles around a possible new OS.

  27. skane2600

    So much "pie in the sky". Why not just add "An OS that is guaranteed to have zero bugs and zero vulnerabilities"?

  28. skane2600

    "Provides a set of enablers that deliver the foundational experiences customers expect from their devices"

    Translation: I have no idea WTF this is.

  29. PeteB

    "enablers and delighters"

    Oh STFU

  30. geoslake

    Yeah, MOS sounds good !

    Hope it will run on the 6502, now that would be modern !

  31. Daekar

    So.... I would love to see this succeed, but I can't see any reason to believe that it will. Maybe if it runs apps from other OSes like Windows, Android, and Linux in containers.

    • skane2600

      In reply to Daekar:

      I don't know why people think that running Android apps or Linux on Windows will make much of a difference. Windows programs make up a functional superset of Android apps (with the exception of mobile-specific apps) while Linux is essentially non-existent among the majority of average users. Many people find Android on their smartphones to be adequate but what would they gain by running mobile apps on a non-mobile platform that they weren't designed for?

      I think once again, tech enthusiasts are projecting their own desires on typical users.

    • Passinttd

      In reply to Daekar:

      I agree that it would have to run other applications in containers but Microsoft has that technology. This is purely because people like use get hung up on these applications though. I know of quite a few people, some even in tech, that have switched to Chrome Books as their go to laptop for travel. Microsoft needs to address and compete with this, not Windows. They need something to keep them relevant in the light and fast world and not just the Windows world. Windows 10 is going to be for you. This future OS might not be and that is okay. It really may be time for Microsoft to have two separate operating systems out in the world with different focuses! Just my two cents of course.

      • Daekar

        In reply to Passinttd:

        So, the funny thing is that I think both Windows 10 and Modern OS are going to be for me. The way I use a PC, I could probably get away with using the web client version of Office a significant percentage of the time - in fact, I usually DO use the web client for and To Do, which are my most frequently-accessed person programs (aside from whatever game has my attention at the moment).

        I would miss a native OneDrive client, but could get by without one if necessary. The real reason I haven't embraced ChromeOS is Google, not any technical deficiency.

  32. spacein_vader

    Cometh the hour, cometh the penguin.

    With a TIFKAM overlay obviously.

  33. jwpear

    Interesting! How does this succeed where WP and Windows 10S failed? Is this purely for education at the start and trickles into mainstream as students enter post-school life and the workforce?

    Will it be on crap hardware, like many of the early Chromebooks, or will we see pleasing, premium materials, innovative design, and premium components (e.g. battery)?

    What will it cost to get this on decent hardware with super long battery life?

    Will Microsoft offer their own hardware with this OS?

    Will Microsoft improve the Office Web App experience to bring it inline with the desktop apps or will there be some other form of native apps on this thing? My feeling is that Google Docs and the like are still a bit ahead of Office Web Apps. It feels like this will be needed to get us "old" folks to buy in.

    My wife could absolutely get by with something like this, or a Chromebook, if it weren't for the d**n coupon printers (which I find to be crapware, but she insists she needs to occasionally print a coupon).

  34. Kevin Costa

    So that's the name of Windows Core OS?

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Kevin_Costa:

      I can't believe they'll really call anything Modern. The problem with this name, as a brand, is that it won't always be considered "modern."

      • zybch

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Thats been the whole point of moving from a version numbering name for MS Office, to a year related title for everything since Office 97. I think that was the first to use a year, 95's release was 'Office for Windows 95' so not technically a year-branded release.

        Heaven forbid you were still using Office 2003 when the 2007 version was out etc etc

        But to call any major piece of software 'modern' just sounds bad. Imagine if Android 2.3 and 2.4 (Gingerbread) had been called 'modern'...

  35. dcdevito

    Why wasn’t this announced at Build? Imagine if this was Linux based. Oh boy. Colored me intrigued and dare I say excited?!

  36. lefrinj

    "Remember. Genisys Is Skynet. When that OS comes online, Judgment Day begins..."


  37. Jeff.Bane

    Why does this sound like Windows RT?

    • nfeed2000t

      In reply to Jeff.Bane: Yes it sounds exactly like RT. A simpler and more secure OS has always been needed and RT was the start. The first implementation of RT was clunky, unattractive, and the hardware was very slow. MS decided to drop RT instead of aggressively improving it month after month. Years have been lost but I am hopeful.

      • skane2600

        In reply to nfeed2000t:

        The problem with RT wasn't that it was unattractive or that the hardware was slow. The problem was people weren't interested in a Windows device that couldn't run Windows programs. The failure of UWP and the relative success of the non-RT Surface devices make it very clear. Win32 compatibility is the key feature of Windows and any Windows-branded device that fails to support it or supports it badly will fail.

    • Tony Barrett

      In reply to Jeff.Bane:

      Because it basically is. They even called Windows 8 (RT) the 'modern desktop', and now we get a 'modern OS'. It's all PR bull. Yes, it's a windows kernel under the hood, and MS will once again try to jetison win32 and push UWP or maybe PWA. It will likely be centered around a browser based interface - which sounds uncannily like Microsoft's attempt at making a Chromebook, but it already has 'failure' written all over it.

  38. maethorechannen

    I'm wondering if this is actually a respin of ChromiumOS. It really wouldn't surprise me these days.

  39. brduffy

    Yeah definitely room for something like this. It sounds similar to Chrome OS and that is appealing to users who don't want to be bothered with trying to understand the underlying OS very much. I just bought a Chromebook for my mom, ASUS C434. It arrives Thursday. I think it just makes more sense for her. Her whole world is the browser. She wouldn't know how to save a file to the hard drive if her life depended on it. I think as long as Chrome OS and [Modern OS] focus on being simple for users they will have a place in the market.

  40. ben55124

    Everything we learned from WinRT plus modern, enabling and delightful! Free 12 pack of New Coke included with every device. Also see our exciting new lineup of SKU OS. /s

  41. Pierre Masse

    Can't they just announce the damned thing instead of playing with people's mind?

  42. navarac

    enablers and delighters?

    More jingoistic rubbish speak.

  43. ruusterc

    this is there version of chrome OS they cant call it edge os because that has a negative contation in its current form am if they were to base it off the chrome based version of edge it would just be chrome os

  44. red.radar

    seems big ... like it needs unpacked in a deeper dive

    is this a lot of MBA buzzwords to say ... windows phone 2 is coming ? Except it’s mOS ?

  45. reefer

    Sounds just like a derivate of Windows 10S or something.

  46. llewen

    I think what you are looking at is a Unix based OS, like iOS or Android. The question is, can MS pull this off without screwing the pooch, as they are prone to do. But on the face of it, it makes perfect sense, they would be building on a foundation that is already rock solid stable, supports more hardware than Windows 10, and already has well developed open source compatibility tools, tools that are, in many ways, superior to what Windows 10 offers.

Leave a Reply