Microsoft is reportedly working on a web-focused version of its upcoming Windows release, potentially named Windows 12, that bears similarities to Chrome OS. This cloud-powered edition of Windows is being positioned as Microsoft’s response to Chrome OS, with a particular emphasis on catering to specific markets, including the educational sector. However, it should be noted that this version will not replace the traditional desktop experience provided by Win32. Microsoft has previously made efforts to modernize and develop a lightweight version of Windows, such as Windows 10X, but these attempts have yet to result in a commercial release.
Multiple sources close to Microsoft and its industry partners have confirmed that the tech giant is actively working on a Chrome OS-like web-focused variant of its future Windows release, colloquially referred to as Windows 12. According to insiders familiar with the project, this next-generation Windows has the potential to rival Chrome OS. The cloud-powered Windows 12 is not intended to replace the conventional desktop experience provided by Win32. Instead, it will serve as a new variant specifically tailored to target certain markets. Microsoft’s goal is to create a more modern, modular, and lightweight version of Windows suitable for low-end educational devices, thereby capturing a share of the educational technology landscape. The web will be one of several variations of the next-generation Windows.
Microsoft has internally confirmed that it is forming a new team called “Windows and Web Experience” to develop the future iterations of Windows and web products. A job listing has also revealed the company’s plans to “define and deliver the next generation of Windows experiences and applications that span across Client and Cloud”. Furthermore, a chipmaker’s job listing, which has since been removed, offered further confirmation of the existence of the “next generation of Windows” with notable graphics improvements linked to the Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) drivers. The exact nature of these significant graphics enhancements remains unknown, but it has been confirmed that this “next generation of Windows” will arrive in 2024.
Regarding design, Windows 12 is expected to introduce a floating taskbar. According to Zac Bowden from Windows Central, the “upcoming version of Windows will focus on AI experiences”. It has been learned that Microsoft Edge and AI will be central to the web-first variant of Windows 12. Given Microsoft’s emphasis on AI, it is unsurprising to see significant integration of Edge and AI within the web-first edition of Windows. For example, a job listing on Microsoft’s careers portal revealed the company’s plans to transform Microsoft Edge into the most intelligent web browser by exploring State-of-the-Art (SOTA) machine learning models to understand web content and user behaviors. This initiative is expected to have a profound impact on the development of Windows 12.
During the recent Build 2023 developer conference, Microsoft announced numerous updates for Windows 11, including notable features such as Windows Copilot and enhanced AI integration. In one of the keynotes, Microsoft hinted at the “next generation of Windows”, providing further evidence of a significant upgrade planned for 2024. Windows 12 was also referenced during a developer session at Build 2023.
In recent years, Microsoft has made efforts to modernize Windows and decouple its component layers in order to create a more lightweight version of the operating system. Windows 10X is an example of such an undertaking, with the initial intention of directly competing with Chrome OS. However, this experimental operating system failed to materialize into a commercial product. With the development of a web-focused Windows 12, Microsoft is determined to establish itself in the educational sector, which is currently dominated by Chrome OS. While previous endeavors like Windows 10X did not see a commercial release, there is renewed optimism that the next generation of Windows will bring innovation and disrupt the market.