Microsoft has created a stripped-down version of the Windows core, called MinWin, that will be at the heart of future Windows products, starting with Windows 7, the Windows client release due in 2010.
While the Windows team has been working for years on reducing the dependencies in Windows which have made the operating system increasingly bloated and difficult to maintain and upgrade, it's only been recently that the team has been able to create a separate, usuable new core.
Going forward, MinWin will be at the heart of future versions of Windows Media Center, Windows Server, embedded Windows products and more.
Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Eric Traut described some of the work the Microsoft Core OS team has done to build the MinWin core during a recent talk he gave at the University of Illinois. The full video of Traut's talk is here. Blogger Long Zheng clipped out the piece of Traut's talk which highlighted how the MinWin core will work in Windows 7 and posted it to his site.
MinWin is internal-only and "won't be productized but it will be the basis for future products," Traut said. But "it's proof there is a really nice little core inside Windows."
MinWin is 25 MB on disk; Vista is 4 GB, Traut said. (The slimmed-down Windows Server 2008 core is still 1.5 GB in size.) The MinWin kernel does not include a graphics subsystem in its current build, but does incorporate a "very simple HTTP server," Traut said. The MinWin core is 100 files total, while all of Windows is 5,000 files in size.
Traut said he is running a team of 200 Windows engineers working on the core kernel and Windows virtual technologies.
Traut acknowledged tat the Windows kernel is between twelve and fifteen years old right now. He said that Microsoft is operating under the premise that "at some point, we'll have to replace it (the kernel)," given that it "doesn't have an unlimited life span.
Traut did not mention Singularity -- Microsoft Research's built-from-scratch microkernel-based operating system -- during his talk.
Instead, Traut spent most of his time describing Microsoft's thinking around virtualization, and how virtualization can be used to ease backwards compatibility and other problems Windows users incur. He did not speak specifically about how Microsoft plans to incorporate virtualization in Windows 7, but did stress that virtualization should not be viewed as a crutch, in terms of improving existing code. He said Microsoft considers application virtualization, like that it provides via SofGrid, presentation virtualization (Windows Terminal Services and "enhancements to core Windows functionality" are all other ways that the company can improve users' Windows experience.