Report: Thousands of references to MinWin are in Windows 8 (and why that may matter)

According to a new report, there are as many as 6,000 references to MinWin in an internal Windows 8 client build. This may provide more clues and validation of Microsoft's virtualization plans for the coming operating system release.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

As the clock ticks down toward the Microsoft Build conference, discoveries about what's inside Windows 8 are continuing to trickle out. The latest -- from ITworld's Sandro Villinger -- has to do with MinWin.

Villinger found that there are between 5,000 and 6,000 references to MinWin in a Milestone 2 build of Windows 8 that he examined. He speculated in an August 3 article that MinWin may figure prominently in Microsoft's virtualization plans with Windows 8.

MinWin, for those needing a refresher, the "guts" of Windows (the kernel, hardware abstraction layer, TCP/IP, file systems, drivers and other core system services). Microsoft included an implementation of MinWin as part of Windows 7, officials acknowledged. But it sounds like MinWin will be more prominent in Windows 8.

MinWin will allow Microsoft to decouple many subsystems from the core of Windows,  including Internet Explorer. The underlying core that will be left will be the NT kernel. And that's where Hyper-V may come into play, Villinger explained. It looks as if Hyper-V 3.0 could be baked into at least some Windows 8 client SKUs. The client-side Hyper-V hypervisor potentially could end up replacing XP Mode in Windows 7 and provide users with a way to run legacy apps on a much smaller and more secure virtualized Windows instance (MinWin), Villinger wrote.

Back in 2009, a Microsoft France Technical and Security director outlined just this scenario for Windows 8. From a Q&A with Microsoft's Bernard Ourghanlian:

"The goal with MinWin, when it comes with Windows 8 if everything goes well, it is to completely disconnect these features that is to ensure that potentially they are not present at all. At this time, this will allow to have, for the desktop, the equivalent of a Windows Server Core… in the case of Hyper-V V3 on the workstation is the smallest possible, both in terms of potential attack surface in terms of memory footprint and rack space disk."

Just a reminder: Microsoft officials have still said nothing about plans for Hyper-V in the Windows 8 client, MinWin in Windows 8 or details about how legacy apps will run in Windows 8. All is supposed to be revealed at the upcoming Build conference. Build is now sold out, but Microsoft officials have said that the Build keynotes will be streamed in real-time, and sessions will be made available for viewing a day after they happen. Build is scheduled for September 13 to 16 in Anaheim, Calif.

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