Windows Lite news and likely features

Windows Lite
Image credit: TechRadar

Windows Lite, a lightweight version of Microsoft's operating system that's designed to run on low-powered devices, has been in the works for a while now.

Back in 2018, Microsoft was working on a lightweight version of Windows codenamed Polaris, intended to be optimised for tablets and 2-in-1s as well as desktop and laptops.

According to Brad Sams, a journalist known for breaking news on Microsoft, the computing giant has left a considerable amount of clues in its insider builds of Windows 10 about the lighter version of the OS.

But, why would Microsoft build Windows Lite? What does the company want with  a low-powered and pared-back version of Windows 10?

Well, for a start Google, arguably Microsoft's biggest competitor, has been very successful with its lightweight Chrome OS operating system, which runs on low-powered Chromebooks. These devices have small hard drives and the lower-powered components mean they are cheaper, while also benefiting from long battery lives.

Chromebooks would struggle to run Windows 10, but Chrome OS has been designed to run perfectly well on less demanding hardware. Chromebooks have seen particular success in classrooms, as they are the perfect laptop for students.

It's clear that Microsoft would like a slice of this market, hence its creation of Windows Lite, in a bid to have a version of Windows that can run on cheap Chromebook-like devices.

So, here's all the news and information we know so far about Windows Lite, including confirmed features and release date.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? A lightweight version of Windows
  • When is it out? Hopefully late 2019
  • What does it cost? Free

Windows Lite release date

We don't have an official release date for Windows Lite just yet. While many people had hoped to get a glimpse of Windows Lite at Microsoft’s Build 2019 event, which takes place from May 6 to May 8 in Seattle, Washington, it appears that the operating system won't make an appearance after all

A recent tweet by Tom Warren of The Verge suggests that Windows Lite won't be at the event, but that it might make an appearance later on this year.

So, we could be in for a late 2019 release date for Windows Lite. Of course, that could also change, depending on how far along development for the new operating system is.

Microsoft has previous form with delaying the release of its operating systems, so if any issues emerge, it might mean we won't see Windows Lite until 2020

Windows Lite

Windows Lite won't be at Build 2019 (Image credit: TechRadar)

Windows Lite name

At the moment, many people are referring to the new operating system as Windows Lite, but that might not be the final name.

Brad Sams has used the clues he's found,  in conjunction with insider knowledge, make some educated guesses about what he believes is currently called “Lite”.

This means it might not even include the "Windows" branding.

In the past, the operating system has been referred to as Polaris and Santorini.

Windows Lite price

Again, news about a price for Windows Lite is thin on the ground. It's likely that Windows Lite won't be sold separately, but will instead come already installed on devices.

Windows Lite news and rumors

Here's everything we know so far about Windows Lite.

Windows Lite won't be challenging ChromeOS any time soon

Recently we heard the news that Windows Lite won't be making an appearance any time soon.

So, while we won't see it at Build 2019, we should hopefully see it later this year.

Microsoft preparing "Windows Lite" for dual-screen devices

Another rumor suggests that Microsoft will be overhauling the Windows Lite interface so that it works on dual-screen devices.

These dual-screen gadgets are reportedly in development by various hardware manufacturers.

While dual-screen devices will likely be the first to ship with Windows Lite, a stripped-down version of Windows would also be a great fit for laptops aiming to unseat Chrome OS in the education market. 

Microsoft’s Lite OS could be seriously stripped-down to run on almost any device

In February we got a hint at what kind of device Lite OS will run on. Again, the info comes from Brad Sams, and it suggests that Microsoft is working on Lite for two different types of devices known as Centaurus and Pegasus. 

Centaurus has been spotted before – it’s the dual-screen 2-in-1 device Microsoft is reportedly working on. Pegasus, on the other hand, simply refers to other different styles of laptops which will run the OS at the lower-end of the market. 

Windows Lite

Windows Live won't have Live Tiles (Image Credit: TechRadar)

Windows Lite could have a redesigned Start Menu with no Live Tiles

We've also heard how Windows Lite could be getting a radically redesigned Start Menu that drops the Live Tiles features for a more minimalist look. 

As Microsoft is keen to make Windows Lite as light as possible, it does make sense to drop Live Tiles. They were designed to provide tablet-like buttons for touchscreen devices that gave contextual information as well. So, the Live Tile app for the Mail app would show you the latest email, while the Weather app Live Tile would give you the latest forecast. 

Dropping Live Tiles would make Windows Lite less resource-hungry – perfect for low-powered devices.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. He’s personally reviewed and used most of the laptops in our best laptops guide - and since joining TechRadar in 2014, he's reviewed over 250 laptops and computing accessories personally.