Microsoft’s shell game: 2 new ways to deploy Windows 10

There’s more going on than just replacing CMD

Microsoft’s shell game: 2 new ways to deploy Windows 10
Credit: Stephen Lawson

Microsoft is rumored to be working on two new “shells,” but they should not be confused with PowerShell, which is replacing CMD as the primary prompt in Windows 10. While the term “shell” is being used interchangeably, these shells are more like an interface than a command line. 

First is a single, unified, “adaptive shell” for Windows 10, while the second will actually be a lightweight version of Windows 10. The unified adaptive shell is called “Composable Shell,” or CSHELL. According to a report from Windows Central, which cites unnamed sources, Microsoft's new universal shell will be a single Windows 10 experience that can adapt and scale to the device it’s on, from a phone to a PC. 

This effectively means there will be one Windows 10 install for everything from phones to Xbox to HoloLens and PCs. It will just adapt to the device it’s being installed on. That will undoubtedly simplify development for Microsoft. As of now, it has to maintain different builds for PC, phone, Xbox and HoloLens, which must be a real headache because they share so much code. 

Cloud Shell 

The report on the second shell comes from the site Petri IT Knowledgebase, an established site focused on Microsoft IT issues. Its writer claims to have seen documentation on a product called Cloud Shell, described as a new “lightweight iteration of Windows designed for the modern computing world” that should be introduced this year. 

Details were sparse, but Petri believes Microsoft’s Windows Store and UWP framework will be a part of Cloud Shell, which leads to speculation that the company wants to try to utilize the Surface RT model now that the store and framework have had time to materialize. This could mean a thin client that runs primarily in the cloud and streamed locally to your machine. 

The question then becomes when does Microsoft combine the two shells into one install that works on anything and acts as a thin client. You have to figure that’s a long-term aim, whether or not it can happen. 

If Microsoft pulls off the CShell, then it will have done something Apple failed to do and create one unifying interface and operating system. Apple still has to maintain Mac OS and iOS. And despite years of rumors, a single unifying OS has never happened. Instead, the efforts are all around iOS while it lets the Mac rot on the tree.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10