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‘Drawbridge’: Microsoft’s Non-Windows OS Tested on Windows 8

Microsoft researchers have built a “library” operating system (OS) codenamed Drawbridge, and have demonstrated working prototypes of Windows 7, Windows 8 and various Microsoft applications running on it.

Ma-Config has unearthed a whitepaper about Drawbridge, and according to them, Galen Hunt, one of the driving forces behind the Microsoft Research (MSR) Singularity project, is leading the Drawbridge charge.

Drawbridge is detailed in the “Rethinking the library OS from the top down” whitepaper which proposes a new strategy for the architecture of a library OS. The idea of the library OS is that the personality of the OS on which an app depends runs in the address space of the app. A small, fixed set of abstractions connects the library OS to the host OS kernel, offering the promise of better system security and more rapid independent evolution of OS components.


According to the documentation available, Drawbridge’s architecture is divided into three key areas, the Host OS, the Application Processes and the Shell.

It’s this separation between Host OS, apps and Shell that contributes to increasing the security of the platform.

It appears that successful tests of Drawbridge have already been done, not only on Windows 7, also on its server counterpart Windows Server 2008 R2, the MinWin core, as well as on an early development milestone of Windows 8. These prototypes are running “the latest releases of major applications, such as Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint and Internet Explorer,” according to the Drawbridge researchers.

What’s important to underline is that Drawbridge is just a Microsoft Research prototype and might never be more than this.

As Charon cautions, no one should expect Windows 8 — or any future Windows version, for that matter — to take the form of a library OS. The Microsoft Singularity project didn’t change the way Windows was developed or what it looks like. There’re no guarantees that this new research effort will affect Windows’ design any time soon. As Charon notes, Drawbridge is already capable of running Windows applications, since it supports some 14,000 Win32 APIs, which of course, is only a drop in the ocean of Windows application programming interfaces.


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