Microsoft has moved onward with its plans to isolate the heart of Windows, and as such MinWin has evolved as the Redmond company made its way from Windows 7 to Windows 8.
For those that don’t know, MinWin came into focus as the software giant was building Windows Vista’s successor. But it appears that the project was yet to mature sufficiently, and this is what’s happening with the advent of Windows 8.
Some have referred to MinWin as the Windows 7 kernel. It’s not. Just as it’s not the kernel of Windows 8 either. Instead, users need to think of MinWin as the bottom most part of both Windows 7 and Windows 8. The core.
MinWin is the result of intensive Microsoft efforts to create the smallest, standalone, bootable, core of Windows, that’s still usable. There were no dependencies outside of MinWin in Windows 7, and I expect this to also be the case in Windows 8.
I also think that the Redmond company continued its work to relocate application programming interfaces (APIs) inside the Windows 8 core, in order to have the next generation of MinWin completely isolated from the rest of the operating system.
At the same time, I think that Microsoft managed to lower the overall size of MinWin in Windows 8, compared to Windows 7 (it was approximately 40 MB, with work being done to get it down to 30 MB, or even as low as 25 MB on disk).
But despite its very small size, Windows 8 MinWin still packs everything it needs to boot and run independently, such as the Windows NT kernel plus the executive subsystem, the memory manager, networking, file system drivers, etc.
Since Windows 8 is an operating system designed to go beyond traditional computers, and tailored to next generation form factors, I expect Windows 8 MinWin to play a larger role, especially on devices that feature limited hardware resources.
It also seems that Windows 8 MinWin will have a role to play in client virtualization, especially in connection to the next version of Hyper-V. Apparently, Microsoft has worked to accommodate scenarios in which Windows 8 MinWin plus Hyper-V vNext will be used much in the same manner as Windows Server Core.