MinWin is derived from the phrase 'Minimum Windows' and it approximates to the essential operating system files. You would not expect a GUI here, neither would MinWin contain subsystems such as printing or multimedia.
One purpose of studying the MinWin concept is to identify similarities between Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012. Interestingly, the term MinWin was first used in connection with the common files between Windows Server 2003 and Vista.
Periodically Microsoft lay-on a demonstration of MinWin, where they create the smallest, standalone, bootable, core of Windows 8 that can perform useful work. Purists point out that such MinWin code differs from the operating system's kernel because it also contains a HAL, essential drivers, and core system services.
Another game that Microsoft like to play with MinWin is to reduce it's size. They are working to get a Windows 8 MinWin of less than 30 MB. A practical use of this work with MinWin is to develop lean Hyper-V cores.
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MinWin, the Windows mini-kernel, reduce the Windows core to its absolute minimum by reducing all dependencies. Windows 8 will be the first Microsoft operating system to use MinWin. Windows 7 and MinWin was a work in progress, and what we see now is a more tightly integrated mini-kernel Windows 8:
Mark Russinovich discussing Windows Server 2008 Kernel, MinWin and ServerCore in the context of HyperV.
Summary of MinWin
MinWin is clearly an amalgamation of 'Minimum Windows', and it is an interesting Microsoft project to build the leanest possible functioning Win 8 operating system.
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Microsoft Windows 8 Boot Topics