10 Things We Learned About Windows 10X

It’s not every day you get to hear about a new operating system. Much less a new version of Windows. But Windows 10X Is launching next year, and this new OS is set to power to a whole new wave of foldable PCs.

While Microsoft showcased this new platform in a quick demo at its October hardware event, that was only an announcement and not much was shared regarding the operating system itself.

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Fortunately for some, and unfortunately for others, a timely leak revealed almost all there is to know about this new flavor of Windows. An internal design document that was accidently published was spotted and made briefly available online. It detailed what the Redmond based company is planning about Windows 10X.

The document has since been pulled, but not before it provided us with all the juicy details. Here is a selection of the key points that we learned from this leak, and how Microsoft is positioning Windows 10X to take the platform into the future.

Below are 10 things we learned about Windows 10X:

Windows, redone

This modern version of Windows is being built from the ground up for new form factors. The initial focus is on foldable PC experiences in both single and dual screen configurations. But as you will find out below, Microsoft is planning to go truly beyond.

Internally, this new OS was codenamed Santorini. You may also know it as Windows Lite.

windows 10x

Although technically not a new operating system, or a full operating system like macOS or Linux, Microsoft has based Windows 10X on what it called Windows Core OS, which itself is the company’s attempt to standardize a set of core components in its operating system so that they work across different types of devices. In short, Windows 10 X is basically a stripped down and simplified version of Windows that is designed to be modular in nature. It can be expanded or shrunk down to fit the needs of different devices, large and small.

Microsoft’s vision for this modern Windows is centered around factors like new form factors, seamless updates, 5G and LTE connectivity, sustained performance, cloud connectivity, and the ability to take different forms of inputs like pen, touch, and even gaze.

A Foldable Experience

With smartphones and tablets both having plateaued, every major technology company is focusing on what is next these days. Whether that is completely new type of devices or AR and VR platforms, these new screens are the talk of the town.

It is for this very reason that this modern Windows will focus on dual-screen and foldable devices first and foremost.

When you launch an app in Windows 10X, it will launch on one side of your device, or on screen rather. But you will have the ability to have it span both screens. This can be done by dragging the app window to the middle of the screen, and the application will extend to both displays. And not just extend, the UI of the app will intelligently take advantage of both screens.

This optimization is what Microsoft hopes will set Windows 10X apart from not just other variants of the operating system, but also other platforms as well.

Microsoft has already shown off a few clever UI tricks like Windows recognizing the keyboard placed on one side of the display, and the invoking of WonderBar that can house a touch bar, emojis, smaller screens or other menus.

According to the company, this is something that Surface Neo does. But this functionality is part of Windows 10X proper, meaning hardware and software vendors will be able to run wild with this as they see fit. For example, apps may show their main interface on one screen, and controls on another, allowing you to use both without having to switch back and forth.

This focus on modularity and productivity is what Microsoft believes will set Windows 10X apart, and hopefully drive the Windows operating system towards the future.

Truly new UI

The Windows 10X user interface is not only modern but adaptive in how it can change on the fly. This can depend on the posture you are using your device in, for example as a laptop, or a tablet, or in tent mode when watching a movie. Windows 10X will adjust at will, with a flexible UI that provides the best possible experience no matter how you are using your device.

The real magic is on the software side, with the OS designed to adapt to your usage habit, rather than the other way around.

Completing this innovative user experience is the Fluent Design System. Unlike the scattered and mishmash user interface of the main Windows 10, the Windows 10X user interface is cleaner and more consistent. You have the shiny new shell to thank for this, which has been designed from the ground up for modern usage.

Things start with the new adaptive taskbar that minimizes when using touch. It can be swiped up to access the pinned applications as well as applications that are running. Speaking of, both pinned and running apps are now centered, instead of positioned to the left like in Windows 10.

Rounding things off on the UI side is the fact that apps will run in full-screen mode, since most foldable devices will be tablets. But it will also be possible to run applications windowed, for when you use your foldable PC as a laptop.

Start Menu is now the Launcher

This may sound like a change inspired from the mobile world, but the good old Start Menu is now referred to as the Launcher. Live Tiles are now gone, for better or for worse. Basically, this area of this new OS has been designed with productivity front and center.

A stronger emphasis on search will seamlessly integrate your files with web results and available apps. You have a systemwide search bar along the top, and a grid of apps below that.

There will also be another area that will house recommended elements that you might want to jump straight to, like recent Office documents, apps you opened, and websites that you visited. All of this content will be dynamically updated.

Modern File Explorer

File Explorer has been as big a mainstay of the Windows platform as Start Menu, and it comes as no surprise that Microsoft is designing a modern implementation. In fact, the company has been working on a UWP version of the traditional File Explorer for quite some time.

And it appears that it will finally debut with Windows 10X.

The leaked document suggests that this modern new File Explorer will be touch-friendly, and offer simplified access to not just local files but also documents stored on Office 365, OneDrive, and even other cloud services.

Apps experience

A case can be made that the main reason why alternate versions of the OS like Windows RT and Windows 10 S failed to pick up steam was locked down apps. These variants only supported web apps and modern apps from the Microsoft Store.

Luckily, this will not be the case with Windows 10X. Microsoft has confirmed that it wants to make running traditional desktop software a seamless experience in Windows 10X — so much so that you will not even know the difference.

The magic sauce here is containerization.

Since Microsoft now considers Win32 as a legacy app platform, this type of software will now run in a containerized mode on Windows 10X. The components required to run these programs will only be active when you start these applications. This subsystem will not be loaded otherwise, and this will keep the footprint of the OS low and its performance up.

Furthermore, containerizing the Win32 layer also makes this OS much more secure, as these programs will now run sandboxed and will not negatively affect system files.

While we may have to wait a while to give the verdict on the performance of classic programs on Windows 10X, it is neat to see Microsoft still supporting legacy apps on an OS designed for the future. After all, these legacy apps are what made Windows what it is.

That said, the company hopes that developers start updating their apps to support the new dual-screen and foldable screen design for the devices that are expected to ship at the end of 2020. To that end, the company has introduced a new API feature called spanning that will let developers take advantage of these extended display capabilities.

On the Office side of things, Redmond seems to be prioritizing the traditional Win32 versions of Office and PWA web versions from Office.com over the UWP variants of the productivity suite. There is a good reason for this, as the company actually put the development of these versions on hold last year. The web versions of Office applications is where it’s at right now, and we will likely see Microsoft significantly improve them over the coming years.

Simplified Action Center

Microsoft is also making the notifications panel in Windows 10X simpler. The Action Center will not only offer access to notifications, but will also house quick settings. This will make access to critical device setting easier.

Windows 10X will also prioritize showing important ones like battery life. But elements like WiFi, Bluetooth, cellular data, airplane mode, rotation lock, and projection will all be there. You will, obviously, be able to customize these just as easily as you can on mobile devices.

Seamless authentication

Another feature borrowed from the mobile world, and thankfully! Windows 10X improves upon the Windows Hello facial recognition and authentication experience to be more in line with modern mobile devices.

Upon waking up your device, Windows Hello will instantly recognize the user and immediately transition to their desktop. That is to say, you will immediately be brought to a state of authentication when your screen turns on. Totally different to the state of affairs on Windows 10 that first has you dismissing the lock curtain before authentication.

Faster updates

Windows updates have long been the bane of the platform. Microsoft has improved servicing in Windows 10X to make it similar to other platforms like Android and Chrome OS. That is to say, feature updates do not take as long to install as they do on the main Windows 10.

These are now installed in the background, and will not require a reboot until the update is deployed. When the update is done setting up and your device ready to be restarted, it will restart like normal. No more wasting minutes for the updates to install before you can get back to doing what you were doing.

Devices, devices

As you may expect, Windows 10X will only be available on devices that ship with it. The operating system will not be available for purchase, or up for grabs to be downloaded and installed on existing hardware. Microsoft will also not push Windows 10X as an update for Windows 10 users, either.

What this basically means is that if you want to use this new version of Windows, you will have to buy a new PC that comes with Windows 10X preinstalled.

These devices are on track for arrival in the second half of 2020.

Surface Neo is the flagship here, but other OEMs will also launch their own dual-screen and foldable creations soon after. ASUS, Dell, HP, and Lenovo are all working on their very own machines, powered by Intel hardware and running this sleek new version of Windows.

What’s important to note here is that Microsoft will bring Windows 10X to more than just foldable PCs. While the OS will launch exclusively for this type of devices towards the end of next year, manufacturers will also be able to ship Windows 10X on traditional form factors like laptops and hybrid 2-in-1 devices, as the operating system is capable of running on these types of machines as well.

This truly is Windows for the next decade!

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