When Microsoft first revealed it was working on a new operating system called Windows 10X, the company said it was designed for dual-screen devices like the Surface Neo tablet. But with the Neo delayed, Microsoft announced Windows 10X would first ship with single-screen devices.

Now a leaked pre-released build of the operating system is making the rounds and giving us an idea of what to expect. And what we expect is Microsoft’s answer to Chrome OS: a lightweight, easy to use operating system that should offer long battery life and decent performance on a wide range of hardware at a range of price points.

@zacbowden

Windows 10X features a simplified taskbar with icons in the center rather than off to the side. The Start Menu has been replaced with a Chrome OS or Android-like app launcher that pops up from the center of the taskbar. A search bar is at the top, and below it is a “My apps and websites” section followed by a Recent area where you can see apps, documents, and other files you’ve used recently.

You can pin frequently used apps to the taskbar, and when you launch an app it will open in full screen. You can view two apps at once in a side-by-side view. But Windows 10X lacks the tiling support you get with other versions of Windows – you can’t resize apps and place as many of them on the screen at once as you’d like.

Adjusting Windows 10 Settings can be a bit of a challenge, with some settings accessible from the notification area, others requiring a dive into the modern Settings app, and some still requiring you to dig into the old-school Windows settings menus.

Windows 10X simplifies things a bit by adding more functionality to a quick settings menu in the notification area, making it easier to quickly adjust many functions from the system tray without opening a separate app.

There are two things that Windows 10X will not offer though, at least not at launch:

  • You won’t easily be able to install it yourself, at least not officially. If you want a Windows 10X computer, you’ll have to buy one that comes with the operating system pre-installed. (Of course, where there’s a will, there’s a way).
  • The preview build doesn’t fully support legacy Windows applications. You’ll be limited to running Microsoft Store apps.

That second point could be a deal breaker for some folks. But it might only be a temporary one.

Microsoft is working on a way to run legacy Windows applications in a container to reduce compatibility issues, but according to The Verge, that containerization software isn’t available in the leaked build of Windows 10X and may not be ready by the time the first Windows 10X devices ship later this year.

Right now it’s a developer-only option.

That’s kind of a bummer because there are a lot of Windows applications that are not available from the Microsoft Store. But it’s worth keeping in mind that for now Windows 10X does not appear to be designed as a complete replacement for Windows 10. Instead it’s a lightweight, simplified operating system that could be ideal for folks who want a more smartphone or tablet-like experience.

A decade or so ago most people’s first computer was… a computer. These days it’s likely that many new PC users grew up with smartphones and tablets and may prefer the intuitive, touch-friendly user interface and focus on the internet and web apps. If all you really need from a mobile computer is a web browser, Windows 10X should be able to give you that on day one. It’s also a safe bet that Microsoft Office will be available.

If you need to run legacy apps that aren’t available from the Microsoft Store, there’s always Windows 10 which still runs on most of the world’s PCs.

via The Verge, Windows Central, and @zacbowden

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  1. I think that “cloud computing” is modern form of slavery. This is obviously subjected in the movie “Matrix”. People pays huge amounts of money blindly to join into some “eco systems” while handling the devices on their parts and their “whole life details” on the other parts. I think this is a form of “continuous sell for the goods already sold”. Nations all around the world must do something (recover personal computing) to save the future. Otherwise future is so dark. Thats my opinion.

  2. When told about this, a lot of people seem to take it for granted that, despite assertions to the contrary, this will ultimately replace windows 10 as the only available version of windows. I can’t blame them.
    10X could be tolerable for >10″ tablets (if, and only if, there’s enough stuff in the microsoft store and 10X can be made to not harass users with unnecessary notifications and ads), but it’ll be really frustrating on any laptop or desktop.
    I’m sure that if an outright replacement ever happens, in spite of it being demonstrably worse for anything but tablets, we’ll still get edgy posters insulting anyone who isn’t happy about having to switch, on any website.

  3. So ‘simplified’ means no desktop and no control panel? Sorry, but those are the same reasons Windows 8 was such a turd.

  4. Legacy software support is the only reason to use windows. But it’d be hilarious and wonderful if their containerized compatibility solution somehow helped linux windows emulation and freed us all. We can dream…

  5. As usual M$ doesnt get it… No legacy support… Why would anyone use this when we already have CHROME OS? They should have made a less bloated version of REAL WINDOWS… I would buy that!

    1. This version exists to support Microsoft’s cloud computing environment: Office 365, Teams, OneDrive, etc. All the schools around me all went to Teams/O365 during the pandemic, for example.

      This is Microsoft’s version of Chrome OS but all the significant details are in cloud offerings. This is really O365 vs. Google Docs. Whichever environment you are significantly invested in will determine which device OS is for you.

  6. “But Windows 10X lacks the tiling support you get with other versions of Windows – you can’t resize apps and place as many of them on the screen at once as you’d like.”

    So it sounds like it’s named Windows, but doesn’t have a proper window manager. Disappointing for sure.

  7. As long as Microsoft doesn’t scrimp on legacy driver
    support, 10X could be a way to give new life
    to older PCs.

  8. Hopefully Microsoft will make an iso available on VLSC, just like they do with arm. This will be perfect to breath some new life into some cheap PCs.