Microsoft’s most ambitious overhaul of Windows in years is reportedly on hold, or possibly even canceled. According to Petri.com, “Microsoft will not be shipping Windows 10X this year and the OS as you know it today, will likely never arrive.”
Update 5/18/2021: Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 10X will not launch this year as an independent operating system, although some technologies developed for Windows 10X may be used in Windows 10.
Windows 10X was first unveiled in 2019 as a new version of Windows designed for dual-screen devices, and at the time Microsoft described it as an OS that would feel familiar to long-time Windows users, but which would be more energy-efficient. One way to reduce power consumption would be to focus first on modern, Universal Windows Platform apps, while running classic Win32 apps in containers to reduce their resource consumption.
But one of the first devices that was expected to ship with Windows 10X, the Microsoft Surface Neo, has yet to arrive and may have been canceled. Microsoft eventually announced that Windows 10X would be released for single-screen devices first, bringing what was expected to be a simplified, touchscreen and tablet-friendly user interface that honestly looks a bit like Chrome OS (which also, incidentally, uses containers to run non-native applications like Android and Linux apps).
Now Petri reports that Windows 10X might not ship at all. Microsoft is said to have shifted resources to other projects and it’s unclear if or when the company will return to its latest attempt to revamp its flagship operating system.
Windows 10X isn’t Microsoft’s first attempt to release a simplified version of Windows. The company released Windows RT alongside Windows 8, bringing something that looked like Windows to tablets with ARM-based processors. But at the time you couldn’t run most x86 applications on those devices.
A few years later Microsoft tried again with Windows 10S (which later became Windows 10 in S Mode). This locked-down version of Windows 10 offers some security and performance advantages, as well as the ability to run smoothly on entry-level hardware. But in order to get those advantages you can only run third-party applications that are available from the Microsoft Store… which means you’re giving up the ability to run the vast majority of Windows applications. Fortunately you can disable S Mode and get the full Windows 10 experience, but it’s a one-way ticket, if your computer suffers after transitioning, you cannot return to S Mode.
It’s unclear if Windows 10X would have been any more popular than Windows RT or Windows 10 in S Mode. But it’s increasingly looking like we may never find out.
But Petri suggests that the project might not have been a total waste of time — some features developed for Windows 10X could eventually find their way to the mainstream branch of Windows 10 including app containers and user interface tweaks.