As many of you already know, Windows 10X, Microsoft’s modern, lightweight operating system, has been “in the freezer” indefinitely. We don’t know the specific reasons and probably never will, but we can figure them out. The question is: was this a good move on Microsoft’s part? Can we predict a good future for this operating system?
Historical background: background and origins of Windows 10X
Let’s start from the beginning. It was in 2019 when Microsoft announced the launch of the Surface Neo with Windows 10X. Microsoft introduced it as an operating system specifically designed for foldable and dual-screen devices. However, that was not the whole truth.
Windows 10X (known internally as ModernPC) is a child of the Windows Core operating system, just like the operating system used by HoloLens 2. The Windows Core operating system is all that Microsoft intended ( or intended) to be its operating system for all types of devices, from PC to mobile, hybrid form factors, virtual reality glasses, Xbox …
Core OS was designed to leave behind traditional Windows and all the drag associated with it. To what end? Keep a single operating system instead of several, provide greater security and performance, and be able to introduce new features.
Polaris OS build leak
The importance of Core OS is such that years ago Microsoft started a project called Polaris OS with the aim of replacing the traditional Windows 10 in almost every area. Do you know why this project failed, in part? Due to one of the biggest problems with Windows Core OS: the lack of native support for running Win32 apps (traditional Windows apps, among which all the Adobe suite, Office, AutoCad, a multitude of games, VLC and a very long etcetera).
The reason for this is that when Microsoft started working on Windows Core OS (still living with Windows 10 Mobile), it drew a future in which Universal Windows Apps (UWP) would be preferred by users and developers. These applications offer greater security (by working isolated in their own container), have more modern APIs and work on all types of compatible devices (HoloLens, Surface Hub, PC, tablets, phones, Xbox …).
However, the reception of UWP apps has not been as expected and few have gained relevance among users. Microsoft partially gave in to this reality with the launch of Project Reunion last year, its umpteenth attempt to unify the Windows application model.
Year 2020: Windows 10X changes course and is postulated as a rival of Chrome OS
It was in May of last year when, surprisingly, Microsoft released a note officially announcing a new take on Windows 10X. The pandemic had increased global demand for traditional laptops, and the market seemed less prepared than ever for new and very expensive form factors such as dual-screen devices.
Source: Windows Central
Thus, Windows 10X presented itself as a modern, lightweight and secure operating system focused on cheap laptops. Its differential factors compared to Windows 10 would be:
Quick updates. High level of security. Lighter operating system with better performance. Interface more suited to tactile environments.
However, the big problem was still present: the lack of support for Win32 applications. Users would not be able to install Spotify, Teams, Chrome, Firefox, VLC or any such system. While it’s true that web services have come a long way in recent years, many lack all the extra features that a native app can offer.
It is true that the inclusion of Win32 support in a virtualized way was appreciated, but it was quickly ruled out as it would ruin the performance of these devices. In this situation, Microsoft made the decision to continue with the project and continued to develop Windows 10X throughout 2020 with the intention of launching it in April or May 2021.
Year 2021: Windows 10X is sent to the fridge for the benefit of Windows 10
Something happened in the first few months of this year. It was first disclosed that Windows 10X would be delayed until the end of the year. Now, more recently, we have learned that Windows 10X has ceased to be a priority for Microsoft internally and all resources have turned to Sun Valley, the great project led by Panos Panay to “rejuvenate” Windows 10. With Sun Valley , it is expected to bring the classic Windows to the next level aesthetically, improves its touch functionality and adds new features.
This is where the big question arises: what prompted the cancellation of Windows 10X? The operating system has been built and ready to release, so there must be some compelling reason and we must try to find it.
According to some journalists close to sources inside Microsoft like Zac Bowden or Brad Sams, it is a problem of concept. Microsoft has serious doubts that consumers will be claiming something like Windows 10X, especially if it doesn’t offer native support for Win32 apps.
The current Microsoft has learned from its mistakes and does not want to jump into a pool without water. They know that the user appreciates Windows for its versatility, the endless possibilities it offers. Windows 10X would have brought great things but that very few people ask at the cost of depriving us of others that people are actively asking for.
With that in mind, I’ll bet Microsoft came up with the following: What if we bring some of the best Windows 10X innovations to Windows today while improving what got us to the top? Windows 10 is a hit product, consumers are enjoying it positively, and demand for PCs has skyrocketed this pandemic year. We don’t know how many people would have asked for Windows 10X, but we do know how many people are asking for Windows 10 and they number in the hundreds of millions.
Sun Valley will bring the modern Windows 10X taskbar, sounds, animations, gestures, notification center layout, and quick actions to Windows 10. In fact, it is rumored that Windows 10 may even integrate the Windows 10X container structure for Win32 apps, dramatically increasing system security.
There are obviously some advantages of Windows 10X that Windows 10 will not be able to receive, such as its extreme lightness and its performance on very low power computers. However, this is something that Microsoft seems ready to take on before releasing an operating system that its criteria would not satisfy people and would soon be shunned by consumers.
Is there a future for Windows 10X?
For me, the answer is a resounding yes. Either way, Microsoft will come back with a new bet based on Windows Core OS. For them the advantages offered by this operating system are very clear and I do not see them giving up all this work.
However, Microsoft has to change something. Support for Win32 applications is an issue that needs to be addressed, either from the application model itself that Microsoft intends to impose, or from the Windows Core operating system itself. Maybe the nearby 2021 construction will give us some clues about this.
In the short term, everything indicates that traditional Windows will not only not die but be more alive than ever, enjoying good health thanks to Sun Valley and all that it entails. In fact, some of the innovations in Windows Core OS will live on forever in the classic Windows 10, which will never be the same after the next update.
The Windows Core operating system will continue to be Microsoft’s trump card up its sleeve, the tool that opens the door to attacking all types of devices and form factors. This allows Microsoft to have the opportunity to re-enter the market for phones and tablets if the future of Windows applications proves successful.
Windows 10X could make a comeback. We don’t know how. We don’t know when. It would probably have little resemblance to the current one and would have a renewed approach that would allow it to jump into the market without so much risk. Until then, let’s take advantage of what we have, which is no small amount. Exciting months are ahead for Windows 10, and we’ll soon know how deep its renewal will be. Maybe in a month it will all make sense. Start the countdown.