At its Fall 2019 Surface event, Microsoft announced that Windows 10X, a new consumer Windows distribution, would power a range of dual-screen tablet devices in 2020. But the Surface Neo never came, and in May 2020, Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay retargeted Windows 10X to “single-screen experiences”.
What was Windows 10X?
Microsoft’s original plan for the Windows variant was to “enable unique experiences on dual screen PCs with multiple poses”. This meant powering a whole new class of devices: a pair of hinged touchscreens, which seemed to bridge the gap between tablet and notebook. In addition to Microsoft’s own Surface Neo, the company’s hardware partners, including Dell, Lenovo and HP, would manufacture devices to the new specification.
But Microsoft rejected the Neo last year, and talk of partner-made 10X devices died with it. The company’s new chief product officer, Panos Panay, stated that Microsoft “[s] to focus on meeting customers where they are today” – which meant refocusing on single-screen devices and interfaces.
Panay didn’t go into detail about his new plans for Windows 10X, but the distribution sounded like a likely competitor to Chromebooks — and likely to the company’s existing Windows 10 S Mode, which minimizes the operating system and software installation. limited to accommodate extremely cheap and energy-efficient appliances.
Windows 10X joins Windows RT and Windows S
Sources within Microsoft tell Brad Sams of Petri.com that Windows 10X won’t be out this year either, and that 10X as we know it “probably never will.” Sams’ sources claim that Microsoft has pushed its resources back to Windows 10, leaving 10X for the time being.
The Windows 10X storyline follows an established Microsoft pattern: the company has been trying to equip Windows for smaller, less powerful devices for quite some time, with little success. Windows CE was the longest-lived attempt; the operating system powered a series of unloved and undersold phones and handhelds from 1996 to 2013.
Windows RT was Microsoft’s next effort, launched simultaneously with its equally unloved Windows 8 in 2012. Windows RT targeted 32-bit ARM processors — meaning no support for mainstream Windows software — and the new variant died on the vine. , with only five devices ever built to support it. Despite the lack of hardware, Microsoft is still looking for extended support for Windows RT until 2023.
After Windows RT came Windows S. This time Microsoft focused on both ARM and highly energy efficient x86 infrastructure. The main feature of Windows S is a refusal to allow the user to directly install third-party applications – only a limited number of applications can be installed on S, and only from the Microsoft Store.
This limitation, designed to keep underpowered PCs snappy, was so wildly unpopular that Microsoft changed S to “S-Mode” in 2018, allowing anyone who buys an S-Mode device to convert to standard Windows 10 for free.
While Windows 10X seems to be joining CE, RT, and S in the scrap heap, that doesn’t necessarily mean its development was wasted. We expect to see elements of Windows 10X design appearing in Windows 10’s Sun Valley refresh later this year.