Windows 10X, a redesigned version of Microsoft's operating system, is coming this year, if new leaks are to be believed.
Per a report by our sister-site Windows Central, Microsoft intends to launch its Windows 10X redesign, initially slated for dual-screen devices, to some Windows 10 single-screen machines in late Spring. Microsoft is initially focusing on low-cost education devices and enterprise PCs with this rollout.
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Windows 10X promises an entirely new visual interface that’s natively designed for touch, as well as massively improved security. And with that massive change come some caveats.
Windows 10X, for example, won’t initially support most existing apps, only those using Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform (UWP). According to Windows Central's Zac Bowden, this means that older Win32 programs will require the use of Windows Virtual Desktop and Cloud PC to stream legacy apps instead.
Fortunately, full support for W32 applications will probably follow later, likely in 2022. Microsoft's FAQ for Windows 10X says "Most Win32 apps can be run and debugged on a Windows 10X device without incident" but doesn't confirm its inclusion from the launch product.
Windows 10X is, in many ways, a preview of what is likely to happen to the wider Windows ecosystem. Windows 10 is now six years old and it still contains a load of visual elements that you can trace back to ancient versions of the OS. Take the mouse control panel: at first you’re presented with the modern look, but click "additional mouse options" and you’re back to something from the computing stone age.
With this gutting of the old code, Microsoft will be able to produce a far more stable version of Windows. This is especially useful for devices aimed at education and people who simply want a basic computer for everyday tasks. It’s a clear targeting of Google’s model with Chrome OS, which has been a roaring success in education.
Windows 10X will also come with far better security. For one thing, the OS uses drive partitions to keep core OS components safe from malware; Windows will be installed in its own partition you won’t be able to modify. Every bit of the OS will be siloed like this, meaning you can only modify files in the user partition. Drivers, the registry and the OS will all have their own storage only accessible to Windows itself.
If you’re thinking about upgrading, you’re in for a bit of a disappointment. There is no current way to move from Windows 10 to the new X variant. Instead, Windows users will be getting an updated version of Windows later this year. The UI will see a massive upgrade, codenamed Sun Valley, and it will be folded into the upcoming Cobalt release at the end of 2021.