Microsoft hasn’t said much about Windows 10X, but there are clearly many of the company’s plans associated with this new OS. Windows Central journalists decided to collect everything that sounded or heard from informants in the past few months. Windows 10X is a new version of Windows 10 built from the ground up for foldable PCs, for both dual-screen and single-screen configurations. It builds on the new modern version of Windows 10, which leaves legacy components and features of the past in favor of a modern user experience and improved security. This means that everything from the shell to the basics of the OS has been rebuilt using modern technology. At the same time, support for old applications will be preserved.
New custom environment
Windows 10X will receive a fresh shell – a user interface built with the use of modern technologies. It is adaptive and adjusts based on the position of the device. For example, on a foldable PC, the user may want to use it in several different ways: as a laptop, as a tablet, or in tent mode for watching movies. Because of this, the user interface must adapt to provide the best experience, no matter how the device is used.
New Start Menu
Microsoft is redesigning the Start menu experience in Windows 10X with a focus on work efficiency. It will get a system-wide search bar at the top, which can also search the web, and a grid of installed apps below it instead of live tiles. The menu also has a “recommended” area that dynamically updates according to what the user may need: recent Office documents, visited sites, and the like.
The list can be customized so that users can change the shortcuts of the applications that occupy the first rows. Windows 10X will also support application folders in the Start menu, allowing you to group multiple applications, similar to the existing Start menu in Windows 10.
Windows 10X also introduces a new responsive taskbar that can change based on device format or user preference. In marketing materials, items such as the Start button, pinned and launched applications are centered on the taskbar. It will reportedly be customizable, and users will be able to choose to left-align these icons if they wish – just like in regular Windows 10.
There is also a new touchscreen taskbar that minimizes when you launch an application and can be used to access items such as the Start menu or Action Center. When the keyboard and mouse are connected, the taskbar will adapt to a behavior more similar to the traditional panel, that is, it will not be minimized when launching applications.
New notification center
In addition to the new Start and taskbar features, there is a new Action Center that complements them. It focuses more on quick actions with the ability to jump to specific tasks with the ability not to leave the notification center to change a number of key settings. It is designed to mimic a control center with a separate area at the top that displays notifications. This new Action Center includes items such as volume controls, power options, and battery percentage – similar to the current bar in Windows 10.
New installation process
As all the major components of Windows 10X have been redesigned, the OS installer interface will also be updated to reflect a more modern platform design. The software will still guide the user through the Windows setup process, select a language, offer to sign in with a Microsoft account, and agree to the terms, but Cortana will no longer be used. That is, in this regard, the installation will become more traditional, albeit in a fresh interface.
Compose Mode is a new Action Center button that switches your device from consuming content to working. Compose mode is automatically triggered on two screen devices like the Surface Neo when the user pushes the keyboard to one of the displays, and is essentially a switch between touch input and more traditional PC keyboard / mouse input.
On devices that do not have a dedicated keyboard or touchpad, Compose Mode will use screen space for the virtual keyboard and trackpad, enhanced by support for pen input, emoticons, and gifs. Compose will also switch the taskbar between more traditional and touch modes.
By default, applications on Windows 10X run in full screen mode and cannot be displayed in traditional windows. However, on devices with large screens, enabling Compose mode should allow applications to run in freeform windows like on a regular laptop. It is not clear what kind of screen sizes we are talking about in this case.
Legacy application support
Because Windows 10X is a modern OS, support for “traditional” Windows apps comes through the new container mode, which essentially runs an optimized version of full Windows 10 in the background every time a user wants to launch an old app. But in the case of working with more modern applications, the OS is not overloaded with outdated components, which increases battery life and overall system performance.
Unlike “traditional” Win32 apps, modern UWPs and web apps work right out of the box on Windows 10X. Microsoft is working to ensure that there is no noticeable difference in and modern applications. However, there may be a slight additional delay when starting x86 programs if no other legacy software has been launched before.
Improved Windows Update
Microsoft will also improve Windows Update so that it runs much faster on Windows 10X. Installing updates will not take as long as it does in Windows 10, since now functional updates will be mounted in the background and will not require a reboot first. When the update is ready to restart the computer, it will restart normally without waiting for 15 minutes.
It is reported that Windows 10X will receive dynamic wallpapers similar to macOS, which will change depending on various factors. For example, Windows 10X has mountain view wallpapers that have morning, afternoon, evening, and night variations and are displayed based on the actual time on the device. This wallpaper also features dynamic clouds. It’s not clear how many of these dynamic wallpapers will be present in Windows 10X, or how complex they might be. However, it’s nice to see more options for the desktop.
Exclusive to foldable PCs at launch
Windows 10X will only be available on devices that ship with it, and those devices will begin shipping in the second half of 2020. This means that if a user wants to use Windows 10X, they will have to buy a new PC that comes with a pre-installed OS. The platform will not be sold or distributed digitally for installation on existing hardware, nor will it be offered as an update for Windows 10.
In the future, Microsoft is expected to make Windows 10X available for more than just foldable dual-screen computers. Although the OS will initially be released exclusively for new convertible systems, for a few months after that (apparently already in 2021), manufacturers will be able to sell more traditional devices like laptops pre-installed with Windows 10X.