Job Posting Confirms Windows 10 UX Overhaul

Posted on January 4, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 45 Comments

A Microsoft job posting confirms that the software giant has big plans to overall the Windows 10 user experience in the coming year.

“You’ll work with our key platform, Surface, and OEM partners to orchestrate and deliver a sweeping visual rejuvenation of Windows experiences to signal to our customers that Windows is BACK and ensure that Windows is considered the best user OS experience for customers,” the job posting originally read. However, since the job posting was discovered and reported on, Microsoft has made it vaguer, noting only that “you’ll orchestrate and deliver experiences that ensure Windows is a great user experience for our customers.”

The changes there are interesting.

First and most obviously, the “sweeping visual rejuvenation” bit hints at the recent rumors about a major UX change, codenamed Sun Valley, that could arrive as soon as Windows 10 version 21H2.

Less obviously, I find the comments about this UX team partnering with key platform, Surface, and OEM partners to be somewhat telling. One of the promises of Panos Panay taking over Windows is that he will create some kind of renewed synergy between Microsoft’s hardware (Surface) and OS software (Windows) teams. But this line suggests that Microsoft’s PC maker partners—the OEM partners mentioned in the original job posting—will also play a role.

(The job posting also notes that customers will play a role, too. “[You will also work] directly with our customers to understand their needs and deliver magical software that exceeds their expectations,” the posting still says.)

As for “Windows is BACK”—and yes, the all-caps is from the job listing, not something I added—I guess we’ll see. Pronouncements are easy, and come on, Windows never left. But with the COVID-19 pandemic reminding so many that PCs still play an important role, I’m happy to see Microsoft seize this moment to make long-overdue improvements to the Windows 10 UX.

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Comments (45)

45 responses to “Job Posting Confirms Windows 10 UX Overhaul”

  1. JerryH

    I wonder if the partnering with OEMs will just be updating the toolkit that OEMs use to pre-install Windows to add the ability to ship with either legacy or new UI enabled?

  2. scovious

    The App on windows I have spent the most time with, and care most about is Windows Explorer. File management is essential and one of the superior aspects of Windows to its OS counterparts. I would love to see some improvements soon.

  3. hrlngrv

    Oh joy, more change for change's sake.

    I'm an adamant Open Shell user. (Open Shell is the successor to Classic Shell.) FWLIW, I use MATE under Linux also in resistance to what I perceive as pointless change.

  4. markbyrn

    I'll probably prefer the DOS UI to the upcoming Windows 10 'rejuvenation'

  5. rbwatson0

    "The job posting also notes that customers will play a role, too.“ Let's hope this doesn't end up being "customers will pay a price" instead.

  6. bbold

    If MS was smart, they'd come out and publicize this and perhaps even make commercials about it... "Windows is BACK." It would be nice to see that hyped and better explained to both enterprise and consumer types of customers. (It would also be nice for Windows Insiders to at least get explanations on what we're actually 'testing,' in this case, they just tell us we're testing the speed of deploying two updates in succession, but we all know that's not the whole truth.) Its funny how we often have to learn of changes or intentions at MS via job postings, via Walking Cat on Twitter or other uncommon sources. MS has had a communication problem as long as they have been in existence and it would be nice if they could sort that out, as well. I'm glad Satya is in charge and has redirected Microsoft and pivoted into becoming mostly a cloud company, and I'm also glad about Panos' expanded role, but if they are going to keep releasing hardware, their communication to constumers and enterprise alike really needs to be revamped 160 degrees and to catch up with other big changes that have happened at MS. I feel like Microsoft has changed, but one thing that hasn't is their communication and lack of marketing to both consumers & enterprise. What are they afraid of? I wonder what Chris Caposella would have to say about that.

  7. waethorn

    A job just posted and you think this is going to get done in ~9 months?

    C'mon, man!

    How long have you been reporting on Microsoft now?

    • Paul Thurrott

      Long enough to know that they are not waiting on this one hire to start this project?
      • waethorn

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        What's lacking is evidence. There's nothing in the Insider Channel stuff on this yet other than Windows 10X (unless you're predicting that becomes the new standard for Windows, perish the thought). I find it a bit hard to believe that a 21H2 release for OEM's will see this, as the original job listing suggests, considering you'd be talking about a roughly October release. That means OEM's are going to have to get a near-complete version at least 2-3 months earlier to do hardware certification, which means only 6 months of time from now. And they're hiring people in the home stretch?

        The fact that the job posting removed the statement about a new UX change says to me that they estimated the completion date far too early and it's been delayed into next year. The new listing just comes across as just a channel rep position. In fact, it hardly even sounds like something geared towards the built-in Windows UI at all - more like an UX API developer position for third-party apps (the Surface Hub part is telling).

  8. jfgordon

    Nothing says "this matter is going to be handled very professionally and effectively" as a job post with ALL CAPS words in it. Oh, and the understanding that software is "magical", too.

  9. RussDW

    Here's what should be the #1 item on the Windows 10 UX improvement list: those confounding invisible scroll bars that don't appear until you point your mouse for a second at where they should have been visible all along.

    It is impossible to scroll a window with your finger on non-touch screen monitors. Computers without a touch screen should have scroll bars visible all the time. Stop making me hunt for them.

    • bluvg

      In reply to RussDW:

      I wouldn't put it at #1, but totally agree! In general, there are tons of super-finicky things in Windows like this, such as all the 1-pixel wide targets to resize (especially when there's no line to make it clear where the target is... ugh!).

      Another is the absolutely bafflingly small pick-list controls on dialogs with loads of free space; for example, a pick-list with 10s or 100s of options, but only lists 3 (!!!!) at a time, even though the list is the only control in the dialog besides OK or Cancel. This happens a lot more on Server than Client, but I still see it on both.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to RussDW:

      Blame the minimalist craze which began with Windows 8.

      Sounds like you're unaware there's a setting to DISABLE automatically hiding scroll bars. In Settings, type scrollbars in the Search box.

  10. truerock2

    I'm very concerned that Sun Valley will be a full blown FUBAR. The good news is that Microsoft has not officially decided whether they will actually deliver Sun Valley... leaving them a way to cancel it if it is a complete disaster.

    Microsoft has done some really stupid GUI interface design things with the window title bar, for example. They started trying to cram a search-box into the title bar a couple of years ago and it was a complete disaster in Outlook. Somehow the Excel team was able to save its search box - thank god.

    I really think if Microsoft went back to the Windows 7 GUI it would be very beneficial to Microsoft and its customers. Somehow Excel and Word have managed to fend off most of Microsoft's recent GUI design disasters. I guess Microsoft realizes if they screw up Excel and Word the corporation is toast.

  11. illuminated

    I hope that MS can merge the old guard experience with the new UI. That is very difficult to do as I have seen so many times when either old guard did not know how to do new stuff and just made a useless upgrade or when new and clueless devs "reimagined" everything from scratch ruining the existing functionality in the process.

    I also hope that MS throws away their obsession with C++ for UIs. They are wasting so much development time on it. Switching to C# and improving runtime where necessary would improve development speed tremendously.

    • Greg Green

      In reply to illuminated:

      Maybe that explains why at least to me there seems to be a drop in software usefulness. It’s not that some new things are not beneficial, they’re actually steps backwards in usability. It’s as if software development peaked about fifteen years ago. I was wondering if the old gen failed to pass on to the new gen, or the new gen just didn’t listen, but it seems there’s a whole lot of unnecessary reinventing going on out there.

      • bluvg

        In reply to Greg Green:

        "they’re actually steps backwards in usability."

        Like the new Settings. Can't open more than one setting page at a time. And still a ton of stuff you end up going to the old Control Panel to do. New Settings: simplistic (not just simple, but simplistic). Control Panel: power and control. I'll choose power and control over simplistic every time. I would gladly use Settings if it was both, simple and powerful.

    • eric_rasmussen

      In reply to illuminated:

      As a professional C# developer who is helping a C++ development team, this is so true. Even C++ 17 / 20, which is nice, can't hold a stick to the productivity of C# for high-level development. C++ is great for device drivers and embedded development, but above that layer the newer languages are objectively better. I like the new lambda stuff in C++ and the mostly managed memory, but there are still a lot of situations where you have to think about pointer types, memory allocations, and rvalue semantics. When I showed some of the guys how LINQ can filter collections they were blown away by the syntax and how intuitive it is.

  12. matsan

    Doesn't the term "overhaul" imply that you transition from one FINISHED state to another? I cannot see that the current "overhaul" is done yet.

  13. thalter

    I've been using MacOS 11 (Big Sur) for about a month now, and one of the things that impresses me the most is the comprehensiveness of the visual overhaul. Every application (and I mean every one), even the obscure ones like Chess, Graphing Calculator, and Console, have new icons that match the rounded square style established with this release. Nothing got missed.

    Every single app supports the new style info pane and supports dark mode (using the same consistent shades of grey, not the three or four different shades of grey you see in Windows various apps).

    So making a polished, finished, consistent operating system update can be done. It just takes time, effort, and the will to get it done.

    • jwpear

      In reply to thalter:

      It is pretty amazing at how clean Big Sur is visually and how comprehensive the adjustments were across the OS and apps. I often wonder why it is so much harder for Microsoft to clean up Windows visually.

  14. huddie

    The 'sweeping visual rejuvenation' Windows 10 most needs is consolidating the old Win32 and new 'Modern UI' elements. Shortly followed by polish - lots of polish - that quality-of-life finish that we haven't seen in a while.

  15. will

    I do believe they will do some updating of the UI, but how much and how big is kind of open ended.

    I think the last time Windows did a major overhaul that was both good and welcomed was Windows 7. They took what they learned from Vista, and XP and did a good thing. Since then it has mainly been surface (not the hardware) layer updates. Go just an inch deep and you see it is the same Windows and in many ways a bit of a mess; the Settings and Control Panel decade long migration come to mind.

    While I am sure Microsoft has done dozens of mockups for updated UI's and new "looks" for Windows, I would like to see them go deeper and father than just the top layer. Can they do all of this by the end of 2021, I doubt it, but by the end of 2022 sure.

    I also think they painted themselves into a corner a little with sticking with Windows 10 as the last version of Windows. Apple is moving on past OS X, and really Windows should move on to new things as well. Windows X, or XI, or 11 would not be a bad thing. Yes, keep the updates free and work with enterprise on rollouts, but hopefully they will take some bigger steps this next year.

    • madthinus

      In reply to will:

      Remembering the block post of all the work getting File explorer dark mode, This is not a trivial matter. There is a lot of code to touch. I would not be surprised if you see multiple rewritten apps / replaced apps as part of this rejuvenation project.

    • evox81

      In reply to will:

      I find it interesting how different people perceive things. I remember being a bit disappointed that Windows 7, particularly from a UX perspective, was so minor I'd struggle to call it an "overhaul".

  16. Chris_Kez

    Also potentially interesting that they’re hiring for this rather than purely sourcing internal folks; not sure if that is good (fresh ideas), bad (junior folks with no institutional clout), both, or none of the above.

  17. madthinus

    One of the nicer things from UWP is the driver companion apps coming from the store. I wonder if we will not see more of the same.

  18. bluvg

    Performance (raw, not just perceived) and stability >>>>>>>>>>>>>> new features. I hope that is their priority as well. Timeouts waiting on unavailable network resources should not cause Explorer.exe to "stop responding." Modal pop-under dialogs must never be allowed. And Explorer should never, ever, ever change focus (unsolicited) while typing/clicking.

    • Shehzad Joss Yousaf

      In reply to bluvg:

      Totally agreed - I use a Surface Go and an iPad, and on the former there can be delays or inconsistencies bringing up the touch keyboard. That's just one example. Having the UI/device react responsively would go a long way towards improving perceptions.

  19. colin79666

    The OEM bit might be about encouraging them to adopt the same design standards. Apple do this quite well in enforcing certain standards to ensure some uniformity between apps. It isn’t about imposing really either, Linux distros are looking better these days with GTK theming yet Windows still seems to be a mess of different styles which then gets even worse when 3rd parry stuff is added.

  20. mikegalos

    The difficulty being, as was learned with Windows 8, that customers want a "New UI" that looks and works like the UI they already know.

    • stvbnsn

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      It wasn't that they changed the way it looked and that made people mad. It was that they changed the way it looked and then hid it, that's what was bad. You can change up almost everything about the interface, you just have to tell people what you did and how to use it.

  21. Pierre Masse

    I hope they will also work on the apps that come with windows.

  22. winner

    The real question is whether the "overhaul" will actually improve the consistency and ease of the UI, or just be another layer of lipstick on the pig.

    I know I would miss the Win98 dialog boxes and the many eras of icon styles that infect the current UI. It would be nice to have some consistency. But I suspect given Microsoft's history that we would just have yet another era of icon without removal of all of the previous eras. Similarly for dialog boxes. I keep hoping for a decent UI improvement, but given Microsoft's history, I'm not going to hold my breath too long. But actually great fit and finish would be a nice surprise.

    • bluvg

      In reply to Winner:

      The other thing with a new UX would likely be a lack of Group Policy and other admin-friendly support. It has become progressively harder and more cumbersome with each new version of Windows to customize things on behalf of users, especially when provisioning new users. That would be a big barrier for companies if they don't provide a robust mechanism for that, if not via GP itself.

      • oscar1

        In reply to bluvg:

        Not true, companies buys Enterprise and Pro versions of Windows that is highly configurable. Consumers doesnt need that level of customization.

      • illuminated

        In reply to bluvg:

        Admin-friendliness could be killing windows IMHO. The first wave of enterprise Mac users were delighted when their computers had no crap like disabled features, enterprise backups, malware scanners and other low-quality performance sucking pigs. Situation is slowly getting worse for Macs so there is hope for windows too.

        • bluvg

          In reply to illuminated:

          I think they were delighted (if coming from Windows) that there's one single version of macOS, not Home, Pro, Enterprise, etc. That's a Microsoft-friendly decision, not admin-friendly. Defender is top-tier these days, especially with ATP.

          Windows had an enterprise backup feature? I wouldn't classify anything they've provided in-box as "enterprise" backup. Are you talking about Previous Versions?

  23. 2ilent8cho

    Will they kill the Settings app please? It looks horrid, its hard to navigate, lots of wasted space, drives me to insanity and in the end just takes you back to the older Control Panel to get what you were after in the first place which worked better anyway!

    It makes me sad when i see old videos or screenshots of Windows NT 4, Windows 2000 or Windows 98 and i just want that crisp, clean, uncluttered, unwasteful well designed UX those OS's offered back again when i use Windows. Just looking at the Windows 2000 Control Panel makes me drool with excitement, yeah they started making it bad with 'Simple View' in XP, but at least it was just 1 click to make it decent again in Classic View. XP with simple views everywhere is when the downfall started and it just rotted though-out the Windows versions slowly over the next 20 years.

    At home i still have a gaming PC running Windows 10 but if the game is Mac compatible i tend to just play it on Mac so i don't have to go and have a fight with Windows. At the weekend i moved the router, and i noticed Steam was very slow at downloading, so i just wanted to see what speed the WiFi was connected at. Something that in Windows XP would have been 1 click, Windows 7 was 2 clicks and on my Mac(s) i just hold down the Option key and click the WiFi symbol to get the connection speed. Windows 10? O no, its not simple, you go through about 3 or 4 settings screens to do it only to find i'm back to the old Control Panel interface which was 1 click away in Windows XP. How the hell is it so backwards in Windows 10? It's just pure frustration!