Quick Hands-On with Windows 10X for Single Screens

Posted on January 14, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 58 Comments

Let there be no doubt now: The initial release of Windows 10X is nothing less than a Chrome OS clone that runs web and Microsoft Store apps. And that makes sense: As I wrote earlier today in Windows 10X for Single Screens Leaks, that was the original plan all along.

Thanks to this week’s leak, Brad and I were both able to get this early version of Windows 10X up and running in Hyper-V. (Currently, this is the only way to use the system, but I’d love to see it perform on real hardware.) It’s still early, and the virtual version of Windows 10X is very slow. But here are a few quick first impressions.

Setup. Setup is clearly derived from the Windows Setup used by mainstream Windows 10 versions, with the same basic steps, but using a cleaner and simpler user interface. As one should expect, you need to sign-in with a Microsoft account to use this system.

Desktop. Like Setup, the Windows 10X desktop is simpler. The taskbar displays icons centered by default, as God intended, but you can’t really “use” the desktop for storing files as you can with mainstream Windows 10 versions.

Start. The new Start experience almost fills the screen and looks just like the similar interface in Chrome OS. It has My apps and websites and Recent views, and is somewhat similar to the Office app too, when you think about it.

Apps. All apps run full-screen in Windows 10X, even apps that look goofy that way, like Calculator.

Files. This is the super-simplified version of File Explorer. It only works with OneDrive-hosted documents and files, and a small handful of local folders, like Downloads, Documents, and Pictures.

Microsoft Edge. It’s reasonable to assume that most Windows 10X users will be spending a lot of time in Edge, and from what I can tell upfront, it’s a full-featured browser. It supports normal Edge extensions, for example, and you can install PWAs.

Microsoft Store. The Store app looks and works normally. Oddly, I can see my purchased desktop apps, like Affinity Photo, in the Store. And Edge lets me download desktop apps like Chrome. But in both cases, when I try to install them, nothing happens. If true, this confirms the rumors that the Win32 container is not included in this initial release.

Task switching. Windows 10X supports both Alt + Tab and, via a default taskbar button, Task View (but not Timeline).

Action Center. Ever use Chrome OS? Then this UI will look awfully familiar too.

I’ll have more soon but I wanted to get this out as quick as possible for obvious reasons.

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