Windows 10X for Single Screens Leaks

Posted on January 14, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10X with 46 Comments

Just ahead of its launch for commercial PC-like devices, an install image of Windows 10X for single screens has leaked, giving us an early peek at Microsoft’s new OS.

And yes, it’s just like Chrome OS. Let’s just get that out of the way.

Microsoft has been working for years on a Chromebook competitor, but it has been largely unsuccessful. Windows 10 S, which was originally called Windows 10 Cloud, was Terry Myerson’s approach, and that, of course, crashed and burned, in part because it looked identical to Windows 10 but couldn’t run downloaded Windows 10 desktop applications.

And now we have Windows 10X. Microsoft tried to hide its true intent with this product by pretending last year that it was aimed at a new generation of dual-display PCs, but the software giant really created 10X to compete with Chrome OS on inexpensive single-display PCs. So after failing to get its container-based Windows desktop application compatibility solution to work, Microsoft scaled back and repositioned Windows 10X as was originally intended: It will now ship only on new traditional PCs aimed at education and other commercial markets.

I’ll be installing and evaluating the Windows 10X leak today, but early videos and shots show the Setup sequence is nearly identical to that of traditional Windows 10 versions, with the same basic steps, but with a simpler, almost cartoonish interface. It seems to require a Microsoft account, which makes sense since Windows 10 Home started this trend a few years ago.

And the main UI looks a lot like Chrome OS—and a lot like the mockup of a single-screen Windows 10X user interface that I made last April, go figure—as expected. Icons are centered on the taskbar, as in Chrome OS, and as with the Setup routine, everything seems simplified.

I’ll know more soon.

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Comments (46)

46 responses to “Windows 10X for Single Screens Leaks”

  1. haghighat

    Paul, are you positive that Microsoft has failed to get its container-based Windows desktop application compatibility solution to work? Was there an official announcement or leak or this is a piece of inside information?

  2. jimchamplin

    I'm not sure why the windows are locked maximized. That seems stupid, as if they just have to hobble it in some way because if they don't... things will happen.

    Chrome OS doesn't have this silly limitation. It just feels like more Microsoft weirdness, as if they force all the windows to be maximized, it will magically make people want to use Windows tablets. Or something.

    Let's also hope that Microsoft doesn't enforce the ridiculous EOL rule that Google puts on Chromebooks. Not holding my breath. They'll want to recreate the bad along with the okay.

    • Paul Thurrott

      I don't like the full-screen requirement. Playing Devil's Advocate, perhaps it's related to the focus on web and Store apps in this release. And that when Win32 apps happen, that will go away. It's like one less thing to worry about for v1.
      • jimchamplin

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        I can see that making sense. There’s also a very strong possibility that MS through their telemetry found out that on the cheap subnotebooks they’re targeting, people don’t really use apps in windowed mode. I hadn’t considered that.

    • jfgordon

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      Maximized-only windows!? Didn't this crash and burn with Windows 8.0 already!?

    • igor engelen

      In reply to jimchamplin:maybe they started this as a tablet OS. Maximized windows make sense then, if they provide other mechanisms to run apps side by side for instance.

  3. Mike_Peluso

    If it's new, that's great. If it takes everything good about Chrome and Windows and puts them together, that's great. If it's called windows, that's bad. bad. bad. I always thought that Windows Phone should have been called Microsoft Tiles, and this should be called Microsoft Browser, or Microsoft Edge OS (assuming it doesn't do traditional win 32 programs). Branding is important and slapping Windows on everything new is not good branding.

    • VancouverNinja

      In reply to Mike_Peluso:

      Being Windows is its trump card. Kids are using Chromebooks in their first years and then dump them and move to Windows. They will now have the ability to stay on the same platform and grow into the business/pro consumer version easily.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to VancouverNinja:

        They will now have the ability to stay on the same platform . . .

        Except that if Windows 10X doesn't run ANY Win32 desktop software (other than perhaps bundled applets like Notepad), Windows 10X really isn't the SAME PLATFORM as Windows 10 able to run Win32 desktop software.

        I can see the advantages to MSFT from Windows 10X adoption. I just can't see much benefit for anyone BUYING machines running Windows 10X.

        But you were so acute and successful in your Windows Phone predictions a few years ago that who could possibly doubt your penetration now?

    • nbplopes

      In reply to Mike_Peluso:

      I agree that the branding is flawed ... something like Xbook would sound better.

      There are plenty of things they MS can do that Google can't, at least to the extent MS can.

      Has a parent, I would love to see this on Xbox (a shielded dual shell). A place were my child can learn and play for $500 would not be such a bad deal at all. With a click of a button switch from Entertainment to Productivity and vice versa (Parental controls applied). Heck, even buy a mobile PC to go with it. The PWAs would fits like a glove and has at can attract many devs considering that its true universal tech (iOS, macOS, Windows, Chromebook .....)

      This would give a consumer slant to it that no other competitor can. MS needs to come back to consumers, especially the young. Well, at least, I would like to have that has an option :)


  4. nbplopes

    What user problem does this solve?

    • VancouverNinja

      In reply to nbplopes:

      Not having an alternative for a Chromebook. Mainly for education.

      • nbplopes

        In reply to VancouverNinja:

        Is that a user problem?

        I can’t imagine a user saying: “hey I have a problem, don’t have an alternative to a Chromebook”.

        The Chromebook solves a problem for Google considering they did not have a Desktop/Laptop OS. So they carved a very low cost niche to start on. That is not a problem MS has.

    • Paul Thurrott

      That Windows is too complex compared to modern mobile platforms, and that most good PCs are too expensive. Right now, the only hope for the PC market is that existing customers will upgrade. But many aren't, they're moving to non-PC platforms. This provides a Microsoft/PC industry alternative to Chromebooks, which also solve the problems with Windows and the PC.
      • nbplopes

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        My 10 year old, in tech perspective he comes from the iPad generation, has been asking for a full blown PC. I don't think complexity from a user perspective is the issue.

        Nevertheless I think there is an IT management perspective on these things. Window management costs became too high for some to organisations to manage properly. In this context there are advantages to computing model that uses a Computer As a Terminal, case in case Smart Terminal. Simpler to manage centrally when paired with a strong collection of cloud services.

        But there are efficiency risks. In particular, if the Cloud is malfunctioning an entire sector can be brought to a stop, from hours to days. Blackouts. It has happened, not less, but more. I guess IT managers can always go to the board and say ... "not our fault, the cloud is malfunctioning, we are all waiting", so their political arses are well protected.

        Personally I believe this Cloud centric / Centralised computing model is flawed because of this. The Cloud should not be required for intra device communication in proximity (within the perimeter of a house, classroom or auditorium) for core tasks. For this an architecture around task based in device distributed coordination is needed. But Windows has been moving away from that because of MS and Google need to validate their services. Heck, even copy and paste between devices 10 centimetres away goes trough the cloud.

  5. glenn8878

    In reply to RM:

    I didn't say they were replacing Windows 10. I said they are offering a version of Windows when it isn't necessary if they just fix Windows 10.

  6. brothernod

    When you test a leak like this, that requires a Microsoft Account, do you intentionally make a fake account or just roll with a real one?

  7. dnationsr

    this won't run on vm workstation

  8. sscywong

    It would works great for Windows tablet. But on traditional PC? Don't think so...

  9. jamJAR

    It would be good if they stopped aiming these things at the education market, Everytime I have to deal with a Windows 10 S device, my blood boils.

    • behindmyscreen

      In reply to jamJAR:

      They aim them at education because it is a simple focused market. that eliminates all the variables in the rest of the computing market while they work to make it a pleasant experience for a broader audience.

  10. behindmyscreen

    If it's web oriented like Chrome OS then it should be fine for people. Especially with how Microsoft has made their 365 stuff work together. Get a Citrix app on there and you're off to the races for a bunch of enterprise systems as well since these will no doubt fit better with that ecosystem than a chromebook does.

  11. StephenCWLL

    Look forward to your preview Paul. I've seen Zac's video and it all looks quite "neat".

  12. ngc224

    Microsoft, please stop with the “leak” crap. It’s getting old.

  13. Adlton

    This looks far from being able to replace Windows 10 anytime soon.

    I'm interested in how MS plans to run two versions of Windows simultaneously, because if W10X does not flop after launch two Windows OSes and supporting and servicing them is going to be reality for years to come.

    On the other hand there are some UX things that I would like to see in "real" Windows.

    • solomonrex

      In reply to Adlton:

      Apple has run two OSs in tandem for years now. MS has always had multiple major versions of Windows. I'm more concerned about MS not having persistence, as usual, with a slow selling variant, like with Windows 8 RT, Surface RT, Windows 8 itself, Kinect, etc.

  14. anoldamigauser

    Hopefully, they will not brand it "Windows" in any way, because that will absolutely confuse people and quickly fail, like RT and 10S before it.

    It is clearly not intended to replace Windows, but ChromeOS. If the setup is similar to Windows, one can only hope that the reset and updating is not. If they want to compete with Chromebooks in education and business, then it has to be as simple to maintain and update. I wonder if bringing Win32 in containers is even a good idea as that goes against simplicity, which it seems is a design goal here.

    If many people can get by with a Chromebook, there is no reason they cannot get by with a Microsoft equivalent. It just has to be equivalent. Its success may depend more on Edge and Office Online that on the OS itself, since that is what people will be using it for.

    • VancouverNinja

      In reply to AnOldAmigaUser:

      It will not confuse the target audience they are after. While we have seen Chromebook's largest gain last year it is still mainly, compared to Windows PCs, a K-6 educational buy. I am pretty sure they will be targeting these devices towards educational institutions and any businesses considering a Chromebook. Mainstream marketing will be Windows 10 or Windows 10 ARM.

    • djross95

      In reply to AnOldAmigaUser: I agree completely, see my post above on Office apps. Business will likely want the Win32 capability, but most consumers, and I would be one, probably wouldn't--and shouldn't--care.

    • Paul Thurrott

      It's literally called Windows 10X. :)
    • kenneth_burns

      It's painful to watch Microsoft do this again and again, apparently expecting different results. Windows CE? Yes, it's Windows, but actually it's not Windows. Windows RT? Absolutely it's Windows. Except it's not Windows.

      That said, I like the clean look and the simplified approach. I'm still all in on traditional Windows, but it's starting to seem like cable TV and DVRs, which I'm also still all in on. (Actually Windows Media Center (sorry Paul).) It's a mature solution and I like the flexibility, but it looks awfully klunky in 2021.

      Side note: As a journalist in the 2000s I was big on clamshell Windows CE/HPC devices like the NEC MobilePro 790. Very portable, great battery life, reasonable keyboard, instant on. Perfect for a reporter on the run in those days. But it tended to ... lose all data if the battery ran down. And getting files off it was a pain. Coworkers at the newspaper where I worked were curious and bought 790 devices of their own on. I warned them not to. It will be more trouble for you than it's worth, I said. I'm a gadget freak and a tinkerer and I like a challenge, I said. But you're going to just want to get work done and this device will frustrate you. You think you know Windows but this isn't really Windows. They didn't listen. Eventually one of them sold me his 790. I still have it. ?

  15. glenn8878

    So they made Windows less functional to compete against Chrome. Why can't they fix Settings, Windows Explorer, Task Bar, Start Menu so every function is easy to use and configure? A blank screen is actually harder to use. Chrome's only feature is the browser. Chrome is a Internet device.

  16. djross95

    I like the look of it, but then I like the look of Chrome OS as well. The big question I have is whether--and how--Office apps will run. If it's just the mobile apps then I fail to see how this competes with Chromebooks, which are being developed at a fairly consistent pace. Any info on this? Thanks.

  17. RobertJasiek

    I might have considered Windows 10X on simplistic devices but if indeed a Microsoft account is mandatory, I ignore it like RT, S, S mode and whatnot Microsoft tried to impose on us. I want freedom - not mandatory online status or mandatory data surveillance.

  18. ponsaelius

    A version of Windows, called Windows, that doesn't run Windows applications. It seems like deja vu.

    My own view is call it "Edge OS", make it run on ARM only, and launch it with a new Surface device on ARM.

    A way of not breaking the existing Windows while launching a new OS.

    Maybe I am wrong but this seems to be setup to fail (again).