Windows 10X was originally intended to debut on dual-monitor devices, such as the Surface Neo, before later coming to laptops. In May last year, Microsoft announced a “pivot” to “focus on Windows 10X devices with a screen” in the middle of the wave from home. An “almost final version” of Windows 10X has now been leaked, revealing some important similarities with Chrome OS.
The Verge’s Tom Warren tonight shared a couple of videos on Twitter showing the Windows 10X building. Per a ZDNet report in July last year, this operating system will be launched in the spring and targeted “primarily for companies (especially first-line workers) and education.”
We first see that the Windows 10X home screen consists of a taskbar and background. It’s not clear if files, folders and apps can be attached to a desktop, but Chrome OS also lacks such an option. This approach is easier to maintain synchronization across multiple devices and not have files located in more than one location. Meanwhile, the open or attached apps in the taskbar are centered, as on Chromebooks, instead of being populated from left to right on Windows 10.
The first item below opens a full screen launcher starting with a “Search the web or your devices” field. In comparison, it asks Chrome OS users to “Search your device, apps, settings, web …”
This is followed by a grid that contains both “apps and websites.” The former probably consists of Universal Windows Platform apps as 10X is rumored (via Windows Central) for not supporting native Win32 software, while Progressive Web Apps is the latter category. From this launch, Microsoft, like Google with Android apps, does not differentiate the nature of the applications.
Only 15 apps are displayed at a time, with the “Show All” button at the top right. A “Recent” section below this shows files and is more dedicated than the Chrome OS carousel for selecting one or two documents, tabs, and apps.
In the meantime, open “Quick Settings” by tapping the time at the bottom right. Arranged in a grid, users can make changes without leaving this panel, while there is a slider to adjust the volume. Like Chrome OS, it can be shrunk to show only key preferences, while your profile picture also appears here.
Another important similarity to the Chromebook experience is how “Alerts” appears on maps just above Quick Settings with “Clear All” at the top right.
Visual similarities aside, the most important part of Windows 10X may be the setup process. As of this release, Warren notes that a Microsoft account and Internet access are required for registration. This is not so different from Chrome OS which requires a Google Account – but “Browse Guest” is always available – to keep bookmarks, apps, files and settings synced across devices.
Along with the reliance on electronic apps, this path Microsoft takes Windows further shows that Google had the right idea with Chrome OS. Google’s core insight back in 2009 – with the first consumer devices coming two years later – was that a cloud-centric operating system would be the future.
The last decade has shown that online document editing, cloud-based photo / video storage, game streaming and web apps are enough to meet most people’s needs. As part of this new reality, applications and services are not locked down to a platform, but rather live online for any operating system with a web browser. This allows the actual computer hardware to be commoditized and very affordable.
Microsoft is now following the same path to offer the cheaper devices that better compete with Chromebooks. While “Windows 10” is still in “Windows 10X”, it is clear that the cloud is the most important experience driver. Meanwhile, the visual similarities with Chrome OS – not Windows – more or less show that people are familiar and comfortable with the web model, so much so that previous interface paradigms can be removed for something much easier.
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