Windows 10X was originally slated to debut on dual-screen devices, such as the Surface Neo, before coming to laptops later. Last May, Microsoft announced a “pivot” to “focus on Windows 10X devices with a screen” in the middle of work from home. An “almost final version” of Windows 10X has now been leaked and it reveals some important similarities with Chrome OS.
The edge is Tonight, Tom Warren shared a few videos on Twitter showing the Windows 10X build. Per a ZDNet report in July last year, this operating system is expected to launch in the spring and targeted “primarily at companies (especially first-line workers) and education.”
We first see that the Windows 10X home screen consists of a taskbar and wallpaper. It’s not clear if files, folders, and apps can be pinned to a desktop, but Chrome OS also lacks such an option. This approach is simpler to help maintain cross-device synchronization and not have files located more than one place. Meanwhile, the open or pinned apps in the taskbar are centered, just like on Chromebooks, rather than 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 presumably consists of Universal Windows Platform apps, as 10X is rumored (via Windows Central) to not support older Win32 software, while Progressive Web Apps make up the latter category. From this launcher, Microsoft, like Google with Android apps, does not distinguish the nature of the applications.
Only 15 apps are displayed at a time with the “Show all” button in the upper right corner. A “Recent” section below this surfaces files and is more dedicated than the carousel that Chrome OS has to highlight one or two Docs, tabs, and apps.
In the meantime, open “Quick Settings” by tapping the time in the lower right corner. 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 “Notifications” 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 installation process. From this build, Warren notes how a Microsoft account and Internet access are required for registration. This is not too different from Chrome OS, which requires a Google Account – although “Browse as a Guest” is always available – to keep bookmarks, apps, files and settings synchronized across devices.
Along with the reliance on online apps, this path that Microsoft is taking Windows further shows that Google had the right idea with Chrome OS. Google’s core profit back in 2009 – with the first consumables 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 suit the needs of most people. As part of this new reality, applications and services are not locked down to a platform, but live live online for any operating system with a browser. This makes it possible to commoditize the actual computer hardware and very affordable.
Microsoft is now following in the same direction 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 primary experience driver. Meanwhile, the visual similarities with Chrome OS – not Windows – more or less show that people are familiar with and comfortable with the web model, so much so that previous interface paradigms can be removed for something much simpler.
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