A first look at Microsoft’s Windows 10X

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For quite a long time now it has been known, that Microsoft is working hard on a new, super lightweight version of its current Windows operating system, called Windows 10X. Now, as signs of an imminent release are growing, a first glimpse on the current progress of development leaked on the internet.

  • Task View
  • Microsoft Edge running on Windows 10X
  • Login
  • Notifications & Quick Settings
  • Microsoft Store

The history

First announced at Microsoft Ignite 2019 as the operating system of a planned dual-screen tablet, called Suface Neo, its focus changed throughout the year. One of the main reasons behind this is the ongoing Corona pandemic. Now, Windows 10X will come out for single-screen devices first.

The idea

With a growing number of people working from home, the PC marked is experiencing a renaissance. While people are returning to using a PC, at the same time many of them don’t want to miss the sleek and easy design they know from their tablets and phones.

While Microsoft put lots of effort in making Windows 10 an easy-to-use operating system, for many people it is still not enough. Another problem with Windows 10 is, while there are versions for ARM processors, that the operating system is still quite heavy.

So, the reason for Microsoft to make this move is, that while Apple is moving their Mac Computers to ARM, and Google is slowly but steadily growing their Chrome OS ecosystem, they don’t want to fall behind.

Those and other reasons made Microsoft reconsider their development approaches which lead to the development of a brand-new operating system, called Windows 10X.

The architecture

As said above, Windows 10X will come out as a lightweight operating system, primarily focused on usability and mobility.

App availability

With the focus being on lightweight, always-on ARM devices, it is unclear at this time, if Windows 10X will support classic Win32 apps. While there is an ominous looking developer option in the Settings App of Windows 10X and while there is a x86 emulation system available on normal Windows 10 for ARM, it is not yet clear if it will make its way to 10X.

At this point, it is only possible to run and install apps from the integrated Microsoft Store. Actually, at least for me, that’s not the worst thing. The Windows App availability has improved quite a lot over the years, and many apps that I need for my easier workloads are easily available.

But we’ll see: Even if Microsoft isn’t bringing Win32 support initially, no one is keeping them from doing so in the future. After all, there have been earlier previews that could run the good old Notepad.exe on Windows 10X.

Lightweight, also in terms of storage, memory and power consumption

In terms of size, Windows 10X is a real lightweight! While a traditional Windows 10 installation can easily use up 15+ GB on your hard disk, Windows 10X is happy with a mere 9GB. This is primarily achieved by redesigning the system from scratch, removing all the overhead that in the past came from forcing a big desktop OS into a small mobile device.

Looking at of RAM usage, Windows 10X uses as much as 866 MB without any apps running. This at first sounds great. But after starting a heavier app, in my example it was Microsoft’s Chromium based Edge Browser, the RAM usage almost doubled to 1572 GB. So, at this time I doubt, that there will be devices with just 2GB of RAM, as they would quickly be used up by just a few apps. I think it’s safe to assume that low-budget 10X devices will come with 3 to 4 GB of RAM.

At this time, I can’t say much about CPU usage, as my test VM was running a X86 version of Windows 10X and my host’s CPU is an Intel i9. All I can say is, that the performance with just 1 vCPU was very fluent. Compared to a normal Windows 10, that’s an improvement. I may update this article as soon as I have more info on this.

At last, I want to point out the most important fact: Power consumption. It is easy to assume, that this new system will be as power-saving as other modern mobile operating systems like Android and iOS. This means that 10X may be the first Windows operating system that will accompany you through many days without your device needing to be charged. This would be truly amazing and would finally put Windows at par with other mobility-oriented platforms.

Windows Settings on Windows 10X
Windows Settings in Windows 10X

Devices

When Microsoft announced Windows 10X for the first time, they demonstrated it on an early Surface Neo device.  Besides of that they mentioned in a corresponding article, that ASUS, Dell, HP and Lenovo will be releasing compatible devises as well.

As the dual-screen approach of Windows 10X has been postponed at this time it is safe to assume, that the aforementioned manufacturers will still deliver systems with 10X, but they will shift their focus to Chromebook-like devices with Windows 10X at first.

I’m also quite confident that we’ll quickly see a new lightweight Surface line with the new OS. Maybe Microsoft will also move their Surface Go line to being sole Windows 10X devices. I’m sure we will be hearing more about this soon. Possibly on the upcoming Microsoft Ignite conference, planed for March 2nd through 4th.

The initial Windows 10X presentation on Surface Neo.
The initial presentation on Surface Neo (Source: Microsoft)

Summary

Windows 10X is Microsoft’s approach to bringing a super lightweight and easy-to-use operating system to its customers. By completely redesigning the system from scratch, they removed all the overhead from its big brother Windows 10 and created a surely beautiful and intuitive system for everyday use. This also significantly reduces power consumption and improves the performance of it notably.

Windows 10X is expected to debut this spring, together with the first line of devices running it.

While Windows 10 will continue to be the choice operating system for the power-user, Windows 10X has a big chance in becoming a very popular operating system for the day-to-day user whose focus is on simplicity and availability.

I will keep you updated on any news, as soon as they become available.

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