Although it was intended to be a pure developer event, yesterday’s Microsoft 365 Developer Day turned into a debut of what might be the first public glimpse into the future of Windows and not just Windows 10.
While development for dual-screen devices such as the Surface Neo, which Microsoft first shared with the public in New York City last October, was the focal point of the developer event and on-demand videos, the exciting part for geeks like myself was finally seeing Windows 10X.
It has been known by a couple of monikers – Windows Lite and Windows Core OS being the main names as leaks abounded across the blogosphere.
However, after spending some time checking out this early look at a truly modern operating system, it might just be the key to the future of Windows.
This theme has been percolating across Twitter in the last 24 hours as well.
With all that said and I have more to add later, here are the key details that can help you check out Windows 10X right now:
- OS: Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education (Windows Insider Preview Build 19555 or higher)
- Four core Intel CPU (will not work with an AMD CPU for now according to Microsoft)
- 8GB of RAM
- 15GB hard drive space – SSD recommended
- Dedicated video card recommended using DirectX 11 or higher and a WDDM 2.4 graphics driver or higher
Your device must support hardware-assisted virtualization, Second Level Address Translation (SLAT), and hardware-based Data Execution Prevention (DEP).
If your device meets all of this requirements, you must make sure that the Hyper-V feature has been activated on your install.
Hopefully, at this point you are ready to start the emulator software up and access the Windows 10X image. If everything is working you should see this on your screen.
If that is what you see now you can start checking our Windows 10X.
Note: This is an early release of this operating system and not everything is backed in yet so be patient with bugs and other errors. In addition, you are running this OS in a nested virtual machine utilizing resources from the host OS. Even on the most powerful desktop or laptop devices, this is still an imperfect experience. Be patient and have fun poking around because you can’t really break anything as you explore.
Below I have provided more than 30 screenshots of Windows 10X running in the emulator on a Surface Laptop 3. That device, which was launched in October of last year, has an Intel Core i5 CPU (quad core CPU) with 8GB of RAM. It does much better than when I tried to use the 2017 version of the Surface Pro so your performance experience with Windows 10X will be dictated in many ways by the host operating system.
Visit the Microsoft 365 Virtual Events homepage and check out the Getting started with Microsoft Emulator and Windows 10X video for additional tips.
In no particular order, here are my notes and observations about Windows 10X:
- Although Windows 10 has been called a modern operating system over the last few years, compared to its popular predecessor Windows 7 it most certainly is, but Windows 10X is going to really be modern in its execution and approach.
- I am not calling Windows 10X an iPad killer. However, the concept behind Windows 10X’s architecture which includes the use of a read-only operating system and containers for apps, it is really taking serious steps forward as a modern OS. Think of the operating systems on iPad, iPhone, and Android devices and you get an idea on how Windows 10X will work – untouchable by the apps and software installed on the OS.
- Windows 10X looks to be the tablet based experience we have been asking for on Windows 10 since the latest version of Windows was released. With that said, it is just as feasible to interact with a physical mouse and keyboard through the emulator. Check out the image of Compose Mode to see how you can do the keyboard, track-pad, Wonder Bar, and touch interaction with Windows 10X. The Wonder Bar is very cool – think of it as Apple’s Touch Bar relative.
- Right now apps and programs can not be windowed. They can either be minimized, full screen, or snapped alongside another app on one screen. It is early on and it is possible that apps could get this capability. On a small screen device is it really necessary since windows can be snapped side by side anyway?
- Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) can be installed from Edge (Chromium) just like on a desktop, Windows 10X has the Edge Developer channel build installed by default. These apps work just like they do on other devices including notifications in the Action Center.
- Speaking of the Action Center, make sure you check that out because it has received a major overhaul in Windows 10X. Not only is the quick actions completely updated but there is a defined area for notifications and music playback controls. Many things with the Action Center will be familiar such as customizing notifications, a volume and brightness slider are also included for quick access. In some cases, you can use the Action Center’s Quick Settings to modify system settings from right within the Action Center instead of the main Settings app.
- Some included apps on Windows 10X already work with the dual-screens in the emulator. If you want to try them out check out Maps and mail as starters. As more developers make their apps aware of the dual-screen device and its hinge, this list will grow. By the way, you can go into the Microsoft Store and install your favorite apps on the Windows 10X emulator image. Any changes and installs are retained between sessions.
- Windows 10X already has a Light and Dark Mode option in settings.
- The Taskbar stretches across both sides of the dual-screen emulator and you can still pin apps there for quick access. Look for the subtle dividing line on the Taskbar to show you the running apps and pinned apps. You will always find your pinned/running apps in between the Windows Logo (aka Start Menu button) and the Task View button.
- When you click that Start Menu button the new Start Menu will pop up. No Live Tiles or anything like that just a search box, app and website shortcuts, and your latest files. I have not discovered if I can re-arrange these icons yet and it is possible that feature will come along later.
- The legacy Control Panel is not in Windows 10X so everything for options are located in the Windows 10 Settings app. You will notice as you explore the Settings app that it does not have all of the same options you would see on a Windows 10 device. This is likely on purpose in some cases and just a matter of adding them to the OS later in other situations.
- OneDrive does not work on this release of Windows 10X. However, you can use your keyboard shortcut of WINDOWS + PRINT SCREEN to take screenshots in the emulator.
- There is a myriad of ways you can look at apps in the dual-screen emulator for Windows 10X so have fun exploring the possibilities. Also practice spanning apps across both screens to see how they lay themselves out around the hinge area.
It is going to be a lot of fun watching Windows 10X along its development path.
As others have said on social media, the dual-screen devices that will run Windows 10X, including Surface Neo and hardware from Microsoft’s OEM partners, are fun and interesting for sure.
However, the real secret sauce is how Windows 10X is being built under the screens at the operating system level. Between the read-only core OS and the containers for apps and software, this has the potential to be a huge innovation moving forward for Windows overall in areas of backwards compatibility, security, and data protection.
Note: Go see the video called How Windows 10X runs UWP and Win32 apps on the Microsoft 365 Virtual Events homepage to see how this all fits together.
I honestly believe that Windows 10X will be made available on consumer devices that are not dual-screen based hardware because this is going to be Windows as we know it moving forward in the consumer market. It should turn the 2-in-1, convertible, and tablet form factor markets into ones with a collection of hardware that is capable of keyboard, mouse, touch, and tablet based interactions without any compromises.
The next several months are going to be a lot of fun.
Windows 10X Screenshot Gallery