Hands-on with Windows 10X for single-screen PCs (video)

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What you need to know

  • A near final build of Windows 10X has leaked.
  • We go hands-on to showcase the OS in all its glory.

Microsoft announced in May last year that it was repositioning Windows 10X as an OS for single-screen PCs, and that's the last we heard about Windows 10X. We haven't had any new preview builds, or an official update from the company about how the OS is going.

Now, a near final build of Windows 10X for single-screen PCs has leaked, giving us a chance to go hands-on with some of the changes Microsoft has made to Windows 10X. The leak confirms our report from last year which claimed Microsoft had removed local Win32 app support, but other than that, not much else has changed.

The Windows 10X user interface is still the same as it was when it was first announced, which is a good thing in our book. The animations are more fluid, and the OS feels much more polished overall.

Windows 10X is expected to launch officially on commercial-focused PCs sometime this spring. What are your thoughts on version one of Windows 10X so far? Let us know in the comments.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

62 Comments
  • No Live tiles. 🤬🤬🤬🤬
  • Live tiles won't be removed from Windows 10, at least for now.
  • Who cares? They were never really live to begin with.
  • ...and we knew this like 20 months ago.
  • Looks good. If this combined with the ability to run Android apps using some kind of WSL method, then it's all good. They have to admit that apps on the Windows Store are not on par with a plethora of apps on Android. It doesn't matter if the apps need to submit to the Windows Store. If users want it, devs will gladly do it. As long as it only needs minimum modifications, that is.
  • Built from the ground up ZAC? how, its still got all the Windows 10 apps.
    We need to choose the words here. If you were a software engineer MS, would you start coding a new version by rewriting the boot string and DOS prompt?
    Built from the ground up gives this impression which is false. A wheel cannot be reinvented
  • Hold on ... how does Edge work on Windows 10X without Win32 support? Last time I checked it was forked from the Chromium project and is a native Win32 app. Or did they reskin and ship their legacy Edge UWP app?
  • And Word too.
  • That does appear to be Word Mobile, though.
  • Found it! Windows 10X contains something called "SHIM" that translates legacy Win32 APIs to the newer UWP APIs. Edge is the only app using this compatibility layer for far.
  • It's just "shim" and is a standard "a library that transparently intercepts API calls." It is already used for Windows 10 on ARM for Office. It's just a way to trick the OS into thinking it's one thing when it is really something else. Office on ARM is translated for ARM, but it shows as Win32 to the OS so that third party plugins will recognize it and work with it. Doesn't stop people though from constantly ask when Office will be converted to ARM 🙄
  • CHPE? It's a Microsoft proprietary framework for combining multiple architectures in one library. The executables are ARM code but the libraries use a thunking mechanism to translate between different architectures. I thought only Office used CHPE, not the new Edge.
  • Likely the same way it does on Android or iPhone?
  • Apps ! Apps ! Apps !
    MS need to pay iOS (iPadOS) developers.
  • They should just pre-install popular apps like Facebook, YouTube, Spotify as web apps. The average user won't know this is available at first and give up easily. I can only image my mother complaining there isn't Facebook and she should have bought an iPad.
  • This is actually a brilliant idea.
  • No no no we don't want pre installed bloatware
  • It’s not bloatware if vast majority of (intended) users are going to install it anyway.
  • How can a web app be bloat? Hahaha dohhhh
  • So your mom will just be dissapointed that the apps are all terrible?
  • They tried paying developers, it didn't work. They just did the bare minimum to get paid and released garbage apps and never payed any further attention. You can find the weird looking WP guy talking about it.
  • Glad to see the Settings app going dark grey instead of black like now.
  • Lol. Someone above hates the “discord grey”. Just shows, you can’t please everyone.
  • MS don't try to learn a lesson from previous failure.
  • The history of technology is all about learning from failure. Ever heard of the Apple Lisa?
  • It looks like tablet mode with centered tasbar and no tiles. Awfully a lot like ChromOS to push lazy webapps.
  • Web apps aren’t lazy.
  • Web apps are lazy as they are just made for use on platforms they don't see a point in native development on.
  • The Action Centre/System Tray should be centered as well. It's weird to have apps in the middle, and stuff cornered on the right.
  • Looks good, definitely potential for an iPad OS competitor but perhaps a bit too early to see how they stack up.
  • Exactly. It amuses me angry nerds are raging it won’t replace their desktop OS. It’s not meant to. At least not yet.
  • I can really only see this being useful on a Surface Duo. Anything with a larger screen and users will want to be able to open many windows. That makes docking a device with Win10X pretty much useless.
  • I was just thinking how this MIGHT be something they will consider in the future. Having a Windows 10X version of Duo. The Neo, when/if they decide to release it, will certainly have Windows 10X on it. I'm hopeful that MS will bring back Live Tile like icons that are dynamic and useful. I can appreciate trying to make things simplistic, but not at the cost of losing the things that make it different from Apple and Goggle products.
  • This was originally meant for Surface Neo.
  • It is even worse than Windows 8 UI.
    It would just repeat the Windows RT story.
  • I read your comment then realized you forgot the 'r' after the 'w' in your name
  • Lol.
    RT was just ahead of its time.
    The concept was excellent.
  • Said no one, ever. Full Windows without the thing that makes Windows great will never be a good concept.
  • It looks like what it is an Android clone. Something that even the bad UX doesn't have anything to do with, things like predictive text, mapping services, and dictation have become standard on mobile operating systems and Microsoft has none of these. When Google needs to sell more Chromebooks, the only thing said about Windows 10X will be "imitation is the best form of flattery." Microsoft has not been at the forefront of technology for several years now. What a operating system has become has completely changed because of the mobile revolution. And the "new" icons look terrible.
  • The touch keyboard for Windows 10 has dictation and text prediction and has for years. I don't see why you think this won't? Mapping services will be just as present here as they are on any other PC. This isn't designed for phones. It's designed for cheap education/non power user centric devices. It's targeting the ChromeOS market, not the Android market.
  • At last, a version of Windows that runs only web apps and all those successful Modern windows apps like... like... uh, is there any commercial interest at all in Modern apps? You can run web apps today on Windows 10. Don't get me wrong. As long as Microsoft continues to segregate their Bad Ideas(TM) of a non-"legacy" app future into this OS that no one will ever use, ever, then I'm happy (and I suspect many others will be as well).
  • Can you figure out the reason why though? It’s amusing nobody can spot the obvious reason for it existing. I guess why that’s none of you are Bill Gates 🤣
  • Well, this looks atrocious.
    They removed the useful functionality from the start menu, and made it a flat folder with giant icons that don't do anything.
    They changed the color theme from a solid black (which I prefer), to a Discord grey (which is still better than white).
    They munged a ton of independent settings into one weird slide out UI, though the way Windows 10 music controls work isn't good in itself, so that might be the only up side to the new mess.
    Centered icons that shift depending on how much is there is going to be a pain to use.
    And I've had to go to great lengths to turn useless animations off on my desktop (and my phone for that matter), so seeing how stripped down 10X is concerns me. I might not be able to turn off the transition animations. All in all, I'm a fan of the idea of a lighter weight OS with a simpler experience. I've got a ProX that could use it. I'm just not a fan of the horrible UI layer they're shoving on top of it.
  • Yet chromeos works just fine with a similar layout.
  • Looking at the weather app, everything appeals. But looking at the rest, we're in the post mobile world yet everything looks so unresponsive/non-scalable. I'd expect the icons to be SVG vectors. I agree with comments elsewhere, the icons look crap - MS trying too hard to copy Google. If one looks at the file explorer style of OneDrive everything is tiny.
  • Hard to say if I'll like it until I try it, but I'm general I'm definitely more of a "power user" so the OS itself may not be useful for me no matter how good it is right now. I don't really get the complaining in the comments so far, reserve your judgment till it comes out and you try it. And even if it doesn't fit your needs it doesn't mean it's useless or dumb.
  • Humans love to moan.
    This is either a chromeos competitor. (Which is good as chromeos is real nice).
    Or it a the long term ARM play.
    MS still struggling to get modern apps developed. Their Achilles heel.
  • It should definitely be ARM only, but I am sure Microsoft will mess that up. There is no reason for these machines to be X64 based.
  • If it runs all of the work-from-home and school-from-home tools well, this could be a good thing. A 'simpler Windows for people who aren't gamers' might be very popular. So it needs Teams, Skype and Zoom (and others) to be very good. Great speakers, great microphone, great webcam. Fast to launch and solid. If they can do this, it will be a success.
  • Josh, can you put any icons on the desktop? Seems very large empty space. Like we put my computer on current windows 10?
  • God I hope not. Icons on desktops are a abomination. Ugly. 1980s computer look.
    It’s about time that dies.
  • Wow that is basic and certainly aimed at chrome OS users. Will they go for it? I know a couple of Chrome OS users and i can not see them changing over to be honest, in fact one of them got a new chromebook late last year to replace their old one. My worries are how much of this MS will transfer to Windows 10. It is certainly not an OS for me, nor is Chrome OS, even if I wanted a machine for basic stuff, too much cloudy stuff.,
  • I think potential customers are those in education who want to use Chrome OS but are obligated to be in the Microsoft world for some reason.
  • I very greatly suspect that the initial target for these will be schools, rather than students, and other bulk purchase sectors and possibly developing countries that are more heavily mobile only. This isn't going to do much for individual consumers shopping for a device through a retail outlet. At least not yet. Obviously there's a roadmap that'll increase functionality and make this something that makes more sense on higher powered devices and to a broader set of users. But this is a pretty decent set up for education or front line workers that mostly use web apps.
  • No win32 support can be a real deal breaker. But on the other side it can motivate windows devs to build apps for MS Store without having to competing with the vast win32 alternatives.
  • Or maybe develop PWA apps.
  • Why would you want to run some old Win32 programs on a light machine? Get an actual Windows computer if you need that. Microsoft needs to remove Windows from the name of this and distance it from Windows. That name doesn't buy them anything here.
  • Everything looks great, except how boring and static the customization on the Start Menu is... I looks nice with the new icons but it makes iOS look more customizable and engaging, and that's saying something. I know its the 1st version, hopefully future updates give it justice, like app folders, widgets, and so on. It gets the job done, but despite it looking pretty, its quite boring. If anything the Start Menu needs attention.
  • Deja vu. A version on Windows that doesn't run Windows applications. Where have I seen this before. Windows CE
    Windows RT
    Windows 10 S It could work. It would be better to call it something else, design for ARM processors and launch it on devices that use ARM and have great battery life. What do I know? Nothing really. However, I don't know why doing the same thing again every few years to move on from Windows is expected to work differently.
  • I needed to go to the toilet after I watched this!
  • Windows that cannot run Windows programs is not Windows to me.
    Either call it something else or scrap it altogether and focus on improving Windows 10.
  • Based on several comments in this discussion it, proves that time and time again that Microsoft's major issue is trying to market everything as, well... "Windows". I'm fine with Microsoft having a second OS that doesn't run legacy apps. I'm fine if the file browser is simplified. So what if the multi tasking isn't as power-user friendly. If they call it CoreOS (of pick whatever name you like) nobody would constantly try to compare it to what is already out there. I assume Microsoft's marketing team is like "well everybody knows the name Windows so let's just call it that." Building off a reputation can go both ways. Same reason they branded the Edge logo to look like Explorer. Just because they think more average people will gravitate to it because it's so familiar. Completely re-branding something may not get you an instant user base, but if a product is good enough it will eventually find it's way to the masses.