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Microsoft announces Windows 10X: A modern OS for foldable PCs coming next year

Microsoft employee with Surface Neo
Microsoft employee with Surface Neo (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Microsoft has today taken the wraps off a new edition of Windows 10 that has been rebuilt from the ground up using Windows 10 Core Technologies. This new edition of Windows 10 is based on Windows Core OS, a modular version of Windows 10 that aims to modernize and componentize the OS for all kinds of device form factors such as HoloLens 2, Surface Hub 2X, and more. Today, Microsoft announced Windows 10X, a version of Windows Core OS that's designed for new foldable PC device form factors coming in 2020.

Windows 10X features a brand new UX with a modern Start menu, taskbar, and user experience. The UX has been rebuilt from the ground up with foldable PCs in mind, redesigning core system elements such as the Start menu, Taskbar, Action Center, and more. It introduces a modular shell experience that can adapt and change on the fly, depending on how you're using your device. The OS overall is much more consistent in its design thanks to the removal of legacy components and shell bits.

Microsoft says Windows 10X is for new foldable PCs only, and won't be coming to users already running Windows 10 today. Those who wish to use Windows 10X will have to buy PCs that have the OS preinstalled, which won't be until Holiday 2020 at the earliest. Microsoft has already confirmed that it, along with Dell, HP, and Lenovo, will be shipping Windows 10X foldable PCs in Holiday 2020.

Modern OS, legacy apps

Laptop with Office 365

Laptop with Office 365 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Crucially, Microsoft says that Windows 10X can run all your usual programs, including Win32 programs. This is a big deal, as it means Windows 10X won't be gimped from the start via a lack of apps. Users will be able to download and use Win32 programs from the Microsoft Store, or from third-party storefronts like Adobe where applicable.

Win32 support on Windows 10X is somewhat different from how Win32 programs operate on regular Windows 10 however. Microsoft says that since Windows 10X is a modern OS, many of the legacy components required for Win32 apps to run have been decoupled from the core of the OS. But, thanks to Windows Core OS being a modular OS, users that need to run Win32 programs can do so as the OS will spin up the components required to run Win32 programs when required. When the user isn't running a Win32 program, those components are put back to sleep so that they don't affect OS performance.

End users shouldn't notice anything different in running their Win32 programs on Windows 10X, but it is a significant change to the OS. It also makes Win32 applications more secure by sandboxing and containerizing them so that they can't reach out and affect or damage other parts of the system. It's a huge step forward in security for Windows as a whole, and it's coming to Windows 10X first.

Foldable PCs are coming

Lenovo Foldable

Lenovo Foldable (Image credit: MrMobile)

Microsoft says these new PCs are an innovative new form factor, introducing foldable and dual-screen technologies to laptop devices. Microsoft announced its dual-screen PC today as well, and it will be one of the first products to ship with Windows 10X next year. Lenovo has already shown off its foldable PC, which will also be running Windows 10X when it ships. Dell, HP, and ASUS are also expected to ship foldable PCs in Holiday 2020, all running Windows 10X.

For now, Microsoft says Windows 10X is exclusive to foldable PCs, and won't be coming to traditional form factors like laptops or desktops. That could change in the future, and I think that will depend entirely on how well Windows 10X does on the foldable PC form factor first.

Modularization of Windows

Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella (Image credit: Windows Central)

Windows 10X is built on top of Windows Core OS, which Microsoft insists is not a new OS and sits under the Windows 10 umbrella. What's unique about Windows Core OS is that it's a modular platform that can adapt and change on the fly. Because of this, Windows 10X is based on the same universal OS that HoloLens 2, Surface Hub 2X, and even the Xbox is based on, with little changes to the core to make the OS run across these devices. The significant differences across these different editions of Windows Core OS come in the form of varying shell UX.

The shell UX is what users interact with, and on Windows Core OS, it's different across the many different device form factors it runs on. HoloLens 2 looks different from Surface Hub 2X, which is different from Windows 10X, and that's by design. It means although Windows Core OS is the same OS across these different devices, the user experience doesn't degrade because of it, and that's how Microsoft is differentiating these different editions of Windows Core OS.

Modularizing Windows also allows Microsoft to build features and functions once, and share them across different form factors. For example, Microsoft's work around HDR and framerate improvements on Xbox One were built using these Core Technologies, meaning those same improvements can now easily be applied to other devices that also run Windows Core OS.

A year away

Surface logo

Surface logo (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft says Windows 10X won't be coming until the fall of 2020, giving hardware makers, and Microsoft itself plenty of time to finalize both hardware and software efforts. I asked Microsoft if Insiders would get the chance to test Windows 10X before it starts shipping, but Microsoft was unable to comment at this time. Several UX changes first introduced with Windows 10X may find their way to Windows 10 over time, as these Core Technology components can also run on top of regular Windows 10 where applicable.

What are your thoughts?

So that's Windows 10X, a new modern version of Windows 10 built on a modular version of Microsoft's OS. Let us know in the comments what your thoughts are, and whether or not you're interested in buying a foldable PC with Windows 10X preinstalled.

Here's everything Microsoft announced at its Surface 2019 event

Zac Bowden
Zac Bowden

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.

21 Comments
  • I'm very excited for this and looking forward for Neo. The only really saddens me so much is the lack of Live Tiles which I really like and taking advantage of it despite the lack of any improvements for few years sadly. They could have evolved Live Tile into a widget but more uniform and elegant, which make Live Tile actually useful beyond glancable information. Shame really, and kind ironic when Microsoft Launcher supported Widget which they could at least have done that for Windows 10 X. There is still a hope for that since the software is clearly not final, but highly doubt it.
  • Thanks for bringing news of this Zac to us what... about 2 years ago? So nice to see it for realsies! This was a historic day for sure. ;0)
  • Can I put this on a smartphone like device that can fit in your pocket??
  • Just go pre-order the Surface Duo foldable mobile device
  • I was thinking I'm doing something like a pocket PC I am using Windows 10x.
  • How many gigabytes of extra disk space does this new Windows take compared to Windows 10?
  • The only concern is if Microsoft, as it has in the past, shows up late with the hardware. If the other OEMs haveW10X devices out first, which might very well copy a lot of the ideas of the Neo, then Microsoft might be hurting itself by announcing things so soon. It does seem like Microsoft is trying to make things better going forward, it's just hard to see this not coming with major teething issues. That said, I'll totally be on board to give it a whirl and watch it grow. I wish they'd let us in now.
  • I doubt OEMs will beat them. Windows 10X probably won't be ready for anyone to be able to do that.
  • I don't know this is a pretty premium crafted device.
    the development and research is probably at least can take it year.
    Lenovo not gonna scrap the model that they've already shown now.
  • The Neo looks really cool. The physical keyboard is what sold me. I could see really using this thing and a replacement for my super portable Surface Go. I'm all supportive of Windows 10X. Then need a way to phase out Win32 and move forward. I'm surprised they described it as a version of Windows 10 optimized for dual screens in the Surface Event. It really is so much more than that. My huge disappointment is Duo running Android. There really should be no reason Duo couldn't run Windows 10X. And maybe it will some day. They should have left Duo just for Surface super fans and not care about market share. Just to show what Windows 10X can do regarding form factors. Windows 10X has the ability to bridge all form factors into one OS and one app eco system. They didn't go for the grand slam and put Windows 10X on Duo. They played it safe and just got Duo to first base.
  • I think they should Launch the Surface Duo with Android then provide an official upgrade path to Windows 10X for those that want it. Having Android at launch is good for the "hurdur no snapchat" crowd. Which unfortunately is the vast majority of consumers. Ideally it would be dual boot with Android as default and us nerds can choose to run Windows 10X. I think there's a high chance that they're gonna give us the option of Windows 10X. It's so easy to do. Surface Pro X runs full Windows 10 On ARM on a Snapdragon > Surface Duo runs on Snapdragon.
    Windows 10X is a UX experience for dual screens > Surface Duo is a dual screen. There is literally no huge obstacle here. Porting it should be extremely easy. I expect hackers to do it if Microsoft doesn't.
    If they got Windows 10 on ARm to run on a Lumia 950 this should be a cakewalk.
  • Will there be an upgrade to Windows 10X for the Lumia 950XL?
  • Not officially, but I would not be surprised if some Windows Phone super-fan would attempt to find a way to do it. *I* am personally not waiting for something like that and I am not recommending anyone else do that as Win10X has *no* telephony stack, mentioned by Daniel Rubino and Zac Bowden on several occasions 🙂
  • coming soon... next year.... meanwhile the launched a dual screen Surface Duo device that uses Android.. Today.. yeah... crystal clear vision...
  • Windows Core OS offspring like Windows 10X is a smart way for Microsoft to go & it will get
    better before the "NEO" & "DUO" are put on sale nearly a year from now. I think that some clever
    Hackers will set up a "DUO" to run Windows 10 on ARMS. this is best done in a Dual boot
    configuration. Microsoft probably went full Android to make sure the "DUO" came to Market
    with "NO APPS GAP"
  • FOLKS the MS "DUO" next model should come with a dual boot of Windows 10 on "ARMS" &
    Android. Hackers will be ready to get this done if Microsoft does not. as far as the "NEO" is
    concerned if it can run the "Blue Stacks" App is can run Android Apps. Microsoft was working
    with the Blue Stack" app's creators but I do not know what came out of that collaboration.
    The next "NEO" should get a built in 4G/5G feature phone it does not need Apps there are
    Apps already in the Microsoft store & I think Microsoft will get Developers to make Apps for
    the "NEO" & the "DUO" these devices New territory some developers might like because
    they can make money selling Apps for these 2 devices
  • I don't like windows 10X. Not because it is new, but because it chooses a desktopcentric approach with a clutterd clustered app start menu. I think microsoft could have done more with live tiles and I think it is a wrong compromise they made to depreciate this function going forward. From telemetry and efficiency standpoint I can understand the choice. But from an engaging and personalized perspective, be it consumer, business, or enterprise, the UI is basic, bland, a regression and uninspiring.
  • I agree, but telemetry speaks louder than inspiration. These day it's all about what will sell for Microsoft. I think this is why they do the things the way they do these days.
  • Microsoft didn't really want to put this OS out the problem is that the hardware makers are getting desperate now. A 4 year old Core i5 laptop that came from the factory running windows 8 runs perfectly using windows 10 and the update is free. So zero incentive to replace it. That severely impacts cash flow so the vendors are searching around for another form factor that they can use to pull a conjob on the user base to get them to discard usable machines. Remember when convertibles were the rage a few years ago well they never did anything other than address a niche market. This one will be the same. How many are typing this on a touch screen laptop (I am) that they never use the touch screen? The computer market is like the car market today the manufacturers are competing against their own 4 year old products. They have to pull a conjob on enough buyers in the market to get them to buy the next round of machines. So they keep coming out with these new products that excite about 10% of the population of buyers who might have a justified need while the rest are "ho hum" I can see foldables in use on the train or on a plane in economy class by the plebeians. The business types with their frequent flyer miles will keep using their full laptops in their free 1st class upgrades because they work with real spreadsheets that have a lot of cells they don't watch movies all day long. I can see foldables taking market share from 2 in 1s, and a few tablets. But nobody ever complained about having "too big" of a display screen and the population is aging anyway and can't see as well anymore. Every time I walk into a customer the A-number 1 most requested upgrade by the most users is a physically larger screen. There's no way foldables answer that need and they are going to end up like windows phones.
    Microsoft is being wise to copy how Unix has been doing things the last 40 years by separating the UI from the core kernel since when foldables crash and burn they will not be tossing an entire OS out.
  • I like your view. It's a bit different 😀 But I am in no way agreeing that foldables *will* crash and burn.
    None of us can claim to know where this is going other than the innovators that work on these devices, so we shouldn't make claims 🙂
  • So Win10X... Not the clear view of the future I had hoped for, but we'll see what happens in 2020.
    What else is there to speculate on ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ?