Windows 10 in 2019: Changes, features and enhancements we expect

Windows 10 Wallpaper
Windows 10 Wallpaper (Image credit: Microsoft)

The year 2019 is upon us, which means it's time to look ahead and see what we have in store for Windows 10. We know Microsoft has planned two new feature updates for Windows 10 this year, but there are rumors of an entirely new version of Windows on the horizon that will coexist alongside the current version of Windows 10. "Windows Lite," a lightweight version of Windows for light computing devices, could be announced this year too.

This is everything you need to know about Windows updates in 2019.

Windows 10 '19H1' update expected April 2019

The year 2019's first major Windows 10 update is currently in development and is in testing with Microsoft's Insider Preview program under the codename "19H1." This feature update is expected to launch in the spring of this year, likely sometime in April if Microsoft is able to keep to its internal schedule. The 19H1 update brings with it several noteworthy new changes and additions to Windows 10, most of which are cosmetic or improve upon already existing features.

Related: The difference between Windows 'feature updates' and 'quality updates'

Unlike previous Windows 10 feature updates, Microsoft has focused primarily on improving features that are already present within Windows 10, and removing older features that aren't being used. This comes after Microsoft botched the release of the last major Windows 10 feature update, the October 2018 Update. Since then, many have called for Microsoft to take a step back and focus on improving the OS as a whole rather than continuing to add new features every release.

With 19H1, Microsoft has done just that. This is a release that's pretty shy on major new features. That's not to say there aren't any new features; 19H1 brings with it a couple of new features, primarily for power-users. An example of this is a feature called "Windows Sandbox," which lets users run a virtualized instance of Windows 10 on top of their live OSes, to run programs in a sandboxed, safe environment that doesn't affect their actual Windows installations.

Microsoft is introducing a new light theme to Windows 10 in 19H1 that gives the entire UI a fresh feel. This is all part of Microsoft's effort to unify the Windows UI, as currently, Microsoft's design language is all over the place thanks to a mix of old and new system elements. Make sure you check out our detailed changelog of everything coming in 19H1 for a complete rundown of what to expect.

Windows 10 '19H2' update expected October 2019

Microsoft Edge logo on Start menu

Microsoft Edge logo on Start menu (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft's second Windows 10 feature update planned for this year is codenamed "19H2," and while some feature teams have already started work on this release, the majority of Windows 10 development is still primarily focused on 19H1. Not much is known about what 19H2 will bring, but many suspect it'll continue the trend of 19H1 of improving existing features while introducing small features. Some reports had suggested that Microsoft was switching to an elemental based codename structure starting with this release, but I'm told that is not the case.

It's possible that Microsoft will release the first public, non-preview version of its new Microsoft Edge browser around the same time 19H2 is finalized. However, I'm not expecting the new version of Edge to be integrated into the OS as the default web browser by default until the 20H1 update that's scheduled for spring 2020. Still, 19H2 users should be able to download the new Edge manually and set it as their default browser.

We know that Microsoft is planning to ship the 19H2 update in the fall of this year, likely in the October timeframe if it can stick to its internal schedule. Many people suspect that we might finally see Microsoft's Windows Sets feature show up on desktop in this release. However, according to my sources, that is not the case. Microsoft has put Windows Sets on hold as it transitions Edge from a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app to a standard Win32 desktop app. Once that transition is complete, Microsoft will take another look at Sets on desktop.

A new 'Lite' version of Windows?

In addition to Windows 10 feature updates, rumors suggest Microsoft is planning to announce a brand new version of Windows sometime this year codenamed "Windows Lite," and it is expected to bring with it a new user experience aimed primarily at light computing. It's a version of Windows, built by Microsoft, that's designed to take on Chrome OS and iOS for the iPad. It's not a heavy-duty, desktop class version of Windows, but rather a lighter, cleaner OS for laptops, tablets, 2-in-1s and perhaps even mobile devices.

Rumors also suggest that Microsoft will not be calling this new version of Windows a Windows product. Instead, it may opt for an entirely new, non-Windows based name. Under the hood, it'll run Windows Core OS, but on the surface, Microsoft will refer to it as something else as to avert expectations that come with a device that runs "Windows."

Windows Lite is designed from the ground up with web experiences in mind, just like Chrome OS. It puts web apps, universal apps, and store apps front and center, and it will likely also be where Windows Sets first ships in an official manner. Windows Lite brings with it a radically new OS experience for Windows, heavily inspired by the OS experience found on Chrome OS. We should hopefully have more details on what exactly this means in the coming weeks. For now, however, we know that Windows Lite is Microsoft's take on Chrome OS and iOS for iPad.

Windows 10 and Windows Lite will coexist alongside each other, just like how Apple has both macOS and iOS. Windows 10 will remain as it always has, and Windows Lite will be made available on new devices built specifically for it.

A busy year for Windows

If it wasn't obvious, 2019 is going to be a busy year for Microsoft and for Windows. While Windows 10 as we know it likely won't change all that much throughout this year, it's Microsoft's efforts with Windows Core OS that have us excited. This is a new, modern version of Windows built from the ground up to run on all kinds of devices, old and new. We're already expecting a new device form factor in the form of foldable devices to make its way to market this year, and Windows Core OS will be ready for those devices when they do.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

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

  • I really want a new build for windows 10 and while writing this I might have a build to download!
  • The new Edge won't be UWP? I guess I didn't realize that. Windows Central... Is it your opinion that UWP is still the future for MS? I just don't see any evidence for that.
  • Who cared about Edge being UWP? Also, this has nothing to do with the future of UWP.
  • Many cared enough that they avoided it like the plague. lol I really hate the whole uwp framework, so unstable.
  • The real meat is PWA's now I think that that is the future.
  • I don't think I've ever had a UWP app crash (if I have, it was so long ago and rare that I don't recall). I suppose I don't care nearly as much if it's UWP native as available in the Microsoft Store. Wherever possible, with a few exceptions, I've shifted my apps over to the Store versions -- Slack, WinSCP, Notepad++, Mp3tag, etc. The auto-updating and portability to quickly install the current version across multiple computers is fantastic. Instead of taking 7-10 days (while doing other things concurrently) to get a new computer or VM configured properly and all my preferred apps installed, it's now less than a day. And eliminating those annoying "An update is available" messages from so many old Win32 apps is a huge improvement. For native UWP, I find them to be lighter on RAM, more reliable, and easier to reset safely if I think something is going wrong than the old bloated Win32 versions. Remote Desktop is the one app where I went to the Store/UWP version, and then reverted. The UWP version would probably be great and better for many users, but it failed to support multiple keyboards properly, which is something I need. Still no fix for that years after initially reporting it through the Feedback Hub. But that app is the exception.
  • I think this is a major nail in the coffin for uwp. MS has had a hard enough time convincing developers to use uwp, and edge being in uwp was ms showing that it ate its own dog food. It was using edge as a way of showing developers that full desktop programs could work in UWP. By moving edge away from uwp, ms is throwing away any positive notions that it gained for UWP, and flat out admitting that UWP is not a serious path for developers to take.
  • It certainly looks that way.
  • It would be awesome to have the new lite version be called Core OS.
  • Windows Lite sounds nice but I'd rather have full-blown Windows 10 with Win32 app support but on more power-efficient laptop chipsets to hit that good power and battery life sweetspot.
  • Yeah, and I'd rather have a unicorn.
  • Win32 was not, and is not designed for mobile anything, including laptops. It was designed in an era of plugged-in desktop computers, where apps could ramp the processor all the way and keep it there as long as they wanted, and devour as much network bandwidth as they wanted. The whole point of UWP was to create an API that was aware of different computing paradigms. But it looks like Microsoft is abandoning UWP for PWA apps made from Electron and React Native. I guess that’s ok if they’re splitting their OS apart like Apple, but it doesn’t make much sense, especially since Apple is moving their platforms closer together. And where is HoloLens in all of this, since it can’t run Win32 apps and UWP is stalled. Why bother with it?
  • That seems kind of crazy to me... I haven’t see anybody write a win32 programming book in like 20 years... yet every time Microsoft switches to uwp they eventually retreat... java and JavaScript on the other hand they write so many programming books you wonder if it’s all a scam to resell old material I actually consider them spam that gets in the way of real programming book on something new and useful... well I suppose there’s still one good uwp app left called control panel...I don’t guess microsoft is retreating on that front just dragging their feet at how absurdly long they can work on converting a simple control panel application into uwp code...and 9 years later it’s still not completely converted! I dunno, if I didn’t know any better I call them sticks in the mud...
  • I think that the so-called 'Metro'-style Start screen and the Live Tiles on it look aesthetically nice, but unfortunately it's quite a mess, especially when trying to sort out different Live Tile sizes. Microsoft, do something about this, or get rid of the Live Tiles altogether and go back to the Desktop icons.
  • I think icons are a bad and frankly antiquated way of launching applications. The issue indeed is that Live Tiles have never worked on desktop Windows, and they’ve needed to be sorted for years. The concept is solid, but the execution only ever worked on Windows Phone, and they’ve all but abandoned deep linking, which made Start so useful.
  • That is one of reasons why many people had bad experience with Windows Phone - they didn't take any effort to make tiles in some nice order. You could do so many things with them! But most user won't. That is why there have to be some inteligent system of generating sets of tiles based on usage etc. It has still such a big potential!
  • While I'm excited for the modular windows approach, and core os that is the foundation for it, core os is not "built from the ground up", it is still windows NT being reviewed to remove cross dependencies. Similar to how edge was toughted to be built from the ground up, when it was just internet explorer with the compatibility components removed. We have to remember windows NT, is already the "core" of windows, and it was already designed and built to be modular.
  • Windows NT was built between IBM and Microsoft in the 80’s. It’s not a very good kernel, and Microsoft has done almost nothing to improve it for the modern reality of mobile computing.
  • Good, not repeating the mistake of Windows 8.x calling it Windows.
  • There is NO CHANCE IN H.E... DOUBLE TOOTHPICKS Windows Lite will see the light of day in 2019. This is Microsoft we're talking about. They're priority is twofold... Azure and Office 365. EVERTHING... and I do mean EVERYTHING else is a mere afterthought to them. At MS' most blazing fast pace we won't see Windows Lite until Android version Zagnuts is released... sometime in 2030!
  • I wish Microsoft would just spin off Azure and send Nadella to the new company so he stops ruining Microsoft.
  • This dodgy Core OS version would not gather much enthusiasm unless it could run on mobile (phone) devices and all android apps. Nadella killed that idea about 5 years ago so do not hold your breath. UWP? Another MS thought bubble.
  • How about they make tablet mode actually tablet friendly?
  • THIS! I recently used an old convertible pc that was still on Win 8.1 and was reminded how well thought out and pleasant it was to use. From the large customisable start screen to the charm bar to Internet explorer and its bottom search bar. Its still all over the place on win 10
  • OH BOI here we go again: Windows RT, Continuum, S and now Lite :D
  • Here is a one great feature: ability to boot current installation of Windows when you go from AHCI to RAID. That would be marvelous 2019 feature that's like 18 years overdue by now.