Windows 10X needs to be perfect if it's launching first on laptops

Windows 10X mock laptop dark
Windows 10X mock laptop dark (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

When we first started hearing about Windows 10X (codenamed Santorini at the time,) it was clear that this new, modern version of Windows was going to be quite different from the Windows 10 we know and love. It was positioned internally as a lightweight OS for mobile PCs, including laptops, 2-in-1's, and indeed foldable PCs. But when Microsoft officially announced Windows 10X in October, it positioned the platform as being exclusive to foldable PCs.

Microsoft did this as to set expectations for Windows 10X. Its entire user experience is new and different, and since Windows 10X is built on Windows Core OS, it's also missing a lot of legacy features and components that some users may be accustomed to. Limiting Windows 10X to a new ecosystem of devices would've allowed Microsoft to set the stage appropriately and have users come into the platform with fresh eyes.

But now, new rumors suggest that Microsoft is shifting back to prioritizing Windows 10X for traditional form factors too. This is great news for early adopters who like the look of Windows 10X but aren't entirely sold on the idea of foldable PCs. However, this shift also opens up Windows 10X to a whole new level of customer expectation that it previously didn't need to worry about. If Windows 10X is launching on laptops, it needs to be good enough to replace Windows 10 on day one.

Another Windows RT?

Surface Mini with Windows RT

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

If it's not, then Windows 10X will end up as another "Windows RT" attempt that failed. Microsoft has backed itself into a corner by branding Windows 10X as a Windows product, as calling it Windows means people will expect it to do Windows things. While Windows 10X can do most of those Windows things, it certainly won't be able to do all of them.

Perhaps that's the balance Microsoft needs to find. Windows RT was a failure because it didn't have the apps. Windows 10 S was a failure for the same reason. Windows 10X, in theory, shouldn't have this problem nearly as badly, as it can run most legacy desktop applications, even if downloaded from outside the Microsoft Store.

If Microsoft can ensure that legacy app compatibility on Windows 10X is excellent and that the virtualization of those programs runs well, then for most people, Windows 10X should be good enough. That said, Windows 10X isn't going to be for everyone, namely power users, gamers, and those who need access to legacy Windows components and features like the Control Panel or Windows Registry. Those things won't be available to the user on Windows 10X.

Users will also need to learn the new Windows 10X interface, which is quite different from the Windows 10 interface we have today. It doesn't have things like live tiles, or a system tray, or the ability to place icons on your desktop. It's a stripped-back, streamlined experience designed with simplicity first and foremost.

That said, it's not like Windows 10X doesn't bring improvements to the table. I'd say the new user experience is a vast improvement over what we have on Windows 10, plus Windows 10X is more secure and has faster Windows Updates thanks to the locked-down nature of the platform. There's a lot to like about Windows 10X. I'd even say it's better than Windows 10. But users don't care about that stuff; they care about whether it can do what they need it to do.

Issues with the Win32 container

Windows 10x Mock Prox Windowscentral Dark

Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

I'm told that one of the reasons Microsoft has delayed Windows 10X into 2021 is so that it can further improve the Win32 container, which enables legacy app programs to run. There are issues with it right now, namely with programs that need to run in the background or share your screen. Microsoft Teams, for example, will stop alerting you of calls and notifications if you minimize the program. It also can't share your display, as the program can only see the Win32 container, and not Windows 10X.

Microsoft Teams is just one example of a program that will likely have issues on Windows 10X if Microsoft doesn't improve the Win32 container. I also heard that Microsoft was having overheating issues with Surface Neo prototypes, but that might simply be because things like drivers and firmware aren't finished yet.

Either way, if Microsoft really is prioritizing Windows 10X for laptop and 2-in-1's in addition to foldable and dual-screen PCs, then it needs to make sure Windows 10X is better than great on day one. It can't launch "unfinished" with the promise of software updates to fix things down the line. It must be ready right out of the gate; otherwise, we'll very quickly have another Windows RT on our hands.

What are your thoughts on Windows 10X? Do you think it's a good idea that Microsoft is positioning Windows 10X as a platform for laptops too? 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.

  • Doesn't have the "ability to place icons on your desktop"- Personally I think it is important to be able to place your icons on the desktop. May be not like windows, I would prefer it to be like ipad, if they are trying to make mobile OS. It would be waste of so much space and I will have to click on the windows icon to find the apps.
  • well of course you are right. but there are task bar and start menu. if you say pressing windows to get start menu items is an extra step, then minimizing all windows to reach desktop is even harder, and you may reorganize those windows afterwards. i didn't used desktop, nor see it for years. its like another folder
  • I agree with what you're saying, though it may or may not be a big adjustment from what people are used to even if it is technically better
  • I think that Windows 10X would be ideal for ultra-thin laptops (like U-series ones where the priority is on long battery life for productivity) and classic Windows 10 would be great for gaming/portable workstation laptops that have a discrete graphics card and H series CPU that is used for hardcore gaming, video editing, etc. This dichotomy would make sense since most people who buy U-series laptops or tablet-like devices like Surface Go, etc. probably don't need all the extra baggage that comes with classic Windows, and if Microsoft can do away with that on 10X and improve battery life/fluidity, why not? As long as Win32 app compatibility is working smoothly, I don't see this as being another "Windows RT" (it would also be nice if you could swap between both versions using the same Windows 10 license).
  • Hopefully Microsoft knows which win32 apps are important to laptop users and are working on getting those working. But there must be a large portion of users who would be content with just UWP, PWA and Office. Windows RT was before the days of Edge/Chrome. Think of Kindle. It seems to work fine as a PWA. It seems they will never get Windows 10X to ARM without dropping Win32. All in all I think it is a very good thing to bring 10X to the single screen. Getting rid of all the legacy baggage has to feel wonderful.
  • If Microsoft calls Windows 10X "Windows" and sells it for traditional Windows PCs, it will flop if it can't do everything regular Windows 10 can. No average consumer is going to care about the benefits of 10X, they'll just see "Windows" and expect it to work just like Windows 10. This happened with Windows RT and 10S, and will happen again with 10X unless Microsoft has it working exactly like Windows 10 or calls it something different than "Windows"
  • Completely agree. The alternative is what they've been doing all along - restrict 10X to new form factors and new experiences. Anyone going out to get the Neo will expect a fresh experience and take it for what it is and offers. Others that want good old Windows will get their regular PCs and Ultrabooks.
  • This post is spot on. PS: I think it should be called "Core"; "Microsoft Core".
  • Agreed. I feel MS is just keeping the 'Windows' name just for the sake of trying to reach out to more people, while not just focussing on a good product form the get go. They really shouldn't associate it with Windows, as even the name still brings back bad memories to many average joe's, even though Windows 10 is good.
    You didn't see Apple throwing in the 'MacOS' name when they released the iPhone/iPad. You just need a good product and great marketing. If you bring enough consumers in, you bring in developers.
  • Fully agree. I can't understand if this is a new operating system why it must be called by the old name Windows and even more baffling, why does it need the 10? The only part where the name is different is they added an x. That makes me think it's a forked version of the old Windows 10 and should be relatively the same. If it's all new call it something new so people expect it to be something new.
  • I would have tested the waters with the Neo and then taken it from there.
    The new form factor would have set expectations that not everything works like on a regular desktop.
    I'm not sure if starting with laptops is a good idea.
  • I believe, Limited Insiders should get Windows 10X first if it has to be perfect.
  • Basically my thought as well. Let the Insiders who don't mind getting their hands dirty install 10X on their machines and really put it through its paces. This will help refine it and ready 10X for release on Neo. Yes, we have the emulator, but one doesn't live in an emulator. They don't complete their daily tasks in an emulator. It doesn't provide the same results as "day in the life" testing. The only concern with this approach is driver support. Open it up to any and all hardware and then there are questions about installing drivers and if drivers will work. It may have to be limited to Surface hardware or some other smaller subset to reduce driver concerns.
  • Definitely. Only give it to insiders who provide real feedbacks (being positive or even more importantly, negative but constructive)
  • This is gonna bomb in my opinion. It would make much more sense if it was also for the DUO.
  • I don't think they should launch 10X on laptops and traditional form factors. Maybe a year or two after the dual screen launch when it's been polished to near perfection, and the emulation is flawless. People would just expect the full blown Windows on traditional form factors. Just look at the Surface Pro X and all the expectations 'reviewers' had although it is running an ARM chip and x86 emulation. First thing they'll do is try to install some obscure x64 exe and complain when it has some issues or does not work. Fresh eyes on new form factor, with fresh expectations is the way to go.
  • They should just forget about emulation altogether. Create a brand new experience that runs 100% on ARM. Hopefully developers will come along eventually to fill the app gap although I doubt it. That's what happens when you burn your developers time after time. Anything that requires emulation will just be a subpar experience. And they really need to speed up their development of this. Apple is already rumored to release an ARM laptop by the end of this year and you know their custom ARM chips are light years ahead of any ones.
  • So you basically want RT/Phone 2.0, because it worked so well the first time.
  • Windows/MS is unfortunately bound to their legacy Win32 for better or worse. Nothing they can do about it. Else, I'll just use Android, or iOS or some other simple Mobile OS if I want something else. Windows means Win32. They have to always support legacy if they want it to be considered Windows.
  • @Tapatio_00 "Hopefully developers will come along eventually" Good luck with that if history is any indication. Only traditional Windows has been successful and even then developer interest in the Store has been anaemic.
    Perhaps W10X will be different but at this point there is nothing to suggest it will be.
  • the goalpost isnt that high is it? w10 is such a mess of an OS, the refinement and stability of 8.1 makes it feel like it was a different company making it, if they can do that again for 10x there wont be a problem for most people
  • Windows 10 is fine now, though a bit rough in the beginning, it's way better than windows 8/8.1 at this point. The only exception is the tablet UI is not as good as windows 8.1, but everything else is better.
  • The tablet mode on Windows 8 was horrendous except for a couple of cool gestures. You were very limited in tablet mode and regularly ran into old menus. Windows 10 is more refined for touch, even if it isn't perfect and lost the cool gestures.
  • My only real issue with 10 on tablet is how you activate the windows Start menu... your only option is this tiny little icon that is awkawardly placed no matter where you place it. I really miss the haptic button on my original Surface (non pro) 3. It just made sense. they could at least add it to the stupid notification bar. I rarely use the notification bar... Such a waite of processor...
  • In addition to taking time to improve the performance of 10X on laptops, Microsoft needs to do a better job of communicating what 10X is and is not when it is released on those devices. And this education effort apparently needs to be at the elementary level. We saw too many reviewers for name brand publications write about Surface Pro X as though it were just a regular Surface Pro but couldn't run benchmark software or Adobe Premiere . You can't stop the stupid, but you can minimize it with education.
  • Agree 100%. What frustrates me the most is this is just common sense we are talking about. The name "Windows 10X" is just going to open an entire bag of confusion for the average person. It should not have the name "Windows" in it.
  • Or even less necessary the number 10.
  • @someoneinwa " You can't stop the stupid, but you can minimize it with education" Very true, MS were stupid in their ridiculous pricing with the Surface Pro X given its limitations.
  • Functionality is what matters to most people. Unfortunately for MS that also means traditional start and desktop. I don't yet see why most people would want to use this over traditional windows. The OS would have to be polished, simple and capable of doing everything we are used to with very little uptake for users. History supports that MS will not thread that needle well. As always I hope to be wrong
  • @Monte Constable1 "Functionality is what matters to most people. Unfortunately for MS that also means traditional start and desktop. I don't yet see why most people would want to use this over traditional windows" Excellent comment. MS are in fact a victim of their own success. People know and like traditional desktop W10 and want nothing else.
    Those that do want a more mobile type experience simply use iPads, iOS or Android. For most people Windows is a legacy product that has no relevance other than desktops.
  • "relevance other than desktops", you mean laptops. W10 is used more on laptops than desktops, with 2-1 laptops being a reasonable chunk of it.
  • @ochhanz Laptops are considered to be desktops these days so the term desktops includes laptops including 2 in 1's.
  • It needs a new name. It CAN’T be called Windows, and certainly not Windows 10X. If it looks and works nothing like Windows 10, then why burden it with the legacy “Windows 10” name? This was THE problem with Windows RT and Windows S and Windows 8. They were NOT Windows, but they were called Windows Something, so everyone EXPECTED Windows. Call it Edge OS. Call it MS OS. Call it Ishmael. Whatever. Does Microsoft even have a Marketing Department? They couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t come up with a new name for the new Edge browser, even though the new version had nothing to do with the old version. It’s not like “Edge browser” was a respected brand name. Let’s face it, it was the joke of the industry. If this thing is called Windows 10X, it is going to fail. Period. For the same reasons as RT and 8 and S. If Microsoft cannot understand this, then they are not learning from their past mistakes. Which is a really stupid thing to do, for companies and people and even dogs.
  • I like the name Edge OS.
    Edge itself was fine, its just that site devs were lazy in testing their site in more than 1 browser engine (which is just dumb imo, even if you would still have the majority of users with 1 browser engine you would still at that time miss ~30% or such which is still a lot of users).
  • @ochhanz "Edge itself was fine" No, it most certainly wasn't fine. Edge was released half baked and never caught up, it just wasn't ready. It lacked many features other browsers enjoyed and MS dragged their heels improving it. By time Edge became usable it was too late. Edge failed and the only people responsible for that is MS themselves. You can't blame websites for not embracing a second rate browser.
  • "You can't blame websites for not embracing a second rate browser." I would say "second rate" is being overly generous. Edge never got above 5% share. It was a true disaster. So disastrous that Microsoft gave up and went with Chrome. When you give up and go with a competitor's product, you KNOW your product sucked.
  • Safari was also at 5% for a long time, would you also call that a "true disaster"? (sounds so dramatic lol).
  • Deleted by Bluey
  • Safari at 5% was fine, since it only ran on 5% of the PCs in use (Macs). We are talking about MS here, with an 80% share with Windows. Besides, Safari actually works. The old Edge sucked. And Safari is now around 18% overall worldwide and leads in the U.S. mobile market over Chrome. BTW, a “true disaster” is a software company scrapping its own software and using a competitor’s software. What else would you call that? A raging success?
  • It lacked features (arguably if these were really all that important) and performance was hampered by Google for sites such youtube, but Edge also supported new stuff that other browsers don't have or lack. Eg touch support was very good in Edge. It is also more efficient in ram than Chrome. Sometimes I wonder if people on this site see the grass on the other side as greener than it is, as in whether these MS products are a success or not they have their pros/cons vs the competition.
  • My friend is a website developer who did in fact develop for Legacy Edge, but he had to go out of his way to do so. I remember him telling me how annoying it was to have to do special things to make things work in Edge, including making Live Tiles work when people pin websites to start. In the end, I'll bet only 2% of visitors to all of his websites used the pin to start function. Even fewer used the Live Tile. It was just a waste of his time that he did because he wants users on every browser and operating system to be happy.
  • Concerning liveTiles, I can understand that. But I was thinking more about bars being offset etc and content not showing properly. Very basic things that can break a site. Its in a way even worse they days, since most users are on a browser that uses Chromium Engine and hence other browser engines are neglected (this practically creates a monopoly for Google's Chromium engine and will be IE-like monopoly all over again if Firefox etc falls further).
  • I disagree. I think it's good they still call it Windows. Most people are already familiar with the Windows brand and calling it anything other would only confuse everybody.
    The fact is, Windows 10X will be able to run almost all legacy Win32 software plus all future UWP based programs. Sure, it will work and look slightly different from Windows 10, but not enough to justify a new name.
  • "Microsoft has backed itself into a corner by branding Windows 10X as a Windows product, as calling it Windows means people will expect it to do Windows things." I thought they made a mistake calling Windows Phone "Windows Phone". They should have named it something else and branded it powered by Microsoft. Then they doubled down making it sound like it was a productivity phone. Instead of something fun to use. Microsoft sometimes is poor at branding. But if Windows 10X doesn't have Live Tiles I'll skip it on my computers.
  • @Whodaboss None of that would have matters with WP/WM. Developers wanted nothing to do with it, the naming was irrelevant.
  • @Bluey I'm certainly not going to disagree on that point. But there were number of factors. The talk at the time was if Windows Phone attracted more users the app makers would show up. And I'm sure that had some merit. I don't know if you experience this or not, but in that time frame I purchased a number of phones and every time I went to the carrier store i.e. Verizon and TMobile they always tried to sell me an Android or an iPhone. ALWAYS! To me that was the biggest problem. The carriers spent most of their time trying to convince people not to buy a Windows phone. Which brings me back to the "name" as a whole. Windows in the generation is an "old" system. The young people think that Android and iPhone were and are the hip items. I literally had a co-worker state "You have a Windows Phone? Doesn't that make you feel like you're working all the time?" There's a certain connotation with the Windows name. That's why I wished they would have given it another name.
  • @Whodaboss All fair and reasonable points. 👍
  • Interesting point. On the other hand branding it as Windows gave it more attention since people know Windows.