Microsoft’s initial plans for Windows 10X were derailed and then shifted last year, but the company is getting close to delivering a version for single-screen devices. A leaked build of the upcoming operating system shows a striking similarity to Google’s Chrome OS.
Windows 10X has been years in the making, and as it gets closer to release, near-final builds are starting to leak. Originally, the new operating system was meant to arrive alongside novel form factors like dual-screened tablets, notably the Surface Neo, but with delays on the hardware front, Windows 10X is now set to debut on single-screened devices, possibly as soon as this year.
Windows Central, Thurrott, and The Verge are showing us glimpses of what to expect from Microsoft’s answer to Google’s Chrome OS. The two operating systems are similarly designed as lightweight alternatives to Windows 10 that will only come pre-installed on new hardware.
With Windows 10X, Microsoft hopes to sway consumers from buying Chromebooks, which are seeing strong demand — 122% growth year over year on Q3 is nothing to sneeze at.
Just like Chrome OS, Windows 10X is mostly focused on web apps. Leaked builds show that you can easily install Progressive Web Apps from the Edge browser and pin them to the taskbar. It also confirms that Windows 10X will be limited to that and Store apps at launch, with Microsoft working to bake in support for Win32 containers later on.
The taskbar is a simplified version of the regular Windows bar with the Start, Edge, and Task View buttons at the center. Opening the Start menu reveals a launcher where you can search for apps, files or websites. Settings is a similar experience to what you have on Windows 10, while the Explorer is a reduced experience that limits you to a few local folders and the contents of your OneDrive.
Interestingly, apps run in full-screen mode unless you snap them side-by-side. Switching between them can be done using the traditional Alt-Tabbing as well as Task View. There’s no Timeline support, but that probably won’t be missed by most users. The Action Center is a pop-out that reveals quick settings and notifications, along with a widget for media playback control.
This preview of Windows 10X may also be indicative of the changes Microsoft is expected to bring to the traditional version of Windows. Earlier this month, news broke that Microsoft is working on a “sweeping visual rejuvenation” for the operating system, which is currently a mixed bag in terms of UI design philosophy.