At the annual event for Surface in New York, Microsoft Today, I announce the expected set of updates for the current lineup. But the big surprise was definitely the announcement of the Surface Neo dual screen that the company would be showing before the holiday season 2020. To make this kind of dual screen device possible, Microsoft also created a new version of Windows 10: Windows 10X.
Microsoft says it advertises hardware and software today to put it in the hands of developers before launch.
Just like HoloLens, Surface Hub and Xbox use Windows 10 core technologies, and the dual-screen Surface will also run this new version, as well as Dell's dual-screen devices, HP, Lenovo and other partners. Unsurprisingly, these devices – and Windows 10x – will provide improved pen support (and a virtual keyboard).
Windows 10X is the result of Microsoft's work to make Windows 10 more modern so that it can take parts of the operating system and use them as needed. As Microsoft told us before today's announcement, Windows 10x is essentially the engineering changes it has made to Windows 10 that have allowed the release of HoloLens, Surface Hub, and Xbox versions.
The company stresses that this is not a new operating system but it takes Windows 10 as you know it today and makes it more adaptive to other shape factors. This also means that you will not be able to purchase a standalone copy of Windows 10X on your own. The only way to get it is these new dual screen devices.
By adjusting basic Windows 10 technology, including the user interface, Microsoft can do things like take a Start menu and display it in HoloLens. Windows 10X does similar things and allows you to place the taskbar or Start menu on any panel as needed. Likewise, you will be able to use the Start menu in any panel, depending on what happens in the other panel.
The overall design doesn't look quite different from the Windows 10 OS you might already be familiar with, but it clearly has all the functions to move apps between devices – or expand them across screens. The device automatically reflows, regardless of how you hold the device. Windows 10X also provides a replacement for the Neo keyboard cover, which covers about half of the screen and then reveals what Microsoft calls, for some reason, "WonderBar" with a virtual trackpad.
But this standard effort also allows Microsoft to do some clever things under the hood. So, while a normal PC will run and immediately run all the services needed to run a Win32 application, for example, Windows 10X will not load this subsystem until it is needed. The company argues that this allows it to be highly effective through the resources available on the device and significantly increase battery life.
In contrast to efforts like Windows 10 S, which took Windows 10 and only allowed you to run a small set of applications, Windows 10X would allow you to run whatever application you wanted, regardless of whether that was a web app, UWP app, or Win32. Microsoft says developers don't have to do anything specific to make their apps ready for Windows 10X. Windows 10x will do it for them.
Some of this work will definitely flow back to the main version of Windows 10 for PC. Somehow, this actually happened with some of the work Microsoft has done on the graphics capabilities of Windows 10 to have Xbox flow back into the PC.