Windows 10X: Microsoft’s new dual-screen operating system, explained

During the yearly Surface event, Microsoft announced a new, lighter expression of its Windows 10 operating system, known as Windows 10X. It’s designed to run on Microsoft’s upcoming dual-screen Surface Neo devices, as well as similar devices to be launched in the future.

Here’s everything we know about Windows 10X.

What is Windows 10X?

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Originally nicknamed, “Windows Lite,” Windows 10X is not a new operating software per se, but rather a new “expression” of Windows 10, made specifically for dual-screen devices.

Its structure was designed to keep a lot of the fundamental elements of the Windows 10 operating system intact while also being made to function efficiently with a multi-screened product. The success of the Surface Neo (and future similar products), rides on the ability of Windows 10X to take advantage of the unique capabilities that come with the new form factor.

How is Windows 10X different from Windows 10?

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As you probably already guessed, Windows 10X and Windows 10 are two sides of the same coin. Elements such as the Taskbar or Start Menu are shared between the two, even if they are visualized differently within the interfaces. Of course, there are several significant changes introduced in Windows 10X that make it a unique experience compared to Windows 10.

The most important is how applications take advantage of the dual screens of the Surface Neo. Whether it’s “spanning” applications to allow a single seamless experience of the content or enabling some dual-screen multitasking, it’s all about translating Windows 10 for two screens.

Another interesting example of Windows 10X at work is the Surface Neo’s different postures. When the keyboard is flipped up to lay on part of the bottom screen, the rest of the second display becomes the “Wonder Bar,” offering quick access to tools, shortcuts, and useful settings. This is a unique feature built into Windows 10X that you can’t get in Windows 10.

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Windows 10X will still offer all your Windows 10 or Win32 applications, including Microsoft Office, of course. Microsoft even says developers won’t have to do anything special to make apps function properly in Windows 10X. Regardless of what it is, the app should automatically adapt to either one-pane or two-pane modes.

That said, Microsoft does hope that developers find unique ways of making their apps take advantage of the two screens and the other unique capabilities of Windows 10X.

How does this relate to Windows Core OS?

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Jeremy Kaplan/Digital Trends

Windows Core OS is the modular system that enables the unique design of Windows 10X. Core OS has also been used for other expressions of Windows 10, such as on the Xbox, HoloLens 2, and Surface Hub 2. These different form factors wouldn’t necessarily work well if Microsoft just installed Windows 10 on them, hence the need for something like Core OS.

Core OS takes some of the most fundamental and useful subsystems of Windows 10, and allows them to be reinterpreted for these different form factors. Windows 10X, being used on the upcoming Surface Neo, is just one of these new Windows 10 experiences.

Will Windows 10X it replace Windows 10?

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Windows 10X is not designed to be a replacement of Windows 10. Microsoft notes that it won’t be possible to upgrade from Windows 10 to 10X.

With the reveal of Microsoft’s first-ever foldable, dual-screen device, the Windows 10X was explicitly made to take advantage of all the unique features only offered in dual-screen products like the Surface Neo. Whether or not that ends up being a device that competes directly with Windows 10-powered options like the Surface Pro, is still unknown.

Given that Windows 10 is very close to hitting 1 billion active devices, it’s unlikely the OS will become obsolete anytime soon.

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