Before Tuesday, all we really knew about Windows 10X was that it would be a version of Windows 10, optimized for dual-screen devices like Microsoft’s Surface Neo and an unknown number of third-party competitors by then. 2020 holidays. Now we know a lot more, including what’s under the hood.
At a developer event on Tuesday, the company released a Windows 10X emulator, although you need to assign a fairly powerful PC to the task and dedicate it to the Windows Insider program. Microsoft has also revealed several intriguing features of the new operating system, including super-fast updates, a special way of handling Win32 applications, and no apparent need for anti-malware applications.
Some have characterized Windows 10X as a new “experience” of Windows 10, in the same way that a film could be re-released in a special director’s cut, with extras and in additional formats. But it’s more than that, because it will interact with files and other applications differently from Windows 10. Microsoft has released enough separate documentation so that we can start to restore the functionality of Windows 10X. Here are a dozen intriguing features that we’ve heard of before.
A simplified and prettier Windows shell
Windows 10X is different. Most of what you expect from Windows still works: various entries, drag and drop, the Clipboard, etc. But in Windows 10X, there is a small dock that incorporates elements of the traditional Windows taskbar, as well as the “application drawer” on smartphones. The Windows Start launcher moves from the lower left corner of the screen to the center. The way the application icons are aligned on the screen looks more like what you see on a traditional tablet or phone than on the Windows desktop. Even apps are moved from screen to screen via touch points at the bottom of the window, not at the top.
Windows 10 tiled boot interface? It’s gone too. Everything in Windows 10X looks simple and clean.
Windows 10X understands what hardware does
Microsoft has gone to great lengths to explain why dual-screen devices are cool, both from a developer and a user perspective. Two screens, although separated by a physical hinge, provide a variety of ways to communicate information. But there are two distinct aspects, including hardware and software.
Microsoft is considering five separate hardware modes: laptop, book, tablet, dual tablet, and tent. The three most interesting include the tablet mode, where the rear screen folds out of view and turns off, to save energy and input errors. Tent mode, as with currently available 360-degree convertible laptops, is optimized for presentations. Last but not least, the Surface Neo keyboard collapses to cover part of the screen, creating what Microsoft calls …
The Wonder Bar: a Touch Bar that makes sense
When the Surface Neo keyboard is attached to the device, a small strip of space is left uncovered. This is what Microsoft calls the Wonder bar, space for additional content, emoticons or suggested GIFs, or something else.
It looks like the MacBook Pro’s touch bar, you could sniff. But the Wonder Bar is undoubtedly better: bigger, so it can show more, and it also does more. In this image, published during Microsoft Windows 10X developer presentations, you can see Microsoft’s keyboard suggestions – a fantastic use of technology. Auto-fill text suggestions are an integral part of smartphones, but they feel useless on Windows. (Try them yourself in Settings > Devices > Typing > Show text suggestions while I type.) By placing them just above the keyboard, you can quickly reach out and touch them, then return to typing.
Smart software distributes content across screens
Anyone who works with multiple screens understands the benefits of seeing more information at all times. Windows 10X does this in three ways: allow applications to open in so-called “extended workspaces”, spanning applications on two screens; “Targeted screens”, which place separate applications on each individual screen, and “connected applications”, which place separate applications on either screen, but allow them to communicate with each other.
It already seems that this approach has advantages and disadvantages. Covering a web page on both screens – with space in the middle – seems a little annoying when space separates a page vertically. But Microsoft is right to suggest that if we read emails in one pane, we might want to open a Calendar app in a second pane.
According to Kevin Gallo, vice president of the Windows Developer platform, the applications will open by default on a single screen. Finding a restaurant in Edge, for example, will open the browser in a pane. Tapping a map of the area will open the Maps application in a second pane, while leaving the first open. It’s logic.
Windows 10X is read-only
The main Windows 10X operating system is designed in a locked mode, so that only approved applications can run in the operating system. You’ve already heard of it – it’s the same model for Windows 10 S. (But wait! Legacy Win32 apps are supported, and we’ll explain how in a bit.) What is different is that Windows 10X also runs signed code and applications with “good reputation”, including those published in the MSIX container, expanding the applications available beyond traditional UWP applications, such as Mail and Calendar.
It also doesn’t mean that apps will need to be downloaded from the Microsoft Store app. As long as the app is reliable, it can be downloaded from a website, a USB drive, or another location. This is a big change from Windows 10 S.
All of this will have interesting tracking effects, including:
Windows 10X does not require anti-malware
As with Windows 10 S, Microsoft believes that relying on signed and approved applications will remove the need for anti-malware applications, possibly including Windows Defender. This means that the performance overhead required by malware can be reallocated to other areas of the operating system, said Microsoft executives.
Windows updates will take 90 seconds
According to Andrew Clinick, a program manager in the Microsoft partner group, Windows 10X will take no more than 90 seconds to update your PC. How? ‘Or’ What? On the one hand, they will take place in the background. Clinick also said that Windows 10X will work a little differently from Windows 10, in that the operating system will be downloaded as a separate state, likely in the form of a corrected copy of the operating system that will exist entirely. separate from uncorrected operating system. You will apparently have one version of Windows 10X running in the foreground, another as a download in the background, and the reboot will simply switch between the two.
Application updates will be incremental
You will also see improvements in the app updates. John Vintzel, program manager for Microsoft, said that one of the advantages of a new MSIX application packaging container would be that all of the application’s resources would be contained therein, each with its own unique software hash. In fact, there will be three containers: native containers for UWP applications, which will provide the best performance and longest battery life; MSIX containers, which will offer high compatibility with existing applications and a robust installation / uninstallation procedure; and the new Win32 container, which we’ll talk a bit about.
When a new application is downloaded, the hashes of each component will be compared to the update. If a particular component (for example the application icon) remains unchanged, it will not be downloaded and updated, which will save bandwidth. But even if a component is downloaded, it will be divided into blocks, and only the blocks that have been modified will be downloaded. Even better, these blocks can be downloaded and then merged with the app later, taking care of the process in the background.
It seems that this same approach will also be used to fix the Windows 10X operating system. The patched secondary operating system will be built from new features, so you don’t have to download the entire operating system again each time a patch is released.
Goodbye, registry cleaners
In addition, UWP applications in Windows 10X will only be able to access certain libraries. Photos could just access your photo library, for example, just like UWP applications behave in Windows 10. “Applications can interact with the operating system, but only through a clear set of APIs,” said Clinick.
“No more fiddling with the registry to optimize the operating system,” added Clinick. “And my favorite, more registry cleaners.”
Say goodbye (again) to “bit rot”
Microsoft promised it with Windows 10 S, and it makes the same commitment again with Windows 10X: Because the initial code and subsequent updates to the operating system and applications will be clean and tidy, you should only not see the “bit rot”, the performance degradation that often accompanies a PC for years of operation.
“We are going to have sustained performance, ensuring that the performance you see on the first day stays with you for the life of the machine,” added Clinick. “This is so important. Because the last time I checked the processes didn’t slow down, the more you used them.”
The Win32 container: how legacy applications are supported in Windows 10X
The way Windows 10X handles legacy Win32 applications is one of the most fascinating parts of Windows 10X, and it builds on a number of other components that we have already mentioned. Basically, Windows 10X will support most legacy Win32 applications, and it will do so by stealing a few tricks from Microsoft’s secret sauce: virtualization.
Each Windows 10X application runs in its own container, designed to protect the operating system from potential malware. But the Win32 container exists separately, as a large vault of sorts for legacy Win32 code. (The MSIX containers will run inside the Win32 container – yes, as an initiated container too, a container.) Inside the Win32 container runs any legacy Win32 applications that you may want to keep: utilities system, old games and like. There is even a traditional Windows directory tree, as well as its own kernel, drivers and registry.
The Win32 container is essentially a virtual machine, although with higher integration, much lower latency, and with access to more resources on the Windows 10X host than a virtual machine. Together, all of this provides better overall performance, according to Peter Torr, senior program director at Microsoft. Oh, what if there is no Win32 application running? Everything stops. Even inactive Win32 applications are “stunned”, essentially left in a very low power state to conserve battery life.
But opening the Win32 application in Windows 10X does not launch it directly. Instead, what Windows 10X does is create “proxy” applications in the Windows 10X host operating system – essentially, using a Remote Desktop interface to access the secure Win32 application in the container. Win32. Microsoft promises that you’ll get near-native performance from these apps, but some sort of slowdown seems likely.
Confidentiality in Win32 applications
There will be some bumps along the way. Although all “standard” computer hardware – mice, keyboards, pens, touchscreen, printers, network devices – should work as expected in Windows 10X, there will be limitations on “non-standard hardware” and “drivers installed by the application, “says Microsoft. . Microsoft also places general limits on what it calls “privacy-sensitive hardware,” such as the camera and microphone. In this case, all Win32 applications will have access to the microphone, or none will have; there are no permissions per app, explained Torr.
Torr has listed other limitations of Win32 applications in Windows 10X: no system tray applets will be allowed and you will not be able to use File Explorer add-ins or namespace extensions, for example example. If there is an app or utility that you interact with through the system tray, it will have to move elsewhere in Windows 10.
There are already many here, and it is only February. Expect to learn more about Windows 10X as 2020 progresses, especially at Microsoft’s Build 2020 conference in late May.
Updated at 9:37 am PT with additional details.