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What Is Windows 10X, and How Is It Different?

Windows 10X is a new edition of Windows 10 designed for dual-screen devices like Microsoft’s upcoming Surface Neo, which will be available for the 2020 holiday season next year. It offers a customized interface for these devices.

Windows 10X Is Windows

At its Surface event, Microsoft said Windows 10X “supports the breadth of Windows applications,” which means all traditional Windows desktop applications will work just like they would on Windows 10 Home or Professional. This isn’t an entirely new operating system—it appears to just be a customized version of Windows 10 with an interface designed for these devices.

Update: Microsoft told The Verge that Windows 10X will run these traditional Windows desktop apps in a container to improve battery life. Windows 10X appears to be based on Windows Core OS.

Optimized For Dual-Screen Devices

Windows 10X has an interface “designed and optimized for dual-screen devices just like Surface Neo,” according to Microsoft.

The Surface Neo is a dual-screen device with a hinge—like a laptop, but if the keyboard section was replaced by a screen. Alternatively, it’s like two tablets connected to each other by a hinge. If you remember Microsoft’s canceled Courier concept device, it’s very similar to that.

No More Live Tiles

Part of optimizing the operating system for dual-screen devices seems to be the removal of Live Tiles. There’s a new Start menu with a simplified, icon-based application and website launcher. This appears to be the leaked Start menu from earlier this year.

Dual-Screen Interface Tweaks

Microsoft's Surface Neo device with its keyboard attached and the Wunderbar visible.

When you launch an app, it launches on one side of the device. It’s a bit like Windows 10’s Snap feature—apps will open on one screen (or one side of the device) rather than across both displays. You can drag an application’s window to the middle edge of the screen and release it to “span” the application across both displays. Microsoft says this doesn’t just extend the app across both screens—it also “optimizes” the app’s interface so the app can intelligently take advantage of both screens.

Microsoft also showed off Windows “recognizing the keyboard” placed on one side of the display and revealing the “Wunderbar,” sort of a super-charged version of Apple’s MacBook touchbar that offers buttons, a trackpad, and even a large section of screen you can play videos on. Microsoft said this is something “Neo” does, but it’s likely part of Windows 10X and one of the many new interface tricks being added for these devices.

Windows 10X and dual-screen devices are still a while off yet. Microsoft is announcing Windows 10X a year ahead of the release of the Surface Neo so developers will have time to try it and optimize their apps for the new software.

Microsoft published a blog post introducing Windows 10X, but didn’t share a lot of technical details. Everything is likely still up in the air. We’ll update this article when we learn more.

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