Microsoft officially acknowledges Windows 10X is coming first to single-screen devices

Microsoft's Windows Experience (and Surface) chief Panos Panay is providing his first general guidance about the direction Windows client will be pursuing, going forward.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: ZDNet

Since taking over as head of Windows Experience/client in February, Chief Product Officer Panos Panay hasn't said much about Windows' future. But today, May 4, Panay is going on record about how he sees Windows evolving, going forward. And Windows 10X, the Windows 10 variant Microsoft officially unveiled last year, is one key to Panay's vision.

Microsoft officials said last year that Windows10X -- which we knew by its earlier "Santorini" and "Lite" codenames -- was built to run on new Windows dual-screen devices. But in April, Microsoft changed direction and instead decided to prioritize new single-screen devices as the target for Windows 10X, as my sources told me. Today, in his blog post about the future of Windows, Panay officially acknowledges the single-screen focus for Windows 10X.

Microsoft's official reason for targeting single-screen devices is the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on users' buying habits. And that may, in fact, be true, as users are likely more interested right now in tried-and-true form factors, like laptops and 2-in-1 devices than in brand-new, unproven ones. That's why Microsoft has suspended delivery of its own dual-screen Neo device, which was due this holiday season. 

While Windows 10X is important, it's not the only thing that matters. Windows 10, as it currently exists, is still important and more relevant than ever, Panay emphasized. He said Microsoft will be making Windows-specific developer content a big part of its Build 2020 developers conference coming up later this month.

Panay's post includes some new data from Microsoft about how the current health situation has impacted Windows' usage. Windows 10 is being used 75 percent more, in terms of minutes of usage, than this same period a year ago, Panay said. This makes sense, given users are working and learning remotely and are likely less on the move/more tethered to their desks. 

Panay also highlighted in today's blog post some of previously disclosed features coming in the Windows 10 May 2020/2004 update. As I noted recently, Microsoft's latest internal timetable for the May update, according to my contacts, is to get that release to OEMs as early as tomorrow, May 5; to developers on May 12; and to begin rolling Windows 10 2004 out to mainstream users starting May 28. This is slightly later than originally planned, both because of the impact of COVID-19 and the discovery of a zero-day bug which Microsoft decided to patch before starting the rollout. Panay didn't provide any specific dates for the Windows 10 2004 rollout, beyond reconfirming it is coming in May, in today's blog post.

But back to 10X.... In February this year, Microsoft showed off publicly how containerized apps would work on Windows 10X. Officials didn't discuss how well/badly Win32 apps worked when virtualized on 10X, but the inside word was the team had a long way to go to make this something "normal" users would understand and accept, as compatibility levels were not great.

I've also heard from some of my sources that Microsoft still has hopes that it could deliver some of the promised features for 10X -- specifically the ability to make existing Windows applications available virtually using containers -- sooner rather than later, which would mean they'd be incorporated in Windows 10, not just 10X. I'd expect the company is also figuring out how it could make promised 10X features beyond containers, such as some kind of trust system for applications and other security features, available as part of Windows 10 before 10X is available, as well. Panay's post today didn't mention these details, however.

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