Microsoft recently gave us our first glimpse at their new dual screen devices. And their vision for this new form factor is quite beautiful under all of that shiny new glass. And that pretty new user interface (Windows 10X) though the company has also hidden in plain sight. Its most ambitious plan to finally once and for all completely revamp how Windows works under the hood. And to turn it into a modern fluid and secure operating system.
What Microsoft is up to with dual screen devices?
Very little is known about Microsoft dual screen hardware so far. Except how the devices look the smaller android-based duo comes in at 5.6 inches per screen. The larger Windows 10X based neo measures 9 inches across a single screen and both look very premium. There’s still many open questions here. Like what the specs are or how they managed to fit a decently sized battery into either of these.
One they both look so impossibly thin. Or even whether the final units really won’t have classic rear facing cameras like the pre-production devices seem to imply. But all of that vagueness almost seems to be on purpose. The hardware is vague because what Microsoft really wants to focus on first is figuring out how this new software layer should work. And they’re doing that right here in the open.
Windows 10X Looks
On the Android side of things the story is nothing too interesting. As the duo pretty much just runs regular Android with a few user interface changes that mostly come from Google. But on larger devices like the neo Microsoft is now shipping Windows 10X on them. Not only is this actually a major change from existing Windows versions. It is thankfully also available for us to try in the form of new emulator.
Windows 10X comes with a lot of top-level visual and interface changes. Like much cleaner and more consistent design using a lot of Microsoft’s fans fluent design system. There’s a simplified start menu without the live tiles and with new icons instead the new Action Center. This looks a little more modern gesture based navigation so you can swipe up to minimize apps. For example the app tray and the taskbar has been moved and so on. The system itself just looks a little more modern. And apps are handled in a new way as well most of them only run fullscreen for now.
They can either run on one screen side by side with another app. Where they can interact with each other through stuff like drag-and-drop or they can span across both things at once. Either by sort of flowing through the hinge to emulate a single screen or by arranging their content. So part of it goes on one panel and the rest goes on the other.
Fancy UI tricks can work not only on native apps but also websites. Microsoft is building web standards and dual screen support for edge and other chromium based browsers to handle the two screens nicely as well. So those are some of the flashy new changes to the user interface and one everybody is distracted by them.
Microsoft is actually also pushing through under the hood changes. That will be significantly more important going forward because they might actually let the company turn Windows into a completely different kind of operating system.
Windows vs Android & IOS
Windows which is mostly unmanaged it lets users download and install apps from pretty much anywhere. Then lets those apps pretty much do whatever they want they can run at startup to access any part of the OS. Including the files of the user the camera or the microphone of the device without having to ask the user for permission. It lets them modify the registry change system files and so on.
The system basically trusts the user to figure things out and create a safe and productive environment. On the other end of the spectrum you have a strictly managed systems like iOS where apps can only come from one source like the App Store for example. And they are containerized so they have to ask for permission every time they want to access the rest of the OS. And these managed systems then also actively optimize performance for by freezing or slowing down apps in the background to give users better performance on the app that’s actually in front of them.
While each approach obviously has benefits of its own over time. Regular consumers especially those on mobile devices where things like battery life and robust permission management for things like access to cameras location and microphones is really important. Those consumers have shown a pretty significant preference for the security simplicity and performance that they get from the more managed operating systems like iOS and Android.
Future Plans of Microsoft For Windows 10X
So Microsoft has been trying to move towards that end of the spectrum for many years now. And Windows 10X is their latest attempt at just that. Interestingly it actually wants to land somewhere in between the two extremes. Trying to give users as many of the benefits of both approaches as possible. Windows 10X natively runs so-called uwp apps this is what Microsoft calls their modern managed app platform that was introduced with Windows 10. These apps run much like mobile apps they are containerized. They can’t touch the rest of your system or edit the registry or anything like that they are easily frozen in the background to conserve resources.
They have to ask the user for permission when they want to access things like the camera for example. And installing updating and uninstalling is handled by the system not by some third-party wizard that might or might not work. While all of these modern apps can just run natively on the platform Microsoft will also allow most classic Windows programs to run – including ones being downloaded from pretty much anywhere on the web.
But those will be thrown into a fancy new container that Microsoft has developed which is essentially a stripped down version of regular Windows running on top of Windows 10X. Which means these classic apps that Microsoft can’t really manage will be isolated from the rest of the system. They won’t be able to access sensitive stuff, slow things down, leave junk behind and so on.
Lessons from past
When Microsoft tried a restrictive approach in the past with Windows 10S as well as Windows RT they failed pretty miserably. Now interestingly even with this hybrid approach Microsoft claims that there will still be huge benefits without apps having full access to your system and messing it up over time.
Microsoft claims that the performance and the compatibility in the container will be great. Microsoft tries to limit this new system to a new form factor first. That is so different that people would hopefully give it a chance and explore it with fresh new eyes. If that works they can then slowly bring it to PCs as an optional alternative to classic windows.
More about Windows 10X – click here