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MJFChat: Bye, bye Windows 10X

 

We’re doing a twice-monthly interview show on Petri.com that is dedicated to covering topics of interest to our tech-professional audience. We have branded this show “MJFChat.”

In my role as Petri’s Community Magnate, I will be interviewing a variety of IT-savvy technology folks. Some of these will be Petri contributors; some will be tech-company employees; some will be IT pros. We will be tackling various subject areas in the form of 30-minute audio interviews. I will be asking the questions, the bulk of which we’re hoping will come from you, our Petri.com community of readers.

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Our latest MJFChat is all about Microsoft’s decision to shelve its Windows 10X operating system — and what’s likely to become its new Chrome OS-compete strategy in its place. My special guest for this chat was Brad Sams, Executive Editor of BWW Media Group. Brad also answered a number of listener questions in this episode.

If you know someone you’d like to see interviewed on the MJFChat show, including yourself, just Tweet to me or drop me a line. (Let me know why you think this person would be an awesome guest and what topics you’d like to see covered.) We’ll take things from there…

Mary Jo Foley:
Hi, you’re listening to Petri.Com’s MJF Chat Show. I am Mary Jo Foley, AKA your Petri.com community magnate. And I am here to interview tech industry experts about various topics that you, our readers and listeners want to know about. Today’s MJF Chat is going to focus all about Windows 10X, which was the latest cornerstone of Microsoft’s Chrome OS compete strategy. 10X is now on the back burner and likely to never come to market, I believe. So we’re going to talk today about what is next for Microsoft in terms of its Chrome OS compete strategy and Windows strategy going forward. Who better to be the extra special guest on this, than Brad Sams the Executive Editor of BWW Media Group. Hi Brad. Thank you so much for doing this chat with me.

Brad Sams:
Thanks for the invitation. We talked ironically, I guess, somewhat about this. I think it was two years ago.

Mary Jo Foley:
It was, it was.

Brad Sams:
During the early days, I think we were calling it Lite OS

Mary Jo Foley:
We were, and then a week or so ago you had the big scoop about Microsoft shelving 10X, and I’m sure you’ve been very busy in the interim signing autographs and such.

Brad Sams:
Yes, exactly.

Mary Jo Foley:
So let’s revisit first quickly what Windows 10X is/was.

Brad Sams:
Yeah, so the interesting thing about 10X is, I think if Microsoft had a time machine, they go back to 2019 and go to what I consider to be one of their most ambitious keynotes, because in the fall of 2019, they announced the Surface Duo. They announced the Surface Neo, and they also announced the Surface 10 or Windows 10X, I should say. And all of these products weren’t launching for more than a year. And now that a couple of, time has elapsed. One of those three products actually shipped, which was the Surface Duo, which is the only device not running a Microsoft operating system. And so Windows 10X, as it was initially conceived was supposed to be a more, I don’t like to use the term modern Windows, cause we’ve heard that so many times with like RT with Windows Phone and other things. It was supposed to be a more lightweight version of Windows because Microsoft sees the threat of what Chromebooks have become and they needed a response. And as Microsoft likes to do, what do you do when you need a response? Well, you spin up a new project. And that project was Lite OS or 10X as we know it today.

Mary Jo Foley:
So why do you think after about three years of development on and off, Microsoft quote, backburnered it, and I’m using quotes there because I feel like that’s kind of a euphemism for killed it.

Brad Sams:
Yeah. So there’s a lot to story and I personally don’t think we know the full story yet.

Mary Jo Foley:
Yeah, agreed.

Brad Sams:
There’s a lot, I mean, you go back to Microsoft announcing this thing and then a build leaked in January. And so we could all download it and install it on various pieces of hardware if you really want. And then all of a sudden around like the earlier part of this year, Microsoft just stopped flighting this stuff internally. And that’s a really interesting move for a lot of reasons. You could interpret it one way, it’s like, Hey, they’re trying to be super secretive about it. We’re not letting you, we don’t want to play our cards or something like that is one way to interpret it. I interpreted it to mean that like, Hey, something significant has happened. And so you start going down that rabbit hole of what happened and you ask around enough times internally and externally and partners and all that stuff. And nobody has a response and you really start to wonder, it’s like, where is this thing going? There’s no way they’re going to ship it. If nobody knows what’s happening with it. And that’s how we got to the conclusion that it’s not coming anytime soon. And I’m pretty much of the conviction that if it does arrive ever, it’s going to be more advanced in capacity than what we have seen so far.

Mary Jo Foley:
Agreed. Yeah. I think the game plan was to actually have some OEM ship it this year, right? Like the spring summer timeframe. Right?

Brad Sams:
Let me ask you a question Mary Jo. I mean you know this stuff just about as well as I do, who would buy, other than enthusiasts, who would buy a version of Windows that doesn’t run legacy applications? That as we knew, it only ran things in full screen. I mean, yes, it had a start button if you will. But other than that, it was quote unquote, just a shell of what we know as Windows.

Mary Jo Foley:
Right. I know. I agree. Because I was thinking back to last February when Microsoft actually talked a little more about how everything was going to work with 10X and they talked a lot about the various containers they were going to offer with the product and how containers is the way that they would run most Win32 apps. But then we started hearing bits and pieces from people who said, yeah, you know, you could do that, but the performance is terrible. So even if they did somehow ship the container, allowing them to run legacy apps, if the performance was terrible, especially if apps like Teams, who would buy this, right? Nobody.

Brad Sams:
And then the information started coming out about, Hey, maybe they’re just going to start streaming the apps from the cloud.

Mary Jo Foley (05:46):
Right, right.

Brad Sams:
You can’t forget, that was a big part of the narrative as things started to shift around, but then you get it to this weird world of why does it, why don’t we just do this on normal Windows?

Mary Jo Foley:
Exactly. Right. And I am curious, we’re going to talk more about that as this chat evolves, but like kind of what the next step is, but first, let’s get to some of the listener and reader questions that we have. Cause we had a lot of questions on Twitter about this topic, unsurprisingly. And you know, at the beginning I was seeing a lot of questions from people about WCOS, the Windows Core OS and just to level the playing field, so everybody knows what we’re talking about here. The way 10X was supposedly architected was the bottom layer was Windows Core OS. And then there were shells and containers and other kind of shims and things on top. Right? So here’s our first question from someone about WCOS. So Padre Pedro on Twitter asked, do you think Microsoft will continue with WCOS? If so, will the classic Windows 10 become one of the WCOS variants again, even though probably only on the longterm in that case? Yeah. There are a lot of questions about this, right?

Brad Sams:
So this just, and I might be crossing my wires, so please feel free to correct me here, Mary Jo. But weren’t there, wasn’t it expected that Windows Core OS was supposed to come to the Surface Hub 2S as well?

Mary Jo Foley:
Right.

Brad Sams (07:20):
And it hasn’t and they, was it last year that they just said here’s proper Windows 10?

Mary Jo Foley:
Yeah.

Brad Sams:
I’m wondering if that wasn’t the start of the decision tree,

Mary Jo Foley:
I know.

Brad Sams:
that brought the end of the 10X movement. Because they said the shell idea, which this person is very rightfully bringing up. That was part of the benefit, right. You just slap in the shell and it runs on this large screen, you slap a smaller shell and it runs on this little Chromebook device and then that hasn’t materialized. And now here we are. My understanding is that a lot of that, those features and functionality, it will, if they haven’t already started, we’ll migrate their way to Windows 10, as we know it. I don’t think, I still struggle with why do they need a different OS that isn’t Windows, they’ve tried it from many different lenses and it never works out and it ends up just being a distraction. And so I can’t see them just tossing that hard work and effort away, but I would look at them to see like how they’re going to ingest it into the Windows that you and I, as of right now are recording this on.

Mary Jo Foley:
Right. Yeah, a lot of people have questions about this because I feel like people get all excited about the idea of Windows Core OS with all these different shells, like there was Polaris and Andromeda, which was supposed to be the Windows-based phone. Aruba, Oasis, like there were all these code names, right. Tourniquet, another listener/reader said, you know, only the HoloLens lens version 2 uses WCOS currently, which is right. I don’t think any other products ever actually had WCOS inside. And so he asked us, what’s the future of WCOS now that the only other SKU that was supposed to get it in any kind of timeframe, 10X seems to be dead? So do you think they’ll keep up with WCOS? Do you think they’re going to keep trying to make that work, that idea of one Windows across all the different SkUs and all the different devices?

Brad Sams:
It’s a brilliant question because Microsoft has been chasing this dream for what was it? Three screens and a cloud, like whenever that was so many years ago, that was the initial sort of launch of this idea. And they’ve been poking at it from so many different ways, but the reality is they always end up back in the same spot. They always end up with, people just kind of want Windows. And I think they came to the realization that, I mean, listen to what Satya said in the last call, 1.3 billion devices running Windows 10. On a monthly basis. That is a substantial number. Now you could make the argument like, well, where’s that number going to be in 10 years if they don’t launch something modern? You know, that’s a question we don’t know the answer to. I don’t think that they will give, I don’t want to say that they’re going to give up on Windows Core OS because what I suspect they are doing is, and it keeps coming back to the same answer. They’re going to take the technologies that make sense that were developed and apply them where they logically make sense, rather than trying to just shove a modern OS out there, because it’s a solution where there may not be a problem.

Mary Jo Foley:
Right. Right. This is an interesting thought I hadn’t thought about, so now we’re going to introduce the concept of Sun Valley, right? So Sun Valley is the code name for the next UX/UI that we think is coming to Windows 10. Joe Finney says, okay, with Windows 10X gone is Sun Valley the only Windows shell project left standing? And I never really thought of Sun Valley as one of these shells, but I guess it is, right?

Brad Sams:
It’s definitely a shell update. I mean, I tend to agree with your, like, I didn’t think of Sun Valley as like a different shell. But I guess technically it is, at the end of the day. It’s going to be a pretty significant visual update. The challenge here is that this is the first, pretty much back from the front to the back of the book, complete overhaul that Panos is in charge of.

Mary Jo Foley:
Right.

Brad Sams:
Right. This is his time to lead Windows. So there’s definitely been changes. There’s definitely been more secrecy this time around than we had seen in previous updates. And more bluntly Windows actually has a singular point of leadership. For previous generations we’ve had multiple people kind of stirring the pot and Windows just kind of floated around. And now Panos. Now I know people could make an argument that there are multiple people still leading it, but Panos is the end point for Windows these days. And so from an outsider perspective, you kind of got to get your bearings on how is he going to operate the org now that he’s running the show. And so there’s still some learnings, at least from my perspective about watching the water drip out of the bucket to see what’s left in the bucket, if you will.

Mary Jo Foley:
Yep. I also like how you use learnings just threw that in casually, you know, little micro, micro speak in there.

Brad Sams:
If I say the word efforting, please, please slap me down.

Mary Jo Foley:
Virtually slap you. I will. Okay. More Windows, 10 WCOS questions. Tourniquet had another good one. He wondered, will there be any development going on to bring either Windows, meaning Windows 10 and/or WCOS to other new form factors with 10 inch screens and sorry, other than 10 inch and up screens? So he’s asking, do you think you’ll see Windows on things like smaller tablets, foldables, like what’s going to be next for that kind of a form factor, because we kind of thought that was where 10X might sit, right?

Brad Sams:
Yeah, no, that’s, these are all excellent questions.

Mary Jo Foley:
They are excellent questions.

Brad Sams:
Because unfortunately, Mary Jo and I can’t just you know look into our book of knowledge and have all these answers. Like it takes a significant amount of research and finding people who can help explain what is going on. But it’s a good question because the device that this falls into is what happens to the Surface Neo, because that is exactly the end point where 10X was supposed to live. My gut would tell me that if they ship Neo, it’s more than likely just going to run the desktop OS that we see, I can’t imagine them running, shipping, nothing with Android.

Mary Jo Foley:
I know, I’ve seen people debating that on Twitter, like, which makes more sense now, Neo, the dual screen Windows device with just plain old Windows or with Android? And I’m like, hmm,

Brad Sams:
People are going to get upset about this, but what is the point of Neo then?

Mary Jo Foley:
I know, right. Yeah. Because Neo was supposed to be Windows. Right.

Brad Sams:
The existence of Neo was to be a showpiece if you will, for 10X.

Mary Jo Foley:
Right. I guess a lot of people they kind of, because Microsoft introduced Duo and Neo together and Duo was Android. A lot of people thought, okay, so why not just make both of the dual screen devices, Android? Why not? Right?

Brad Sams:
Yeah, I mean Microsoft for better, for worse has some tough decisions to make. And I think they already made one related to 10X.

Mary Jo Foley:
Me too.

Brad Sams (14:57):
And that’s why I keep saying if they had a time machine, I bet they’d go back to 2019 and just remove a lot of stuff from that keynote.

Mary Jo Foley:
Yeah, for sure.

Brad Sams :
A lot of stuff.

Mary Jo Foley:
Yep. Okay, I love this next question, because this is a question I have myself. And I’m curious of your take on this. So Bart W on Twitter said, do you expect Microsoft to split into two versions, what happens next with Windows? So one for consumers, one for business and enterprise, now that 10X has been shelved.

Brad Sams:
Yeah. So I have, this is mostly just speculation at this point, because here’s the scenario that we don’t quite know yet. We know that visual change to an OS can be pretty significant, even if it’s only just visual. I could see a scenario where Microsoft retains Windows 10 as it exactly looks today. And they give IT pros/admins the capability of turning off the new UX, at least for maybe this iteration, because let’s say they move that start menu or start button to the center. And they actually do ship with a 10X style launcher. That is going to require some end user education. And you can imagine if you’re a a hundred thousand person organization, your help desk tickets are gonna explode when the cheese gets moved. That is how I think it could split. This is why I don’t think 10X ships, because that’s a lot of effort, I almost said efforting.

Mary Jo Foley:
Ooh.

Brad Sams:
That’s a pretty significant, you know, dichotomy of what we’ve seen in the past for Windows. And Microsoft through the trials and tribulations of Windows 8 knows that if you move something that has been in the bottom left corner for 20 plus years, you’re going to break a lot of people’s workflows and they have to be extremely careful with that, especially in the enterprise space.

Mary Jo Foley:
I agree. So yeah, the rumors we’ve all heard are that when, and if Microsoft does bring Sun Valley to market, it will be something that IT admins can control. But I keep thinking, okay so does that mean they’re just is going to be Windows 10 with Sun Valley as the next version of Windows, or is it going to be Windows 10 with Sun Valley and then just plain old Windows 10 for enterprises, you know, like could they, and should they have two paths at that point? Because to your point about Windows 8, like you change one small thing and it may look small to IT enthusiasts and maybe many IT pros, but your user, they don’t want that. Like, if you go around to IT pros out there and you say, do your users want to see more consistency and new icons and a more beautiful UI in Windows? The answer will be no. Right?

Brad Sams:
I fully agree with you.

Mary Jo Foley:
Yeah. So I wonder how they’re going to solve this challenge, I do.

Brad Sams :
I’s again, this is another good question that we don’t have the exact answer to because Microsoft hasn’t been super transparent about it, but if they truly are going to ship this thing in the fall, as we pretty much all expect at this point, they’re going to have to start talking soon because people one need to, well, first off they need feedback.

Mary Jo Foley :
Right.

Brad Sams:
Hopefully that they can implement in time. There’s always that clock ticking, but in the enterprise space, you’ve got to educate users. And we know that most of them will install the fall update because of the 30 month cycle of support.

Mary Jo Foley:
Right. Exactly. So is the fall update the Sun Valley update or is it just another Windows, 10 iteration, and then you get the Sun Valley thing on the side, right? I don’t know. We, I mean, we, the big Microsoft watching community, when I say this, we all think there’s going to be an event this summer where Microsoft talks about what’s next for Windows. Right? And that’s not Build that’s something after Build. So maybe we’ll get more answers at that point. I mean, the other question that comes up all the time Edmundo Mendiola asked this very question. What about Windows 10 on ARM? Right? So does a death of 10X mean that Microsoft will put even more focus into fixing, advancing Windows 10 on ARM? And he says, maybe motivated by Apple with the M1, but I don’t even think you need Apple in that whole equation there. What do you think? Do you think more will happen with Windows on ARM now that 10X is kind of out of the way?

Brad Sams:
I hope so. When you put it that way. If you’re Microsoft and you’re looking at the future, and you’re saying I’ve got X amount of dollars to bet on the future, do you bet that Chromebooks are going to overtake your 1.3 billion users? Or do you bet that ARM is going to overtake what Intel and AMD are currently shipping? And I think we both know that answer, where they’re going to place their bet. Personally, I hope that ARM takes off in the Microsoft ecosystem, not just because of what, Apple and the M1 is a silo in the market. And it will always get compared to Qualcomm and it will always get compared to every other chip. But the reality is there’s only one way to get that. And there’s only one OS you can run on that. And so while it is a threat to what Microsoft is doing it’s also just sort of off doing its own thing. Microsoft can’t do anything to control that. And so I hope that they invest heavily into ARM and truly make ARM a first-class experience because right now it is absolutely not. It’s close, but

Mary Jo Foley:
It’s pretty bad, yeah.

Brad Sams:
realistically like Windows 10 on ARM is a better 10X than 10X was because you get that power functionality, you get all of the benefits of it. But the problem is, as soon as you start poking around Windows 10X, anything other than the basic apps experience really starts to fall apart because you’re either running a container or it’s X64 and it doesn’t run well, or there’s a bunch of other myriad of issues. But if I had a billion dollars to invest, I would drop it on ARM before I drop it on 10X.

Mary Jo Foley (21:36):
You know, this, this brings up something I think about a lot, which is Panos, like not, not in a weird sense of thinking a lot about Panos, but I feel like Panos and the Surface team have been very focused on competing with Apple, right? Like, I mean, if you look at the way they position and build and sell Surface devices, they’re taking on Apple, right? But 10X was about taking on the Chromebooks. It wasn’t about taking on Apple. So I think it’s going to be interesting to kind of see where they put the bulk of their resources and their money in the future, because if it were just up to Panos and the Surface team, I think they would go after Windows on ARM and Apple. But I think the reality in the market, especially in education and FirstLine worker, parts of the market is, your competitor, there is Chrome OS, it’s not Apple.

Brad Sams:
Yeah. Let me ask you a question here. Now this is going to be a bit of repeating history because you understand this. What if Microsoft was able to get Windows to run exceptionally well on a $300 device? How, and we’re talking the Windows that we are recording this on today.

Mary Jo Foley:
Right.

Brad Sams:
How would that change the narrative for either Microsoft and or Windows 10X?

Mary Jo Foley:
I don’t think they need something that is Windows 10X, right? Like, I feel like they did that because they felt like regular Windows couldn’t be streamlined enough, couldn’t look different enough, couldn’t be simple enough. But if it could be, like you’re suggesting, why do you need another variant? You don’t, right?

Brad Sams:
And that, is I think the conclusion that Microsoft came to.

Mary Jo Foley:
Yeah, I think so, but I’m curious how adding Sun Valley either makes that happen or maybe takes away from that happening. You know, because once you start talking about adding new fancy icons and you know, different kinds of things they’re doing to tweak, possibly tweak like the tablet experience and the touch experience and all that. Does it again, bulk up Windows or does it actually not affect the size and the weight of Windows?

Brad Sams:
Yeah, it’s interesting times, I think. Because there’s so many moving parts, I’m hoping that we’re going to get transparency on what is going on with the Windows Store, because I think that is also a component that plays into the back burner during the shelving of Windows 10X, because if Microsoft aligns to what we’ve heard about allowing third-party developers to be able to put effectively anything into the store and manage it through their own CDNs, that makes the Windows 10X narrative even harder, because then it’s like, well, here’s the store you can download stuff from, but like half of it’s not going to work. Doesn’t go over so well.

Mary Jo Foley:
Yeah. That’s an interesting question too. Okay. Last kind of wrap up question here from our friend Tero Alhonen, he also was kind of mulling over the idea about Neo and what the future looks like with Neo and 10X being gone. And he brings up an interesting point, he said, if what really matters to Microsoft is Azure or this future product coming cloud PC consumption, and not necessarily the OS and device consuming it, does it matter what OS it even runs?

Brad Sams:
Yeah. So I don’t want to say my heartbreaks, like hearing that because,

Mary Jo Foley:
I know, I know.

Brad Sams:
Yourself, myself, like Paul, like we all love, like we enjoy Windows. Like we love Windows. Vista was where I cut my teeth, like trying to build PCs and run home theater boxes. And hearing like from the Microsoft perspective that the OS doesn’t matter to some extent he’s right, because Microsoft, the hundred year future for Microsoft is delivering a thin client somehow over the air. It’s not everybody building a PC or having a PC, but at the same time, Microsoft, at one point thought that Windows was just going to kind of ride off into the sunset and not be the thing that it was for the past 20 years. And yet here we are with 1.3 billion devices running it, the OS in itself. And that org makes tens of billions of dollars each quarter. And they can’t ignore it that it’s, you know, kind of clung on for life, so.

Mary Jo Foley:
Exactly. Especially during the pandemic. Right?

Brad Sams :
Right, exactly.

Mary Jo Foley:
All right, well, Brad, thank you so much. This was awesome. I love speculating on Windows. It’s a blast.

Brad Sams:
Yes.

Mary Jo Foley:
So thanks for taking me along on the journey. And for everyone else, who’s listening to this right now or reading the transcript, I’ll be putting up more information soon about who my next guest is going to be. And once you see that you can submit questions directly on Twitter using the #MJFChat for the guest. In the meantime, if you know of anyone else or even yourself who might make a good guest for one of these chats, please do not hesitate to drop me a note. Thank you very much.

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Comments (1)

One response to “MJFChat: Bye, bye Windows 10X”

  1. bluvg

    "why do you need another variant?"


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