If you were able to jump into a time machine and go back to December of 2018, Microsoft was working on a version of Windows 10 that I referred to as ‘Lite’. The idea, at that time, was that the company was planning to take on the growing threat of Chromebooks.
But like many Microsoft projects, the company kept clinching on to its roots and the need for running legacy applications. As ‘Lite’ evolved, the company began experimenting with running legacy apps in a container and Windows 10X was born.
The company planned to initially ship Windows 10X on dual-screened devices, like the now delayed Surface Neo, but those plans are falling further than initially expected. Microsoft likely isn’t going to ship Windows 10X for dual-screened devices until 2022, at the earliest.
The plan, for now, is that Windows 10X is going back to its roots and will be targeted at a Chromebook-like experience that runs UWPs and web apps. It is not yet known if Windows 10X will support the new ‘reunion’ apps that the company announced earlier this year.
The path forward for Windows 10X to bring traditional apps to 10X is likely from a new cloud-streaming service. This isn’t the first time streaming apps to a remote device has been tried, the first with an ill-fated Windows Phone from HP but while similar on the surface from a user perspective, the backend is vastly different.
Microsoft has all the components in place to be able to stream Win32 apps to devices and this new simplified model for 10X makes it much more like an EdgeOS than a traditional Windows OS. Which may be key as Microsoft knows that they cannot call something that looks like Windows, Windows if it doesn’t run all the apps that can run on proper Windows 10.
So what does this boil down to? Microsoft is building a ChromeOS competitor, that will be targeted at education and first line workers that can stream Win32 apps from the cloud, on low-cost hardware. If you go back and look at what was initially planned in 2018, the OS has come nearly full circle but lost about 18 months of development time.