Microsoft announced Windows 10X last year as the key to its dual-screen ambitions, but the company has changed course since then. Confirming a previous rumor, Microsoft now says Windows 10X will instead target single-screen devices first. The latest tidbits from the rumor mill suggest this is more than targeting traditional laptops — Microsoft may be planning to use Windows 10X to compete directly with Chromebooks.
Google’s first Chromebooks were sluggish, ugly, and poorly built. Over time, Chromebooks have expanded to every niche in the laptop market, even the high-end. Still, it’s the budget-priced and midrange Chromebooks that have become popular, and that’s taken a big bite out of Windows-based laptops. Similar efforts on Microsoft’s site like Windows RT have crashed and burned, but the company hopes it can strike the right balance with Windows 10X.
According to a leaked document, Microsoft reportedly adjusted its plans when the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe. Launching expensive new dual-screen laptops in this climate is a significant risk, but demand for traditional laptops has exploded as people seek to get work done from home. Inexpensive Chromebooks, in particular, have been in high demand, but Microsoft has also seen a 75 percent jump in Windows 10 usage this year. So, the company feels it’s the right time to launch a streamlined version of Windows with a focus on traditional form factors.
Windows 10 is a feature-packed operating system with a lot of baggage from decades of ongoing Windows development. With 10X, Microsoft will feature UX improvements across the board, including a new Start Menu and window management system. It will also feature a new application container system that promises better security and performance. There’s also talk of cloud-based app virtualization technology that could make light-weight Windows laptops more capable.
This is a tough environment to launch any product, particularly new form factors that inevitably demand a premium price. We’ve seen the same problems in the mobile space with foldable phones that cost well over $1,000. It’s just a bad time to ask people to spend that much. With all the work already done on Windows 10X, repositioning it for traditional laptops might be the best option available to Microsoft. It’s clear it needs something to go toe-to-toe with Chrome OS. Hopefully, this goes better than all the other times Microsoft tried to pare back Windows.
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