If Microsoft’s recently announced plan to move some of its services and even products to custom chips has you concerned that the company is moving too far away from the “soft” part of its name, worry no longer. A recent job listing (opens in new tab) posted to the company's website calling for a Senior Software Engineer to work under the Windows Core User Experience team implies it also has big plans in store for Windows 10 in the near future, particularly its user experience.
“On this team, you’ll work with our key platform, Surface, and OEM partners to orchestrate and deliver a sweeping visual rejuvenation of Windows experiences to signal to our customers that Windows is BACK and ensure that Windows is considered the best user OS experience for customers,” the listing advertised.
This listing was quickly picked up by enthusiasts and news outlets like The Verge, who speculated that it might be related to the rumored Sun Valley Windows UX overhaul that Windows Central reported on back in October. The job listing has since been changed to the vaguer “On this team, you’ll orchestrate and deliver experiences that ensure Windows is a great user experience for our customers,” but that the company felt the need to change it arguably only furthers suspicion of an upcoming UX or UI overhaul for Windows, rather than this simply being a hyperbolic job post.
According to the Windows Central report, Sun Valley is presumably set for 2021 and would update the start menu, action center, file explorer and other top-level interfaces with “modern designs, better animations, and new features.”
Also of note here is the promise that this engineer would work alongside the Surface team and OEM partners, which could point to greater synergy between Microsoft’s hardware and software in the future. A move in this direction has been expected ever since Microsoft placed the Windows client team under Chief Product Officer Panos Panay early last year, though we don't know any specifics quite yet.
Whether or not this will bring Windows “back,” we’re not sure. Was it ever gone? While the OS has more competition from Apple when it comes to casual use and from Linux when it comes to power users, it’s still considered a default of sort across all experience levels. Attempts to make it more friendly to one particular audience, as with Windows Vista’s casual-friendly approach, have landed with lukewarm receptions in the past, so we’re curious what new strategies any new UX overhauls will employ to avoid the same mistakes.