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What Is Windows 10X: Microsoft's Folding PC OS Explained

The foldable computer is almost here, and there will be a version of Windows 10 for it. But maybe not exactly the one you know. It’s called Windows 10X, and it is the operating system that will power dual-screen laptops and folding PCs.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The operating system, which was codenamed Santorini internally, is based on the little-spoken of Windows Core OS. The brief version of Core OS is that it’s a stripped-down, simplified version of Windows that can be expanded or shrunk down to meet the needs of different devices.

Is Windows 10X like Windows 10 S?

No. Additions can be made to that Core, and Windows 10X offers “newly implemented support for running Win32 applications in a container.” wrote Windows and education corporate vice president Eran Meggido in a blog post.  

That means that with Windows 10X, you won’t be limited to Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps. What we don’t know yet is if there are further limitations to a stripped down version of Windows 10.

When will Windows 10X be available? What devices will it be on?

Windows 10X is currently scheduled to launch in the fall 2020. It will power Microsoft’s own Surface Neo, as well as computers from partners including Lenovo, Dell, Asus and HP. Each of these devices, Meggido wrote, will be powered by Intel (Surface Neo, specifically, will use one of Intel’s Lakefield chips).

Lenovo confirmed to Tom’s Hardware that its foldable ThinkPad X1 device will use Windows 10X, though not when it launches. Asus would neither confirm nor deny if it will use Windows 10X for Project Precog. We have seen Concept Ori and Concept Duet — one with a foldable OLED panel and one with a hinge.

A leak from prolific Microsoft leaker WalkingCat has revealed information about the new OS a bit prematurely, but has since been pulled. According to The Verge, Windows 10X will support "clamshells and foldables."

What can Windows 10X do?

Frankly, we’re still in the dark on many of the specifics, though at its October event, Microsoft showed off some neat features that should make using a dual-screen device easier.

One of them was easy access to search. Another was that programs that are opened will show up on the side of the device in which it was invoked. And if you want it on two screens, you can pinch it and drag it to the center, which Microsoft referred to as “spanning.”

With the a Bluetooth keyboard (the Surface Neo has a magnetic one that covers part of one display), the “WonderBar” is invoked, with room for a touchbar, emojis, smaller screens or other menus.

Additionally, the extra space can be put to good use, like having Outlook in one window and opening new calendar invites or emails in the other without having to switch back and forth.

There may be a little more we know. At Computex, Microsoft corporate vice president of operating systems Roanne Sones detailed a vision for a more modern Windows. That included seamless updates, security, 5G and LTE and sustained performance. She also discussed cloud connectivity, the ability to fit on several form factors, and inputs from pens, touch and even gaze.

Per leaks, the Start Menu will be referred to as the "Launcher," which sounds more like a phone. Additionally, facial recognition with Windows Hello may be faster, with users skipping the step to dismiss the lock screen before going to the desktop. 

Other leaked features include a modernized File Explorer, a quicker Action Center and a focus on Wind32 apps and Progressive Web App (PWA) version of Office rather than UWP from its own store.  

When will developers get their hands on Windows 10X?

in January, Microsoft announced that the first SDK for Windows 10X would be made available for developers. It also showcased different app "patterns" that utilize one or both of the screens in different ways. Those include spanning across both screens, working like a book, showing different apps on different screens, and using one screen to show more information about an element on the other.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft chief product Panos Panay said that part of the reason for debuting the Surface Neo early was to empower developers to build experiences for its two screens. Perhaps we’ll hear more about it at the next Microsoft Build, which will take place between May 19 and May 21 in Seattle in 2020.

Photo Credits: Microsoft

This article is part of the Tom's Hardware Glossary.

  • mihen
    It would be perfect if you can make phone calls with it. Actually, I think you can just setup Skype. Now I won't need to replace my Windows phone with an Android or iOS device.
    =( looks like the duo is running android.
  • husker
    Okay, what am I missing here. I've had a dual screen setup at work and at home for years using windows 7, 8, and 10. I can use them as one big display or as separate displays; the settings are already built into windows. Just because a handheld device has dual screens, why should it be any different and require a new operating system? Thought experiment: build a modded system with connected fold-able displays and tiny hardware to run windows 10. Windows would be none the wiser. Or Is it a new OS required simply to support 2 touchscreens?
  • mihen
    I think the new OS is because Microsoft would want to do more with these small form factor dual displays. Something like changing displays when folded at certain angles and when its connected to a keyboard.
  • Mandark
    It’s a strip down version that is optimized for running on tablets. Apple does the same thing it’s not the same OS that runs on the PC as the tablets. It’s based on windows core