A near-final build of Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows 10X operating system has leaked online, giving us our best look yet at the potential Chrome OS competitor.
Windows Central has posted a hands-on walkthrough of the OS ahead of its expected launch, as Microsoft seeks to provide a Windows-based alternative to the Google Chromebook empire.
In fact, the stripped-back, lighter desktop platform bears more than a passing resemblance to Chrome OS, judging by the video of the experience showcased on a single-screen device.
As you can see the Start Menu has been moved to the centre of the taskbar. Summoning it reveals a universal search bar, a selection of top apps and websites (along with a ‘Show All’ button) as well as those more recently used. Here, Live Tiles and app folders are a goner, but apps can be pinned to the taskbar for rapid access.
Running apps feature in the taskbar, while there’s some neat visual animations when apps are summoned and minimised. There’s also a simplified tray, with a new quick settings menu to the far right of the taskbar, which offers access to audio devices, notifications, Wi-Fi networks and more. Media controls can also be accessed from the action tray. External devices with built-in volume rockers will also see an on-screen indicators when the levels are increased or decreased.
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There’s also a new iPadOS-like Files app that’s quite a departure from the Windows 10 iteration. Of course, everything’s synced with OneDrive and Windows Central points out that Windows 10X requires users to sign in with a Microsoft account.
The video also highlights that all apps run in full screen, but there is a split screen mode if you wish to use more than one app at a time. This feature is aided by a macOS-esque touchpad gesture system.
The report points out that legacy desktop applications like Spotify will not run on Windows 10X initially, but users will be able to access the Spotify web app through the Microsoft Edge browser, for example. This will involve bookmarking the web app and pinning it to the desktop as you would with a smartphone or tablet app.
Last year Microsoft said it was repurposing the Windows 10X OS for more traditional PC experiences, rather than the multi-display devices like the Surface Neo. That’s down to the pandemic and the need for employees and students to conduct their business from home.
In May the company said: “With Windows 10X, we designed for flexibility, and that flexibility has enabled us to pivot our focus toward single-screen Windows 10X devices that leverage the power of the cloud to help our customers work, learn and play in new ways.”