Microsoft hits Alt-F4 on Windows 10X: OS designed for dual-screen PCs axed

It was just so good, we're cannibalizing it for parts, says Redmond


Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 10X, its somewhat streamlined operating system initially designed for a new wave of dual-screen mobile PCs, is being killed off.

It appears the Redmond giant doesn't want the OS's features to languish on whatever dual-screen slabtops are or become available, and so it will put some of its better ideas into the mainstream Windows 10, and shut the rest of the project down. It was supposed to launch this year.

"Following a year-long exploration and engaging in conversations with customers, we realized that the technology of Windows 10X could be useful in more ways and serve more customers than we originally imagined," John Cable, veep of program management at Windows Servicing and Delivery, buried at the end of this blog post.

"We concluded that the 10X technology shouldn’t just be confined to a subset of customers.

"Instead of bringing a product called Windows 10X to market in 2021 like we originally intended, we are leveraging learnings from our journey thus far and accelerating the integration of key foundational 10X technology into other parts of Windows and products at the company."

The never-officially-released operating system, first teased in October 2019, was designed for a forthcoming generation of dual-screen fondleslabs like the Surface Neo, which itself was due to land at the end of 2020, missed its launch date, and stalled. In March last year, the first public tester builds of the operating system were looking rather buggy. With IT supply chains collapsing in the pandemic, Microsoft said it would pivot Windows 10X to single-screen laptops that May, with management talking about making it a competitor to Google's ChromeOS.

By October, with the Surface Neo completely AWOL, it looked as though Windows 10X had lost all momentum, although support documentation found in January suggested there was some movement. Then it all went quiet again, and rumors started circulating of its demise. For Windows 10X, Microsoft had promised fast system updates, improved security, and other features primarily for dual-screen tablet-ish devices.

"At the end of the day, they thought they had a scenario where these devices made sense, and the longer they looked at it, my guess is that it didn't make sense to create a whole new channel of Windows," Wesley Miller, a research analyst at Directions on Microsoft, told The Register.

Microsoft has a history of software moonshots, Miller said, including Windows RT, Windows 10S, and other great sounding but ultimately doomed projects like Redmond's mostly failed database system WinFS, which Bill Gates hinted was his greatest regret at the company.

It was perhaps the state of app support that made Windows 10X so unlikely to succeed, and so it'll be reduced to bits and bytes sprinkled into Windows for future use. "If it can't run Office properly, it's not really a value proposition," Miller said. ®

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