Windows 10X: what is it and which devices can use it?

Microsoft bets on foldable tablets despite some rivals developing bendable devices

Windows 10X
Windows 10X running on the upcoming Surface Neo
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft announced a new form of its Windows operating system last week that’s set to power a wave of foldable devices from both the company itself and its third-party partners.

Announced in New York last Wednesday alongside a range of new products, including a foldable tablet and an Android-powered smartphone, Windows 10X is designed to work exclusively with devices that fold in the middle.

Unlike Samsung, which has recently released its Galaxy Fold smartphone with a single bendable display, Microsoft is banking on dual-screen devices being more reliable.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The software is expected to launch towards the end of next year with Microsoft’s newly announced Surface Neo tablet, says TechCrunch, before making its way on to dual-screen devices from the likes of Dell, Lenovo and HP.

What is Windows 10X?

In short, Windows 10X is a heavily revised version of Microsoft’s computer software that’s specially designed for portable devices with two screens.

According to Engadget, the operating system is “considerably more efficient” than today’s Windows 10 and “sports an interface optimised for dual screens, including more elegant app placement and a more touch-friendly Start menu”.

The system also offers better multitasking functions than Windows 10, says tech news site BleepingComputer. For instance, users will be able to study a graph on one page while taking a Skype video call on the other.

It’s not just designed for the latest software, either. The Verge notes that Windows 10X can run “legacy apps” from Microsoft’s older operating software based on the 32-bit system Win32. The software runs using a “container technology”, allowing legacy apps to operate without putting too much stress on the battery.

Finally, Windows 10X is tipped to be more efficient, meaning users will get more battery power from their dual-screen device, the site adds.

It’s worth noting that the software is still in its infancy and could undergo significant changes once it releases in 12 months’ time.

Why has Microsoft gone foldable - not bendable?

Microsoft has chosen to develop dual-screen foldable devices, as opposed to the more hi-tech bendable displays seen on the new Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei’s upcoming Mate X.

According to the BBC, one industry analyst believes that the troubles Samsung faced with the Galaxy Fold, which was delayed by five months after several reviewers ran into major screen failures, may have put Microsoft off bendable screen technology.

Speaking to the broadcaster, Ben Wood, research chief at CCS Insights, said: “Given the issues Samsung had with the initial version of the Galaxy Fold and the wider challenges around the fragility of flexible displays, it makes sense that device makers are experimenting with alternative designs.”

But Microsoft’s product chief, Panos Panay, told the BBC that dual-screen hardware and software benefits user productivity.

“The overload is much less,” he said. “I’m staying in context on a web browser on one side, and I’m looking at my mail on the other. Or, I have a calendar on one side, and I have my mail on the other.”

So what devices are compatible with it?

Not a lot, given that the software isn’t expected to launch until the end of next year.

The only device that’s currently confirmed to run the software is the upcoming Surface Neo, though The Verge says Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo all have devices in the works that will use Windows 10X.

However, existing dual-screen gadgets cannot run the operating system, nor will the company’s upcoming Surface Duo smartphone - which is powered by Google’s Android, the tech site says.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.