Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Windows 10X As a Web-first OS

Zac Bowden (tweet):

VAIL, the technology Microsoft uses to virtualize legacy Win32 programs on Windows 10X via containers, has been removed from the latest internal builds of the OS. I’m told that this is a deliberate change as the company moves to reposition Windows 10X as a platform designed to compete at the low-end, head-to-head with Chromebooks with web apps front and center.

The pivot to single-screen PCs is what drives this change. Originally planned as an OS for flagship premium PCs in the foldable space, Windows 10X will now be launching at the very other end of the spectrum, on low-cost tablets and laptops designed for the education and enterprise markets.

Microsoft’s local Win32 app layer will not be present when these low-cost PCs launch with Windows 10X next year. Users will be able to run UWP apps and web apps powered by Microsoft Edge, but not legacy Win32 programs.

Mary Jo Foley (tweet):

For years, many of us Microsoft watchers have expected Microsoft to create a true virtualized Windows PC experience. Well, it’s happening, likely as soon as spring 2021.

Microsoft is currently calling the coming virtualization service “Cloud PC.” Cloud PC won’t replace locally installed Windows (and Office) -- for the foreseeable future, anyway. It will be an option for customers who want to use their own Windows PCs made by Microsoft and/or other PC makers basically like thin clients, with Windows, Office and potentially other software delivered virtually by Microsoft.

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It wasn’t a great sign that they quickly pivoted from “it’s for dual screens!” to “well, OK, it’s for any screen”. (What does this mean for the Surface Duo?)

Honestly, this seems like another stillborn effort like Windows RT, only worse because at least RT ran some Win32 apps (Office, and unofficially also third-party stuff).

RT at least on paper had good answers on why you would pick it over an iPad: it ran MS Office (I believe Office for iPad didn’t ship until several years later), and it had stuff like split screen, long before iOS did. In practice, that didn’t really help. Those who needed advanced windowing just went with regular Windows. Those who didn’t went with an iPad. It wasn’t better enough.

What does Windows 10 X (ten ten? Ten eggs? Why?) offer that ChromeOS doesn’t?

Microsoft’s tablet strategy still feels all over the place. At its best, through sheer trial and error, interesting ideas come out (Windows 8’s split screen; the Surface Book’s hinge), with mixed market success; at its worst, stuff gets introduced with fanfare and discontinued quietly (it probably barely mattered in the grand scheme of things, but having Windows Phone 7 phones unable to upgrade to 8, and 8 ones unable to upgrade to 10, definitely didn’t build loyalty).

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