We know Microsoft's Windows 10X is launching soon. We also know the Surface Neo won't be the launch device after Redmond postponed the dual-screen product. Instead, OEM machines will arrive with Windows 10X on board. However, a new report suggests there may be a significant limitation when the platform lands.
According to Windows Central, Microsoft has decided to remove a technology called VAIL from the latest internal Windows 10X builds. You may be unfamiliar with VAIL, but it used to virtualize Win32 programs on the platform.
Win32 programs are legacy apps from older Windows versions. Whereas the normal Windows 10 supports Win32 alongside Progressive Web Apps (PWAS), and Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps, Windows 10X needed virtualization to run Win32. VAIL was the tech that delivered that capability.
However, Microsoft has removed VAIL, meaning Windows 10X now only supports UWPs and PWAs. More interestingly, it seems this removal is deliberate and permanent. In other words, Microsoft has decided the platform will not support Win32 programs.
Changing the Platform
The question is why. Well, it seems Microsoft is changing the whole ethos behind Windows 10X. Instead of the platform becoming a driver for a generation of dual-screens devices, including the Surface Neo, it is repositioned as a platform for low-end devices. Essentially, it wants to be a competitor to Google and Chromebooks.
Instead of becoming a version of Windows that looks seamless across form factors, Windows 10X is increasingly looking like Windows 10 S. You may remember Microsoft launched Windows 10 S in 2017. It was focused on being a rival to Google Chrome. Despite debuting as a standalone SKU, Windows 10 S was eventually folded into other SKUs as S Mode.
While it remains too early to know if 10X becomes Windows 10 S 2.0 or whether it has the potential many believed when it first launched, it is disappointing to see Win32 support removed. This means users who buy laptops running the platform won't be able to leverage legacy Windows programs. So, 10X machines will only allow users to access UWP and PWA programs, which remain limited.
Dual-Screen Devices Still Coming
Windows Central reports the hope of Windows 10X driving dual-screen devices is not lost. Microsoft apparently still plans to see the platform on these types of devices, which would mean the Neo is not dead yet.
When the Neo was postponed, Microsoft said it wanted to focus on OEM single-screen devices. Windows 10X is still compatible with dual screen hardware. However, OEMs won't be permitted by Microsoft to release dual-screen laptops in 2020.
“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. These single-screen devices will be the first expression of Windows 10X that we deliver to our customers, and we will continue to look for the right moment, in conjunction with our OEM partners, to bring dual-screen devices to market,” Microsoft's product chief Panos Panay said in May.