By the end of this year, Microsoft will bring two new versions of Windows to the PC platform. The first is the much delayed Windows 10X, optimized for dual-screen configurations, and the second is a major overhaul for the current Windows 10. Both come with substantial changes to the interface and a new Start Menu interpretation.
Microsoft is not yet ready to replace Windows 10 altogether, preferring the less risky strategy of a bolder visual refresh than usual. Again, the preferred target for sharp changes is the Start Menu, with at least two versions already appearing in screenshots.
The most different interpretation can be found on Windows 10X devices. With a much simplified design, it seems rather optimized for touch interaction. Interestingly, Microsoft does not return to the Windows Phone-style interface, preferring instead a minimalist approach based on static icons. The new Start Menu includes a search box, a list of recently used apps, and a shortlist of favorite apps, which can be expanded using the Show all button. Start Menu shortcuts can address both applications (native or web applications) and websites. For now, it’s unclear whether Windows 10X will allow shortcuts to be grouped in the Start Menu.
Instead, the interpretation of the Start Menu reserved for the next version of Windows 10, codenamed Sun Valley, is closer to the familiar look we are used to. For example, the Start Menu will look largely the same, but will have a floating design, detached from the Taskbar.
Somewhat more drastic are the changes made to the Action Center (known as the notification panel) and the System Tray section, the two to be unified. They will also come as floating rectangular cards, reminiscent of the Android or iOS notification system.
Expectations are like Microsoft to deliver Windows 10X OEM equipment manufacturers until the spring, while the Sun Valley update (Windows 10 21H2) is expected in the fall, in October 2021.
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