Devs getting stuck into Windows 10X on Surface Neo will have to tussle with UWP

Wonderbar: compatibility issues ahoy

  Surface Neo with Windows 10X, which shows the

Surface Neo with Windows 10X, which shows the & # 39; wonderbar & # 39;

Microsoft has made public a new range of Surface hardware, most It is intriguing to be two folding devices: one is an Android phone and the other runs a new variant of Windows, Windows 10X. The devices are prototypes, with general availability planned for the end of 2020.

Windows 10X is not exclusive to Surface. Microsoft's own hardware line has always focused on boosting the company's original equipment manufacturers to offer improved Windows devices, as well as being an important product line in its own right. Therefore, we can expect other dual-screen Windows 10X devices from the usual crowd: providers such as Asus, Lenovo, HP and Dell.

What, then, is Windows 10X? Microsoft has yet to speak publicly in detail. What we do know is deduced from the little said and is shown in the launch of Surface Neo and in the publication related to Windows and corporate education Eran Megiddo.

  Surface Neo is a double-screen folding device

Surface Neo is a double-screen folding device (click to enlarge)

Surface Neo is a 360 ° double-screen folding device that runs a new CPU Intel codenamed Lakefield, which is optimized for dual displays, allowing a thinner and more efficient design. According to Megiddo, all 10X devices will work with Intel CPUs.

  Intel Lakefield, a new chipset of & # 39; hybrid computing & # 39; title =

Intel Lakefield, a new "hybrid computing" chipset (click to see it more closely)

Lakefield, announced in January, has a "hybrid computing architecture", which means that it combines Atom Tremont high energy efficiency cores with high performance "Sunny Cove". The idea is that the PC uses low-power cores when possible, and high-performance cores when necessary, which will extend battery life. Lakefield also features a 10 nm process and a new "Foveros" package, which allows a thin 12 x 12 x 1 mm chip.

Windows 10X is not a replacement for Windows 10, but will be offered along with it, aimed at dual-screen mobile devices. It is based on engineering work on Windows that dates back many years, which makes Windows more modular and allows Microsoft to remove legacy code when it is not necessary. "We call these shared technologies & # 39; a core & # 39;", says Megiddo. Windows 10X seems to be the first full version of Windows Core OS (WCOS) based on this work.

The disadvantage of eliminating legacy code is the loss of compatibility. Windows 10X is primarily designed to run UWP (Universal Windows Platform) applications, but will run Win32 desktop applications in a container. Applications for UWP use visual components of WinUI and are based on Windows Runtime, first introduced in Windows 8.

The exact details of what code will run natively and what a container will require are not yet known. However, it seems that 64-bit desktop applications will not run, unless they can run as UWP applications. Container technology is for Win32 applications.

Microsoft has been blurring the boundaries between UWP and old-style desktop applications, allowing Win32 and Win64 applications created with Windows Forms and WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) to call UWP APIs, and easing restrictions on UWP so that applications can call the Win32 and COM APIs. In fact, in this documentation, Microsoft says that the Win32 and COM APIs "are part of the Universal Windows Platform," and notes that they are only implemented by "some Windows 10 devices," so developers must verify their presence before of calling them.

What This means that in Windows 10X, some applications will run natively (most but not necessarily all applications for UWP), some will run in a container (almost all Win32 applications) and some will not run in Absolute (64-bit legacy) "applications).

Microsoft has high hopes for Surface Neo. The device looked good on stage. We saw how applications open by default on a screen, but can be" encompassed "to fill both screens with a simple gesture. We saw how a magnetically connected keyboard with wireless charging can turn around, turning the device into a laptop and leaving a screen area on the keyboard to become a "wonder bar" for the functions of the toolbar in a mini view The demonstration showed how a video that runs full screen on the top screen can be moved to the b wonders, which allows you to open a new application while maintaining continuity.

However, Microsoft faces considerable challenges. The UWP ecosystem is not rich compared to classic desktop applications, and tricks such as the Desktop Bridge (which packages a desktop application for the Windows Store installer) will not magically make the missing APIs appear. This means that, at least initially, users will work most of the time in the Win32 container, transparent to the user, but with some overhead.

The execution of applications in a container has significant advantages. It offers some degree of isolation (although Microsoft does not speak of this as a security feature yet) and helps keep the operating system running smoothly, preventing swelling of the registry and corruption of system files.

This could be in several ways. Windows 10X could revive interest in UWP and mark the beginning of a new era of safer and more energy efficient mobile PCs, as discussed at Computex earlier this year.

It is also possible that compatibility issues cause hackers to try to figure out how to get "Windows 10 complete" on a Surface Neo, or Microsoft will bring more "legacy" code to the main part of the 10X operating system.

The developers, as always, are key, hence the surface corporate veep, Panos Panay, declared in New York last night: "We need to put [Surface Neo] in the hands of developers as soon as possible." Preview hardware, perhaps, at the Build conference in May 2020? ®

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