2021 will be an exciting year for Windows 10. It will receive major updates, along with Windows 10X coming to laptops, although it is not clear what extra features Windows 10X will bring to laptops. Also, Microsoft's Cloud PC service is expected to enable app streaming to consumer devices from the cloud.
2020 was likely the year for laying the groundwork for the things that are coming soon to Windows 10. Microsoft's Panos Panay mentioned that Microsoft is reinvesting in Windows 10.
Officially, there are no details on the exact changes that are coming except for the codename of this project which is named Sun Valley. However, Windows Central was able to fetch some internal info that sheds some light on what this means.
Microsoft is planning a big Windows 10 update in the second half of 2021 that will introduce new top-level features and a new user interface which is more modern and consistent. There will be a focus on wider adoption of WinUI in the Windows Shell and native applications, an updated taskbar built with modern code and an improved user interface for the old File Explorer.
Microsoft will still issue two feature updates in 2021 as per the biannual update scheme. However, the significance of the updates will be reversed. The Spring update, version 21H1, will be a smaller service pack-like update, similar to what we have already seen in Windows 10 20H2 and 1909. The bigger one with more notable changes, 21H2, will come in the second half of 2021.
In 2021, Microsoft will continue to improve x86-x64 emulation for ARM devices, allowing devices like Surface Pro X to run plenty of classic Desktop apps. Emulation of x64 apps should also become available as a preview soon.
Also, there are rumors that Microsoft is about to bring Android apps to the Microsoft Store. Unfortunately, there are no details on how it is supposed to work and what is required to run an Android app on Windows in Microsoft's implementation.
Microsoft is planning to ship Windows 10X in the first half of 2021. This OS was initially made for portal dual-screen devices such as the Surface Neo. It has a redesigned launcher/Start experience, and uses container technology to run Win32 software. There isn't much info on this new edition of the OS, as Microsoft is not revealing how this variant of Windows will benefit regular PCs and laptops. However, it will reach foldables, and multi-screen innovative form factor devices soon.
Windows 10X will get its production-ready build in December 2020, and Microsoft is about to start shipping the first devices in North Amrerican Spring 2021. As you may remember, the initial release of the OS won't include classic Win32 Desktop app support, so Microsoft may probably launch the Cloud PC app streaming service around that time to bring more apps to the OS.
Windows 10X will eventually support classic Win32 (desktop) apps via containerization, where every Win32 app will run in the same container. Most of the Win32 apps are supported by that container with a few limitations, such as a missing notification area (system tray).
There are also rumors that Windows 10X will be capable of running on ARM devices at launch, however, there is no information on which manufacturers will be able to ship such devices. Windows 10X won't be available in the form of a traditional setup media, or as a retail installable edition. It will be more like device firmware tailored to specific devices, similar to Chrome OS and iPadOS.
The Cloud PC service
Also in 2021, Microsoft is going to make available a new service, named Cloud PC, that will stream a Windows version from the cloud and allow users to install apps there which are accessible on all their devices. This will allow devices with limited storage and low performance capabilities to run resource-heavy apps without degrading the local user experience due to weak hardware.
The same service will be used on Windows 10X to add desktop app support. In both Windows 10 and Windows 10X, the Cloud PC service will be integrated with the Microsoft 365 subscription. Any app installed via the Cloud PC service will become available in Windows 10 Start like a native app.
That's all we know about the topic at this moment. What are your expectations from Windows in 2021? Tell us in the comments.