Windows 10: Further UI improvements planned for 2021

[German]Recent rumors say that Microsoft is planning further improvements to the user interface (UI) of Windows 10 for 2021. A short overview of the never ending topic ‘screws on the user interface of Windows 10’.


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Sun Valley: New GUI gimmicks

Zac Bowden reports on Windows Central in this article what he claims to have learned from his sources at Microsoft regarding Windows 10 in terms of user interface (UI) changes. According to Bowden, there will be a ‘major user interface update’ of Windows 10 in 2021.

Bowden calls it a ‘design refresh’, which runs internally at Microsoft under the code name “Sun Valley”. According to Bowden’s source, Microsoft plans to update many parts of the user interface such as the Start menu, the Action Center and even the File Explorer with more modern designs, better animations and new features.

According to Bowden, it is too early for details. But his sources have fed him so much on this that one can expect some visual revisions in the Start menu and the Notification Center. These should be based on the experiences with Windows 10X. Microsoft is also working on an updated taskbar and an improved user interface for the file explorer, Bowden said.

For tablet users, this will result in better animations and a “smoother experience”. Microsoft will also continue its escapade of rounded corners throughout the user interface, including app windows and other shell areas, Bowden said. And he writes that dark mode is supported by more older UI areas. All in all, the tenor is that everything is supposed to change somehow, but nothing specific is known.

The Sun Valley project is part of the Windows Devices and Experiences team, headed by Chief Product Officer Panos Panay. Microsoft had announced in May 2020 that it wanted to “reinvest” in Windows 10 in 2021. Bowden writes that his sources say that Sun Valley is the result of this reinvestment.


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Will probably come in fall 2021

In the blog post Windows 10: Is Microsoft planning yearly feature updates? I had already hinted in July 2020 that Microsoft would go away from the two feature updates per year. In spring 2021, instead of an update of Windows 10 21H1, Microsoft plans to deliver its first version of Windows 10X. This might be possible, since I read on MSPU yesterday that Windows 10X will rumoredly reach ‘RTM status’ in December 2020, although this version has no Win32 app support. Windows 10X is the slimmed down dual-screen version of Windows 10.

In my blog post I also wrote that Microsoft is planning to release a feature update for regular Windows 10 SKUs in fall 2021 (according to Mary Foleys). This will be the 21H2 update if Microsoft sticks to its current nomenclature. Zac Bowden writes in his article that the Windows 10 variant with a revised UI is being developed under the project name ‘Cobalt’ and should be available at Christmas 2021. Would then be the autumn update for 2021, so Windows 10 21H2.

Internal project goals

According to Zac Bowden, the project is described in Microsoft’s internal documentation as “revitalizing” and modernizing the Windows desktop experience to keep pace with customer expectations in a world driven by other modern and lightweight platforms. Bowden writes that Windows 10 has remained largely the same over the past few years. There have been few to no changes in the design (introduction of Fluent Design) or in the functionality of the operating system. Bowden writes that many other platforms on the market have undergone a complete redesign or user interface update in the last five years.


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