Last week, we reported on how Microsoft's plans for the future of Windows 10 on phones is gradually coming together. A key part of those plans is the company's development of a unified CShell user experience, which can adapt the Windows 10 interface to work across a range of devices with different display sizes and types, eliminating the need for separate shells like Windows 10 Mobile.
On Thursday, Microsoft accidentally released a series of Windows 10 builds to devices on the Windows Insider program, which included pushing 'IoT' and 'Xbox' builds to phones. On most handsets, those builds failed to install properly, sending the devices into a recurring bootloop that required them to be restored to factory settings. But Windows Central's Zac Bowden managed to get build 16212 working on a HP Elite x3, showing CShell in action for the first time.
As I mentioned in my article last week, CShell features changes to the Start screen on mobile devices, including the addition of the 'large' (double-width, double-height) Live Tile size, which has so far been limited to Windows 10 on PCs. The context menu for customizing tiles is new to mobile devices too, and is also identical to that used on PCs.
Notably, the Start screen also includes landscape support, maintaining the same tile layout with large gaps on either side of it. Given that CShell is still at a relatively early stage of its development, this may well change as the interface is refined in future builds. In build 16212, landscape support is said to be more or less universal, with apps also able to launch in that layout.
As previously reported, the Action Center has been redesigned as well, with a layout that brings it much closer to the version used on Windows 10 PCs. The most obvious change is that the Quick Action buttons - for controls such as Wi-Fi, Airplane Mode, and Rotation Lock - have been relocated to the bottom of the screen.
Additionally, the build features improvements to the PC-like Continuum user experience. Microsoft originally announced these enhancements - which includes support for resizable and snapped windows, and the ability to pin apps to the taskbar - in September 2016. They were supposed to be part of the Creators Update, which was released in April, but they haven't even been made available to Windows Insiders yet. Microsoft's Dona Sarkar told Neowin in February that they would come to Windows phones "at the right time".
Significantly, Silverlight apps don't launch at all in CShell, confirming recent reports that Microsoft is planning to drop support for those apps.
The same CShell UX will also extend to PCs and other Windows 10 devices, and the Continuum screenshots offer a glimpse of what it will look like on the desktop - and of course, it will look much the same as it does in Continuum running on phones. Continuum on Build 16212 already includes support for Microsoft's new Fluent Design System.
You can see more of CShell in action in the video below:
Microsoft has been testing CShell builds on phones internally for several months, but it's still far from clear if Microsoft intends to bring it to existing handsets as an official update.
The company will still need to test the CShell UX on existing smartphones with the help of its Windows Insider community, so it's pretty much inevitable that it will make CShell available to Windows 10 Mobile handsets in Insider Preview form, at least. But that's no guarantee that those devices will be officially supported when CShell rolls out as part of a future Windows 10 update.
When Microsoft released the original Windows 10 Mobile upgrade, it excluded many of the devices used by Insiders who helped to test and refine the OS before its rollout. And when it released the Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update in April, it did so for just 13 handsets, again cutting off its official support for numerous Windows phones that had been running Insider Previews.
In his report today, Zac speculated - as I did last week - that "Microsoft might want to save CShell for its next major attempt at Windows phone", rather than supporting it on existing devices. Microsoft is believed to be working on a new class of mobile device; popularly referred to as the 'Surface phone', it's not expected to launch until sometime next year, and it's not hard to imagine where CShell fits into those plans.
Last week, Microsoft and Qualcomm announced a new generation of Windows 10 'Mobile PCs' using Snapdragon 835 chips, along with eSIMs to ensure that they can remain 'always connected' - but that announcement related specifically to notebooks and 2-in-1s, rather than smartphones.
Source: Windows Central
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