Big picture: Microsoft’s modular, lightweight Windows 10X is expected to be launched next year, although initially for single-screen devices. The operating system is believed to bring a simpler and consistent UI/UX between multiple Windows components, and it now seems that Windows 10 also needs to refresh the UI significantly. According to reports, the design overhaul project will arrive in 21H2, its code name is “Sun Valley”, and will target the Windows 10 “Start” menu, “Operation Center”, “File Explorer” and some built-in applications.
We recently saw minor changes to various Windows components in Microsoft’s October 2020 feature update, but it is reported that next year the company will move things to a higher level at least in terms of design.
However, it now appears that the company has planned a wider design update to make the experience of Windows 10X and its standard desktop consistent. According to Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, Microsoft may only release one feature update for Windows 10 next year, which is internally referred to as “Cobalt.” This update will be released in the fall of 21H2 and will add major UI changes in the “Start” menu, “Action Center” and the old version of “File Explorer”.
This UI refresh is code-named “Sun Valley”, and it was apparently performed by the Windows Device and Experience Team under the guidance of Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay. Zac Bowden of Windows Central also pointed out that with this overhaul, you can expect an updated taskbar built with modern code, broader dark mode support for older apps, and some improvements to tablets.
Interestingly, Microsoft will also make these design changes optional, at least for some features, so that users can switch between the old and the new experience. Once the company is able to achieve design consistency and coordination on single-screen devices suitable for Windows 10 and 10X, we can expect to see the latter make further adjustments to upcoming dual-screen hardware (such as the delayed Surface Neo).