Microsoft hints at coming “sweeping visual rejuvenation” of Windows 10

January 4, 2021 by No Comments

Enlarge / This screenshot of the Photos and Calculator apps comes from a video Microsoft product chief Panos Panay dropped on Instagram to demonstrate new UI concepts in March 2020.


We’ve been hearing rumors for a while now about a significant visual refresh planned for Windows 10 in 2021 under the codename “Sun Valley.” Those rumors gained some extra steam this morning, when Windows Latest reporter Mayank Parmar spotted a Microsoft job posting made in October that offered prospective senior software engineer hires an opportunity to “deliver a sweeping visual rejuvenation of Windows experiences to signal [that] Windows is BACK.”

Shortly after Parmar published a report on the listing, Microsoft edited it to remove the interesting bits—it now reads like a standard software engineer job listing, offering the opportunity to “build delightful, polished experiences for Windows” without saying anything about changes coming to Windows.

What we know about Sun Valley so far

Sun Valley is rumored to be a major UI code overhaul expected to land in Windows 10 21H2—the build that will drop in the second half of 2021. To be clear, the “rumored” part means exactly what it says—so far, it’s rumors only, with multiple sources but no confirmation from Microsoft.

WindowsCentral’s Zac Bowden published a piece on Sun Valley in October, with information mysteriously attributed to “sources.” ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley followed up to say that her unnamed contacts confirmed that the project exists—and she has seen engineering references to a “Windows 10++” due next fall—but Microsoft’s official response was a rather cold lack of confirmation:

It’s not new for Microsoft to deliver some Windows features through cumulative updates. We have nothing further to share.

New UI elements in Microsoft Store apps

The latest Alarms and Clocks update introduces new UI elements, including subtly rounded corners.
Enlarge / The latest Alarms and Clocks update introduces new UI elements, including subtly rounded corners.

Although we don’t really know what Sun Valley will bring—apart from rumors of re-integrating mobile and desktop experiences—recent updates to some apps in the Microsoft Store seem to be solidifying those rumors a little.

The most recent update to the Alarms and Clocks app demonstrates some new UI elements, including a card view for upcoming alarms and subtly rounded rectangles on those cards. This is an evolution of the existing Fluent Design motif, not a complete overhaul, and we broadly expect Sun Valley to offer similar changes throughout Windows 10’s visual experience.

Microsoft’s new head of the Windows division—former Surface VP Panos Panay—said he wants to move customers from “needing Windows to loving Windows,” and nailing down a visual refresh that appeals to younger or more design-focused users without alienating more conservative, change-phobic users will be key to that vision.

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