Microsoft hasn’t officially announced it yet, but the writing is on the wall: Windows 10’s live tiles are going away. Windows 10X has a new Start menu without live tiles, and we expect it to arrive on all versions of Windows 10.
Windows 10X Has a Start Menu Without Live Tiles
Windows 10X is the canary in the coal mine. This new version of Windows 10 is designed for dual-screen devices, but that’s not all it is. Windows 10X is a modern version of Windows 10 that runs applications in containers. Beyond that, it includes a new, simplified interface.
That simplified interface includes a new Start menu. Rather than featuring live tiles, it provides a simplified list of your installed applications. It’s a grid-based view with icons rather than tiles.
Windows 10X is still in development and hasn’t been released yet. Microsoft is clearly using it as a test platform for a simplified desktop interface, and the new Start menu is a part of that.
Really, let’s be honest: Microsoft is creating a new Windows 10 interface for folding tablets. Live tiles are clearly more useful on a tablet than a desktop PC. If Microsoft doesn’t think live tiles are a good fit for a modern tablet, why would it keep using live tiles on the standard desktop version of Windows 10?
Windows 10’s New Icons Aren’t Designed for Live Tiles
Microsoft announced a set of new icons for Windows 10 on Feb. 20, 2020. The new icons ditch the flat, one-color aesthetic pioneered by Windows 8 and offer more color and complexity. Here’s how Microsoft’s Christina Koehn explains how Microsoft wants to make its icons more consistent across various platforms:
Flat, monochrome icons look great in context of colorful tiles, but as more icon styles enter the ecosystem, this approach needs to evolve.
The new icons in the latest development versions of Windows 10 don’t really fit. Rather than use your system accent color, as existing live tiles do, these new tiles always use a blue background color. After all, they wouldn’t look good on some background colors.
These icons just look much better on a Windows 10X-style icon grid than a Windows 8-style set of tiles.
Microsoft has started updating the system app icons for Windows Insiders. The new ones don't use your system accent color, and look pretty out of place in the current start menu. Perhaps the 10X start menu could make its way over to desktop sooner rather than later. pic.twitter.com/bsJnXu6sC6
— Cody Carson (@hologei) February 20, 2020
Live Tiles Are Already Just Glorified Shortcuts (Mostly)
Live tiles were supposed to be a quick way of accessing information without opening an application. They originally appeared on Windows Phone, adding more information to the application shortcuts on your home screen.
In Windows 8, your Start screen took up your entire display. Live tiles were designed to transform that Start screen from a simple application launcher into a useful dashboard. You could see the weather, incoming emails, recent messages, news headlines, other status information right on each application’s tile without opening the app.
Today, Windows 10 displays all the applications you pin to your Start menu in a grid of tiles. Most applications don’t bother displaying status information in their tiles. For most people, those tiles are just shortcuts you click or tap to open an application.
Goodbye, Live Tiles
Windows 10’s next update, also known as Windows 10 version 2004 or 20H1, is expected for release sometime around May 2020. That update is nearly done, so we don’t expect to see any major Start menu changes there.
However, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft ditch live tiles for icons in late 2020 (with the 20H2 update) or in 2021. That will give Microsoft time to fine-tune the new icon-based interface in Windows 10X before rolling it out to all Windows 10 PCs.
Windows Latest reports that “people familiar with the development” said “Microsoft is planning to replace live tiles with icons in a future update after Windows 10’s 20H2 release.” Whether or not that particular rumor is true, the writing is on the wall. Most Windows 10 users don’t use live tiles and Microsoft is clearly planning for a future without them.
We already saw a leaked version of this Start menu appear in desktop builds of Windows 10 back in July 2019. The leaked version is clearly an early work-in-progress, but it already fits Windows 10’s desktop much better than the current Start menu does.