Removing features within the latest Windows Insider dev build is worrying some who think Microsoft might skip a 21H2 build entirely.

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As Microsoft moves past the Windows 10 October 2020 Update, speculation has begun: What is the future, exactly? A new Windows Insider build that removes features is raising more questions.

Microsoft released Windows Insider Preview Build 20246 into the Dev Channel on Thursday, with the usual caveat that the Dev Channel includes code that may or may not ever come to light. It’s possible, then, that removing some of the features Microsoft had previously tested simply represents a tidying up of sorts, or a recognition that they simply weren’t viable for future releases.

Microsoft isn’t saying. The new build removes some improvements that Microsoft rolled out previously, including a new emoji picker Microsoft showed in September; a Windows 10X-like touch keyboard; and a new voice typing interface. Interestingly, these were all bundled together within Build 20206, a September release that offered those features to just a subset of the Dev Channel. Microsoft said that it is reverting its previews of a redesigned Calendar app, too.

windows 10 emoji picker medium Microsoft
windows 10 touch keyboard medium Microsoft

Both the redesigned emoji picker and touch keyboard were features Microsoft added previously, and has now removed from its Dev Channel builds.

There is one new addition: automatic Linux distribution installation. By typing wsl.exe –install into the Command Line, users who wish to install the Windows Subsystem for Linux can have a WSL instance set up and ready to go, Microsoft said.

Some Microsoft watchers are beginning to think that Microsoft may either skip a Windows 10 21H1 release entirely, or offer another minor feature update in the vein of the October 2020 Update. ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley has suggested the first scenario, that the Windows 10 21H2 release could be the major update. Foley and Windows Central’s Zac Bowden have mentioned that a more comprehensive overhaul of Windows, known as Sun Valley, may be in the offing for late 2021.

Still waiting in the wings is Windows 10X, which Microsoft reoriented away from dual-screen devices to a single-screen experience in May. Microsoft has also been said to be reworking Windows 10X into what could be a replacement for Windows 10 in S Mode, as well. All that requires development resources, of course.

Microsoft hasn’t commented publicly on any specific timelines for Windows 10X, nor has it commented about whether Microsoft’s planned spring and fall releases are still moving forward. 

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As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats.