Windows 10 aims to unify PC, tablets and smartphones and boasts Cortana integration
Microsoft claims Windows 10 will herald a new era of personalised computing when it is made available as a free update to Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 users who upgrade during the first year.
The company claims the latest version of its operating system will put people at the centre of computing with a consistent experience across smartphones, tablet and PC, while the platform also promises to support sensors powering the Internet of Things (IoT) and servers in enterprise data centres.
“Windows 10 marks the beginning of the more personal computing era in the mobile-first, cloud-first world,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the launch event in Redmond. “Our ambition is for the 1.5 billion people who are using Windows today to fall in love with Window 10 and for billions more to decide to make Windows home.”
Tablet – PC balance
Perhaps stung by the mixed reception that greeted Windows 8, Windows 10 seeks to be more adaptable to the type of device it is running on. The Start Menu, (pictured left) absent from Windows 10’s predecessor, returns and a new ‘Continuum’ mode allows users to switch between keyboard, mouse, touch and tablet inputs.
Universal apps will allow the same applications to run across multiple device types, tying together the Windows and Windows Phone ecosystems. A range of new built-in applications will have the same design on mobile and desktop devices, with data stored in Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service.
Microsoft Office for Windows 10 will boast touch-first controls, allowing users to annotate PowerPoint slides in real time and makes the bold claim that Excel spreadsheets can be edited effortlessly without a keyboard or mouse. A more traditional desktop version of the suite is currently in development with more details set to be revealed later this year.
A new Xbox application lets Xbox One owners stream games from their console to their device, while there is a brand new browser known as ‘Project Spartan’ that features annotation, a ‘distraction free’ reading mode and simplified layout for better web surfing. Project Spartan is integrated with Cortana, Microsoft’s voice-activated personal assistant, which makes the jump from smartphones to PCs and tablets.
Holographs and Collaboration
Just as the original Microsoft Surface tablet was intended to showcase Windows 8’s vision of a hybrid operating system, the Surface Hub hopes to demonstrate the collaborative power of Windows 10.
The Surface Hub is a large touch screen device, available in 55 inch and 84 inch configurations, dubbed as a state of the art whiteboard. Multi-touch technology, sensors, microphones and cameras allow people in a room to share and edit content and remote participants to contribute through Skype for Business and Office 365.
By offering a consistent experience across all types of devices, Microsoft says Windows 10 can work on screens ranging from four inches to 84 inches and even on devices with no screens at all.
Included for developers are a set of APIs to create universal holographic applications. To demonstrate the power of these APIs, Microsoft showed off the world’s “most advanced” holographic computer and the first one that has not required a connection to a PC or phone.
The Microsoft HoloLens is a headset powered by high-definition lenses, sensors, and a Holographic Processor Unit (HPU) that can create holographic projections, adapt to environments and user acitiyivy and process terabyte of data in real time. Microsoft says the technology will enable a new wave of entertainment, productivity and communication applications, with Skype and Minecraft demoes serving to highlight the potential.
The release of Windows 10 as a free update should boost market share and avoid a repeat of the slow adoption of Windows 8 as businesses chose to stick to the more reliable, familiar Windows 7 and Windows XP.
A technical preview of the new version has been available since last year and Microsoft claims it has received 800,000 pieces of feedback from 1.7 million Windows Insiders, resulting in the “largest-ever open collaborative development effort Microsoft has ever shipped.”
When Windows 10 is released, Microsoft will release incremental upgrades in a similar fashion to how it currently distributes security updates rather than launching major updates like Windows 8.1. Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Operating Systems group at Microsoft, says the company’s ‘Windows-as-a-Service’ model will make the question of ‘which version are you on ‘ redundant – and presumably make it easier for IT departments to rollout updates.
“Everything about Windows 10 — the experiences, delivering it as a service and the free upgrade — means that Windows 10 isn’t just another product, it’s an ongoing relationship — one that will give ongoing value to all our customers,” he said. “The new generation of Windows is a commitment — a commitment to liberate people from complex technology and enable them to do great things.”
The next version of the Windows 10 Technical Preview will be released next week and the first edition of the preview for smartphones will arrive in February. Further details about the operating system will be unveiled at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona in March.
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