Microsoft gathered a bunch of reporters together in its Redmond, Washington, headquarters today to show off the next version of Windows.
Windows 10, expected to come out late this year, is Microsoft’s chance to re-establish Windows as relevant in the modern mobile age.
It will be a slight step back from the jarring changes in Windows 8. The touch-first interface introduced in Windows 8 will still be there, but it will only show up if you’re using a tablet or touch-screen PC. You’ll see a more traditional Windows desktop if you’re using a regular PC.
Microsoft has also portrayed Windows 10 as a single operating system that works on all kinds of devices. The promise is that programmers can create an application for one operating system, then with very little additional work port it over to the others. There will also be a single store that works across all platforms, so if you buy an app on one of your devices, you’ll be able to download the same app (if available) on other devices.
We saw the first glimpse of a new web browser to replace Internet Explorer, integration of Microsoft’s “smart assistant” Cortana, and the first look at Windows 10 running on a smartphone.
And an excellent feature that lets you share Xbox One games on your PC or tablet – while the Xbox is still in use. (Yes, multiplayer.)
Here’s all the best bits:
Microsoft has been gathering a lot of feedback on the Windows 10 preview released late last year.
Microsoft focused on three areas with Windows 10:
1. Mobility of devices — you should be able to move between devices, starting a task on one and moving to another.
2. Trust — “we know people care about privacy, and so do we….because you are our customer, not our product.” (Nice dig against Google.)
3. Natural interaction — voice, pen, gesture, and your gaze.
All devices running Windows 8.1, and Windows PHONE 8.1, will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 for the first year. Also free upgrade to all customers running Windows 7! That’s a lot.
There’s a lot of little point differences, but overall it’s very similar to what Microsoft has been doing on mobile devices for the last 4-plus years.
Back to Windows 10 on PC and tablets. It will have a notifications bar on the right side.
Here’s the Continuum feature, which lets you switch between tablet and PC and adjusts the user interface appropriately. It works with Win32 apps, too (those are old-style Windows apps, which make up most Windows apps in the world.)
Cortana! Built in to the PC! She predicts the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl by 78 and a half points.
Cortana, for those of you not familiar with it, is Microsoft’s personal assistant app, similar to Apple’s Siri and Google Now. It’s been on Windows Phone for a while now.
On the PC, she’ll be able to do more things. “Hey, Cortana, show me PowerPoint slides about the charity auction.”
You can tell her to send an email, add a reminder, and so on. Overall, this looks really useful in the demo. The proof will be in the pudding.
Back to Windows Phone, where there’s a lot better Skype integration. When your phone detects you’re on a data network where Skype can work well, it will switch you over.
Word, Excel, and PowerPoint will be included with Windows 10 for phones and tablets.
Here’s Word on Windows 10 on a phone. It’s got the “ribbon” familiar from the last few versions of Office on the PC, which lets you do certain commands.
Here’s PowerPoint. You probably wouldn’t be looking at it on your phone, you’d be projecting it onto a big screen, like shown here.
Here’s a demo of the Photos app. It looks great. Joe Belfiore promises that the photos will look right, and the experience will be the same, regardless of device.
Here comes the new browser, as we expected. Code-named “Project Spartan.”
You’ll be able to annotate by drawing on the screen with a stylus (shown here), or adding comments with your keyboard.
Xbox for Windows 10. Whoa. It’s an app on every Windows 10 PC and tablet.
Here’s what it looks like. You get a list of recently played games, your Activity Feed, and a way to communicate (voice or text) with Xbox Live friends.
You’ll be able to play some games, like the next version of Fable, on Xbox One, and play against a person playing the same game on Windows 10.
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