Microsoft gathered a bunch of reporters together in its Redmond, Washington, headquarters Wednesday to show off the next version of Windows, Windows 10, which is expected to come out later this year.
Here were the highlights:
- Holograms. The coolest thing was a set of new products that will let people see holographic images. The hardware is called Microsoft HoloLens and looks a lot like Google Glass. There are also software tools within Windows 10 that will let programmers create apps that use holograms.
- Free upgrade: Windows 10 will be a free upgrade to anybody with Windows 7 or later, for one year. There was also a lot of talk about “Windows as a service,” but that does not mean you’ll pay for a subscription to Windows, like you do with Office 365. It just means Microsoft will push updates to the platform more frequently, and you’ll get them in the background. That’s not really new.
- Gaming: All Windows 10 devices will have an Xbox app that lets you connect to Xbox Live and play games against Xbox One users. You’ll also be able to pause and record games, and stream them from an Xbox One to a Windows 10 device within your home.
- Mobile: This was probably the most lackluster part of the presentation. There will be a version of Windows 10 for smartphones, but it looks and feels a lot like Windows Phone, which has been around for four years. The goal, Microsoft says, is to create experiences that span different platforms. So, for example, you’ll be able to start doing a task on your PC than transition to your phone. But Windows Phone has had a hard time gaining market share, and nothing Microsoft said today will change that.
- Developers! Microsoft also talked a lot about Universal apps, which is a new way of building applications that can easily be ported from PCs to mobile and Xbox devices. It’s not quite “write once, run anywhere,” but it’s a lot closer than past versions of Microsoft products. The goal? To convince Microsoft’s large base of Windows PC developers to move their apps over to Microsoft’s newer mobile platforms, which will hopefully close the app gap versus Android and Apple’s iOS.
Here are some of the photo highlights from the event:
Windows chief Terry Myerson confirmed users of older versions of Windows will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 for a year.
Windows 10 will have a new notification centre on the right hand side of the screen.
Cortana, Microsoft’s voice-controlled personal assistant, will be built into Windows 10. As well as answering questions and monitoring your calendar, “she”‘ll be able to create files, send emails, etc. It’s Microsoft’s answer to Siri.
Windows 10 for smartphones is also seeing improvements. There’s better Skype integration, and Microsoft’s classic office tools — Word, Excel, PowerPoint — will all be included. Outlook on phone and Outlook on PC is “literally the same code.” Same features, same look and feel.
Microsoft’s new web browser, “Spartan,” was also shown off for the first time. You can annotate web pages. There’s also a simplified “reading mode.” Cortana will be built right into the browser.
An Xbox app will be available for Windows 10. It gives you a list recently played games, your Activity Feed, and a way to communicate (voice or text) with Xbox Live friends.
With Windows 10, you can stream Xbox One games to any Windows 10 PC or tablet inside your home. This year.
Some new hardware — the Microsoft Surface Hub. It’s an 84-inch touchscreen display that’s being pushed as a business tool. It’s like a digital whiteboard for offices.
Here’s the star of the show — the HoloLens. It’s an augmented-reality virtual headset that’s been in development in secret for five years. The lead developer Alex Kipman previously worked on Kinect.
It’s got potential applications in gaming, as well as industry. They’re touting the device’s possible uses in 3D modelling as “HoloStudio.”
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gave closing remarks. He said the company is focused on “mobility of experience,” and being able to move across devices.