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Microsoft announced Windows 10 last year, and then held another press event on January 21, 2015 to go into more detail about the upcoming successor to the much-maligned Windows 8. With new features, the return of the Start Menu, Xbox One integration, and even future holographic technology, Microsoft is looking to deliver Windows 10 as not just an operating system, but as a service. Did we mention that Microsoft is planning to make it a free upgrade?
It's quite surprising, yet refreshing, to see that Microsoft is willing to offer Windows 10 as a free upgrade. The qualifying users are customers running Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8, who upgrade in the first year after the Windows 10 launch date. Of course, certain hardware and software requirements apply, features availability may vary by device, and some editions will be excluded.
Microsoft claims that this is more than just a one-time upgrade, though. Once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, Microsoft will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device at no additional charge. In fact, Microsoft stated that it will deliver new features when those are ready, and won’t wait for the next major release. As mentioned before, Microsoft wants users to view Windows 10 as a service, not just an upgraded operating system. While getting Windows 10 as a free upgrade is certainly a nice touch, you're probably still wondering what you're getting, exactly.
Cortana, Microsoft's personal digital assistant, will make her way to PCs and tablets for the first time in Windows 10. Cortana learns your preferences to provide relevant recommendations, fast access to information, and important reminders. Microsoft claims that interactions with Cortana will feel natural and easy via talking or typing. The advanced features to control Cortana will also improve transparency and privacy.
Internet Explorer usually finds itself as the butt of the joke, when it comes to browsers. Google Chrome, Mozilla FireFox, and sometimes even Apple Safari are regarded as more reliable, faster browsers for surfing the Web. To escape its tainted perception, Microsoft plans to scrap the Internet Explorer and introduce a new and improved browser, codenamed "Project Spartan." The next-generation browser will be built with greater reliability, as well as a new look and feel, unique to Windows 10. Advanced features such as the ability to annotate the keyboard or pen directly on the webpage and easily share with friends, a reading view that displays the article in a simplified layout for a more enjoyable reading experience (both online and offline), and the integration of Cortana for searching and doing things online faster and easier.
Microsoft Office universal apps on Windows 10 offer a consistent, touch-first experience across smartphone, tablet, and PC with new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. Designed from the ground up to run on Windows 10, you can create and edit Word documents easily, annotate slides in real time with new inking features, or present PowerPoint presentations, and with new touch-first controls in Excel, you can create or update spreadsheets without a keyboard or mouse. The next version of the Office desktop suite is also currently in development and Microsoft should have more details in the coming months.
Speaking of universal apps, Windows 10 will offer innovative apps that are consistent across the device continuum, for Photos, Videos, Music, Maps, People & Messaging, and Mail & Calendar. These built-in apps will have an updated design that looks and feels the same from app to app and device to device. Content is stored and synced through OneDrive, enabling you to start something on one device and continue it on another through the cloud.
Xbox Live and the new Xbox App bring new gaming experiences to Windows 10. Xbox on Windows 10 lets gamers access the best of the expansive Xbox Live gaming network on both Windows 10 computers and Xbox One. Players can capture, edit, and share their gaming moments with Game DVR, and play new games with friends across devices. Games developed for DirectX 12 in Windows 10 will see improvements in speed, efficiency, and graphical capabilities. Players will also be able to play games on their PCs, streamed directly from their Xbox One consoles to their Windows 10 tablets or PCs, in their homes.
Continuum Mode will allow 2-in-1 device owners to move easily between keyboard and mouse to a touch and tablet layout. Continuum Mode detects the transition and conveniently switches to the new mode with ease.
Windows 10 for phones and small tablets features a fast, fluid, and familiar experience that interacts seamlessly with your PC. Microsoft will have more details about Windows Phone 10 in the future.
Microsoft also introduced the Surface Hub, a large display designed for the way teams in the workplace naturally interact and come together. Custom versions of Skype for Business and OneNote are integrated into the Windows 10 shell to take full advantage of the built-in cameras, sensors, and microphones, as well as the innovative screen that was built from the ground up for ink and touch. The Surface Hub features state-of-the-art digital white boarding, instant remote conferencing, the ability for multiple people to share and edit content on the screen from any device, and a trusted platform for large-screen apps. Available in two sizes, 55 and 84", the Surface Hub removes the current limitations of traditional conference-room scenarios.
Windows 10 will also be the world's first holographic computing platform, complete with a set of APIs that enable developers to create holographic experiences in the real world. With Windows 10, holograms are Windows universal apps, making it possible to place three-dimensional holograms in the world around you to communicate, create, and explore in a personal manner. Showcasing the possibilities of holograms in Windows 10, Microsoft HoloLens is the world’s first untethered holographic computer—no wires, phones, or connection to a PC needed. Microsoft HoloLens allows you to view holograms in high definition and hear them in surround sound, even if they are behind you. And with advanced sensors, Microsoft HoloLens can see what you are looking at and understand what you are communicating with your hands and voice. By putting you at the center of the Windows 10, Microsoft HoloLens allows you to create, access, and communicate in an immersive experience.
Microsoft will be announcing more Windows 10 details as it continues to develop. We'll keep you posted.