Microsoft took the veil off its new, universal operating system (OS) a few hours ago. The new OS is a huge deal for Microsoft and is designed to unify the experience across mobile and desktop platforms and provide seamless switches between one and the other in everyday use. Here is all you need to know about Windows 10 right now:
One OS for all Platforms
The core message Microsoft is pushing with Windows 10 is that its the same “everywhere”. And while there are at least two separate builds (probably more), the focus is to keep the experience as similar and as seamless as possible between the desktop and mobile devices – and from the demoes, it seems like Microsoft has mostly succeeded. Rather then make a more desktop friendly version of Windows 8, Microsoft is making a touch friendly version of what I consider an evolution of Windows 7 and for the most part, it seems to be working pretty well. Even the Windows 10 build for devices with displays smaller than 8-inches, which re-arranges the desktop to Window’s phone-type tiles, still carries much of the desktop version’s essence.
New Start Menu
One of the biggest general complaints about Windows 8 was the non-inclusion of the start menu which had become synonymous with Windows. On Windows 10, the start menu is back, but evolved and offers you the best of both worlds with Windows 8-style widgets and a full screen mode that is quite similar to what’s obtainable on Windows 8 today.
Cortana on the desktop
A lot of the new features described so far, make it sound like the everything from the desktop is making it’s way down to phones and tablets in a one-way traffic manner, but somethings are actually making their way up as well. Cortana – Microsoft’s take on Siri and Google Now, which long ago debuted on Windows phone will be a permanent fixture right next to the start button on Windows 10 desktops. The app will be the natural language interface of Windows 10 and will respond to voice and typed queries, search for documents on and offline, recommend links and apps, show some notifications and make suggestions crafted based on what it perceives to be your preferences.
Microsoft long ago promised “universal apps” which in theory work on any version of Windows (desktop or mobile) but yesterday actually demoed them. The apps demoed were Microsoft Office, Photos, and the new “Project Sparta” browser. All the apps basically look similar regardless of screen size and carry over most if not all the features from the desktop to smaller displays, with the major difference being that they are optimised for touch and display size on smaller displays. Outlook in particular got a couple of interesting updates. Besides looking visually similar to the desktop version, it now has the full Microsoft Word engine embedded to enable you use advanced formatting like create tables on-the-go while in the middle of an email. All the office apps sync across devices in real-time also, making it possible for real time collaboration between mobile and desktops.
Bye Internet Explorer, Hello Project Sparta
There’s a running joke in internet cycles that the only thing Internet Explorer is good for is using it to install another browser. Microsoft has taken that to heart and is building a leaner and meaner browser for Windows 10. Code named Project Sparta, the browser features a cleaner, lighter design and brings with it a bunch of new features including: a note-taking mode that lets you scribble, draw or annotate on webpages with a stylus, a “reading mode” that removes distractions and lets you focus on the text and a sync-able reading list (think pocket). The browser also has Cortana built-in, as well as built-in PDF support.
Windows 10 will be a free update…sort of.
With Windows 10, Microsoft is changing its upgrade strategy a bit, rather than charge you to upgrade, Windows 10 will be free for users who are running legitimate copies of Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 for one year, after which upgrade charges would apply to those who missed the free upgrade window.
OneDrive starts earning its stripes
OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage platform was the one thing that kept getting mentioned throughout Microsoft’s presentation and there is a good reason why. It will be the backbone that powers the core thrust of Windows 10 – which is connectivity and seamlessness across devices. OneDrive will be responsible for syncing, storing and organising your content and data across devices.
Xbox on your PC
Another interesting addition to Windows 10, is the XboX app, which basically brings features like your messages, friends list, and activity feed from your Xbox One console to the desktop. Interestingly, you will also be able to stream games, record videos and view achievements straight from your Windows 10 device.
New Frontiers and Hardware
Windows also offered a glimpse into the future during their demos, particularly with two new projects: The first Microsoft HoloLens – a see-through visor that overlays holographic images over the real world is probably the most ambitious, futuristic and out-of-this-world project Microsoft has embarked on in a while. In their words:
Windows 10 is 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 and Windows universal apps can work as holograms, making it possible to place three-dimensional holograms in the world around you to communicate, create and explore in a manner that is far more personal and human.
Microsoft also announced and demoed the Microsoft Surface Hub – a giant display (available in 55 and 84-inches) with built-in digital white boarding, instant remote conferencing, and the ability for multiple people to share and edit content on the screen from any device. It takes full advantage of the sensors, cameras and the hardware generally with fully customised versions of apps such as skype, to take team collaboration into the future.
Thoughts on Windows 10
On paper, Windows 10 seems like a breath of fresh air, especially coming from Windows 8. The new Microsoft leadership also seems to have a better grasp of the reality of what’s on ground and where they need to be in order to hold off the competition and in some cases, catch up. However, often times, “on paper” doesn’t translate to real-life successes, so it will be nice to see how well they do implement it when it becomes public. As it stays now, I’ll be looking forward to the release…a lot more than I was before the announcements.