Microsoft held a special event on January 21st to give consumers a glimpse of what’s coming in Windows 10 later this year, as well as unveiling some amazing new hardware.
Here’s a quick round-up of all the need-to-knows with videos and links to more screens, reviews, and benchmarks.
In a hurry? The juicy bits kindly squeezed into under four minutes by Microsoft –
Free Windows 10 Upgrade
Undoubtedly the biggest announcement is that the full version of Windows 10 will be available as a free download to current Windows 7 and Windows 8 users for one year.
Windows Phone 8.1 users will also get a free upgrade to Windows 10.
Touchscreen Windows Whiteboard
The Surface Hub, a giant 84-inch wall-mounted touchscreen running Windows 10 with 4K resolution and motion sensors, has the potential to transform the way we do meetings.
The intriguing HoloLens headset for Windows 10 shows off new Augmented Reality features in the OS that could revolutionize mobile and remote working. HoloLens lets users manipulate virtual objects with their voice and gestures which can later be output to 3D printers, as well as displaying Windows-style touch interfaces that float in mid-air before the user.
New Windows 10 Features
Cortana, Microsoft’s take on the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant (think Apple’s Siri), is coming to Windows 10. Cortana will be embedded into the revived Start Menu and can tell you the news and weather, make web searches, find your files, suggest map routes, will apparently work out a user’s likes and dislikes, and is showing signs of developing a personality. As an added bonus it can also do a Yoda impersonation on demand.
Convertible tablet/laptop devices are catered for with Continuum, a new feature that switches Windows 10 between keyboard+mouse and touchscreen modes on-the-fly.
Microsoft unveiled a new sleek and minimal web browser, appropriately named Project Spartan, built from the ground-up and designed to support the latest web standards with a few nifty features like web page annotations.
Internet Explorer looks set to be included in Windows 10 for legacy support, but is likely to be superceded by the Spartan browser in the future.
- Microsoft officially announces Project Spartan, its new web browser for Windows 10
- Project Spartan and the Windows 10 January Preview Build
- Windows 10 Could Ship With Both IE11 And Spartan
- Browser Performance Match-up: Windows 10 IE With Spartan Engine vs. Chrome and Firefox
Windows 10 will come with an Xbox app that ties in with your Xbox account to display games, friends, forums, and recent actions.
In addition, Windows 10 and Xbox One users will be able to play the same games together online.
New network functionality means Xbox One games can be streamed to a PC, and PC apps to an Xbox One.
- Microsoft Brings a Whole Lotta Xbox Into Windows 10
- Can Windows 10 and Xbox One erase the divide in gaming?
The latest version of Windows’ graphics API is exclusive to Windows 10. Gamers and intensive 3D graphics users will be pleased to know Microsoft is claiming vastly improved performance over DirectX 11.
- Level Up: With Windows 10 – and DirectX 12 – PC Gaming Will Soon Be Better Than Ever
- Microsoft claims DirectX 12 graphics performance is up to 50% better than DirectX 11
Universal Apps and a Dropped Phone
As announced last year a one-size-fits-all Windows is on the way, with a single OS running on every kind of device. ‘Universal apps’ will see a single app changing its appearance and functionality for PC, phone, and tablet, promising seamless switching for users with multiple Windows devices.
The Windows Phone brand and OS is on the way out, to be replaced by Windows 10, with new phones slated to make their debut at Mobile World Congress in March.
- Windows 10 makes Microsoft’s dream of universal apps come true
- Universal apps is the future of Windows development
- Windows 10: What it will bring to Windows Phone (hands-on)
- This is Windows 10 for phones
The new version of Office is due for release in the second half of 2015. Office 2016 will be a universal app for all Windows devices with an interface optimized for ease-of-use on phones and tablets.
Windows 10 Release Date
Beyond ‘later in the year’ no exact release date has been announced, but tech industry experts are predicting a late October release, around the 22nd based on previous Windows release schedules.
The adventurous can download a Technical Preview release of Windows 10 for free right now.
- Download Windows 10 Technical Preview ISO
- How to install the Windows 10 Preview: Everything you need to know
The Unexpurgated Version
Got two hours to spare? Kick back and watch the presentation in its entirety –