3 facts you need to know about Windows 10

Where were you yesterday morning?  Redmond, Washington right?

Microsoft lifted the curtain on Windows 10 and you should have been there.  A lot of rumors were squashed.  Here are 3 of the most important facts you need to know about Microsoft’s most ambitious project.

A few months ago I showed you five features that everyone wanted to see in Windows 10 and today I’m pleased to say that it looks like Microsoft is listening.

I might have to recant my earlier rant about why I think Microsoft is doomed to fail.


Terry Myerson, EVP of Operating Systems, commanded the stage announcing that Microsoft received over 800,000 pieces of feedback on 200,000 topics.

That’s a lot of data.  And it looks like a lot of it is finding its way into the final product.

Myerson underscored three areas of innovation that his team infused into Windows 10.

  • Mobility of Experience
  • Trust and Privacy
  • Natural Interactions

The goal was to make the operating system more personal by making it more accessible and worthy of your trust.

The live demonstration was interesting because as I watched Meyerson speak, viewed the illustrative videos and thought through the points I’m becoming convinced that Windows 10 is shaping up to become the best OS yet.  This isn’t just a bunch of marketing hype or advertising brouhaha. The product looks polished and I’m eager to get my hands on the consumer preview build.

Here’s the lowdown:

1. Start Screen is Flexible

In Windows 8 and 8.1 the Start Screen was pervasive.  It took over the screen and gave you nightmares.

In Windows 10, the Start Screen is now a cross between the Windows XP/Windows 7 Start Menu and the Windows 8/8.1 Start Screen.  I’ve already showed you tricks for stretching and pulling the Start Menu in Windows 10 but nothing like what I saw today.

For example, you can now press a button to make the Start Screen full Screen.  Press it again and it’ll shrink back to size.

Windows 10 flexible Start Screen

I think this is Microsoft’s way of ingratiating itself with Windows veterans who loved the XP Start Menu.  But it’s also a clever way to appeal to the fresh crowd of Windows newbies who have a growing affinity for the Start Screen.

2. Cortana is competent

Windows 10 Cortana

About 30 minutes into the presentation, Joe Belfiore, VP of Operating Systems, shocked the world with Cortana.

The first thing I like about Cortana is that she sounds like a bonafide human being.  Gone are the days of the monotone and robotic Microsoft Sam; today Cortana feels personal, smart and best of all “real“.  This is partially because Microsoft used a real voice actress, Jen Taylor, to implement the voice technology.

Second, Cortana is baked into the very fabric of the operating system.  She doesn’t feel like an accessory or a superfluous plugin that was an afterthought.  Microsoft deliberately integrated Cortana into everything from search to browsing.

Third, Cortana is really smart.  For example, Belfiore casually asked Cortanta:

Find PowerPoint slides about the charity auction

And she found them.  Also when he said “Please be quite” Cortana muted the music app which was playing in the background.

Very slick.

3 Spartan is real

A few days ago I hinted that Microsoft was working on a new top secret browser called Spartan but I couldn’t tell you much about it (because I didn’t know much about it).  Well today we saw the sparkling new browser code named Spartan and I must say I was impressed.

So impressed that if I could test it today I might switch from my favorite browser: Google Chrome.

Besides having a completely new rendering engine, Spartan comes with new “live annotation” features that let you use your finger or pen to doodle thoughts directly on the web page.

This was pretty cool but I think the second feature was better: Reading Mode.  It reminds me of Safari on my iPhone where I can tap the reading mode button and instantly have an ad-free site with large fonts and zero distractions.

Spartan also has native PDF support and lets you save interesting things to your reading list for offline viewing.

Finally, and arguably the most impressive feature I noticed, Spartan interacts seamlessly with Spartan.  For example, if Cortana knows you’re tracking a flight from Delta (incidentally, she only knows what you tell her, she’s not omniscient) she’ll display your tracking information directly in the address bar as you type in delta.com.

Cortana knows about your flights

So How do you get it?

Windows 10 will be available as a free upgrade for Windows 8.1 device during the first year of availability.  Also, everyone running Windows 7 will get Windows 10 for free during that first “freebie” year.  It wasn’t clear from the event whether Microsoft was moving to a subscription based model or something else.  I have a feeling Microsoft might have it’s sights on Apple when it released Mac OS X Mavericks as a free upgrade.

Also, I’m not sure what happens if you need to wipe your computer within the first year.  Can you re-install Windows 10 as often as you want during the one year grace period?

A new business model

Microsoft also changed the fundamental way it’s thinking of the operating system.  Rather than releasing different versions of the operating system, Microsoft is treating Windows 10 as a service. (Which it’ll support during the lifetime of your device)

Windows 10 CEO

This means, according to Microsoft CEO Satya (Sa-tee-ya) Nadella “you’ll get a continuous stream of innovation” and “the assurance that your Windows devices are secure and trusted”.

When, when, when?

I don’t know when the final version will drop but my best guess is that Windows 10 will be a late-October 2015 release.

Can’t wait that long?

Keep checking preview.windows.com to see if you can grab the Consumer Preview.  Microsoft will likely open up the downloads for a limited time.  I don’t know when it’ll post but according to the lively discussion on MyDigitalLife, Consumer Preview may arrive this weekend.

So what do you think of Windows 10?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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