From free upgrades for (most) Windows users through to a new push into holographic computing, Microsoft unveiled a lot of Windows 10 and Office features today during a media briefing. We’ve rounded up all the key announcements — and looked into some of the key issues that weren’t discussed.
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Windows 10 Will Be A Free Upgrade
As we reported earlier, for the first year after release, Windows 7, 8.1 and 8.1 Phone customers will be able to upgrade for free. The stated goal here is to move as many customers as possible onto Windows 10. Whether Microsoft will continue to promote multiple skews of Windows 10 for home and business customers, or instead move to a single platform, remains to be seen. It’s also not clear how this will play out for businesses which pay for maintenance and upgrades as part of a site licence. What is clear: Microsoft servers are going to be hammered by upgrading users on launch day.
A New Windows 10 Build Next Week
A new build of Windows 10 will be released next week, and will be available to anyone who has joined the Windows Insider preview scheme. So far, 1.7 million people have signed up for that program. It’s unlikely that many of the new features revealed today will be in that first build, however — we know, for instance, that the newly-announced Project Spartan browser won’t be included. The new build will have support for 25 languages (up from 4 in the current release). The first public preview release of Windows 10 for Windows Phone devices will follow in February.
Cortana On Windows 10
Will we see Cortana in Australia when Windows 10 launches? Given that Cortana on Windows Phone was initially a US-only release, this might prove to be the case with desktop Cortana too — though the fact that a beta Australian version of Cortana did eventually surface gives us some hope.
Other Windows 10 Tweaks
Office Bundled With Windows 10 On Phones
Universal Apps: Sometimes But Not Always
Clearly, though, this approach has its limits. Development of Office for desktop will continue separately to Office for phones in many areas — interfaces that work well on a small touchscreen simply aren’t productive in a keyboard and mouse scenario. (Outlook would appear to be the exception here.)
The Xbox App
The Surface Hub: A Big Screen Collaboration Tool
There was also an extended (and impressive) demonstration of Holo Studio, a tool for designing 3D objects using the hologram interface. We’re told this will be available in the “Windows 10 timeframe”. That doesn’t necessarily mean this year, since Windows 10 is likely to be the flagship version for at least two years.
What We Didn’t Learn
The focus for today’s launch was squarely on the Windows consumer experience, but the Windows 10 interface will also need to be added to Windows Server releases. Those are supposed to be on a yearly upgrade cycle anyway, so we’d expect a new server release this year.