There are some events where it takes a little while for your brain to come to grips with what you just saw. The Microsoft Windows 10 Event was one of them. We expected a rundown of the touch features of Windows 10 and maybe a watch when they talked about new products. Instead, we had an event that could be remembered for a decade or more. There was so much spread over two hours that we can’t fit it into one article, so in this one we’re going to talk about Windows 10 as it relates to the PC, Tablet, and Phone.
Even when Windows 8 shared a look and some features, it was thought of as two platforms: Windows and Windows Phone. That distinction goes away big time. Windows 10 is viewed as a single platform across phones, tablets, PCs, and even the Xbox One. There will be a single Windows Store and the apps will share code and APIs. This makes Windows 10 a bit more ambitious than Windows 8, but they seem to be listening to actual customer requirements this time around. The biggest changes are in how the interface is handled. In addition to new apps, Windows 10 will be fully compatible with legacy apps.
However, there was one distinction made, between devices 8″ and larger and 7.9″ and smaller. The smaller devices will not run the full legacy desktop interface, but function similarly to the current Windows Phone devices, but universal apps. The phone version comes with an updated keyboard layout, a new, more integrated messaging app, and finally, voice dictation.
A Transformer OS
To many users, Windows 8 and even 8.1 was a touch-based OS that was shoehorned onto PCs. Many users lamented its seemingly tacked on desktop interface for legacy support. Windows 10 handles this far better. There’s a single interface for Metro and Classic apps. The interface is designed to change slightly depending on your input preferences. If you have a keyboard and mouse, you can run it much like you would Windows 7, but with the Windows 8 visual improvements complete with traditional Start menu. If you have a touchscreen, it’ll run much like Windows 8.1. You can also manually set the modes to your preferences. For convertibles, you’ll be able to switch between modes with a single touch. You can even transform a Windows tablet into a full PC with a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. The settings all go to a single place now and Action Center is improved. The new OS also heavily leverages the cloud like Apple does with iCloud and Google does with Google Drive. While Windows 8 didn’t know what it was, Windows 10 embraces that duality into a more focused and useful OS that should have no problem getting people to move over from Windows 7 and Windows 8.
The rumors of Cortana showing up are true. The Halo-inspired Digital Personal Assistant comes over from Windows 8.1 and makes herself right at home. Cortana is fully integrated into both voice and keyboard searches and quite a few of the first-party apps. Cortana’s natural language support and ability to decipher information continues to be impressive.
Microsoft showed off its new suit of first party apps. Most of which scale across the gambit of devices.
The big leak was Spartan, the new Microsoft browser. Spartan’s name presumably is not only a Halo reference, but also alludes to its cleaned up interface. The rendering engine is cleaned up and more modern as well. For users on touch devices, there is a new note-taking mode. There’s also finally a reading mode that’s saved offline and built-in PDF support. However the big star of Spartan is Cortana. Not only will she search for you, she’ll give you other relevant information on the site you’re looking at without even asking.
Office for Mobile
Office for the smaller Windows devices was unveiled, and like the other apps I’m talking about here, it’ll come free of charge. This version of office might be designed around phones, but it’s feature-complete. The suite will come with separate apps for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint
Windows 10 has new Mail and Calendar apps for Outlook. While traditionally part of Office, Outlook is now the default Windows Calendar and Mails apps. The apps feature a consistent interface across devices and the writing engine is ported straight from Word.
Photos, Music, and Maps
The Photos and Music apps are totally new as of Windows 10. Both are heavily leveraged by OneDrive. The Music app now allows you to import your music library into OneDrive and the photos come from photo imports on all platforms. Also updated was Windows’ Maps software. It’s heavily laden with Cortana and even knows where you park.
Pricing & Availability
For Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 7 users will be able to upgrade for free within the first year of release. PC and Tablet users can get their hands on the new build in late January. The first phone build will launch in February. Final dates were not announced, but we’ll hear more about that at Microsoft’s Build Conference in the last week of April.