Microsoft is on track to revamp many of the products it sells directly to users with Windows 10. Getting the most attention is the notebook and desktop version of Windows 10. There’s a lesser known, lesser understood operating system coming from the Redmond, Washington-based company in time though: Windows 10 Mobile.
Windows 10 Mobile won’t come installed on your next Surface Pro or give Apple’s Mac OS X some competition in the desktop productivity space. It’s an operating system built entirely for mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. It’s helpful to think of Windows 10 Mobile as a successor to Windows 8.1 RT and Windows Phone 8.1.
Say Goodbye to the Desktop in Windows 10 Mobile
With Windows 8, Microsoft needed to deliver a decent experience for tablet lovers. When Windows 8 launched in 2012, tablets had already been out for some time, but Microsoft tablets had largely failed to compete in the space. Using Windows 7 on a tablet was a horror show. Trying to close an app with your finger was a nightmare, and none of the Windows interface was finger friendly. Windows 8 addressed most of those issues, but Microsoft made one crucial mistake. It kept the Desktop around so that Windows RT devices – like the Surface RT and Surface 2 – could run Microsoft Office. It’s one of the easiest mistakes to spot in Microsoft’s approach to tablets.
Microsoft plans on finally introducing a touch-centric version of its Office suite of productivity apps. Called Gemini, we should get a look at it during tomorrow’s Windows 10 Media Briefing. With a touch-centric version of Microsoft Office available, the company, reportedly, has plans to kill the Desktop environment on Windows 10 devices whether they have an Intel processor or not.
If that happens, casual users should find Windows 10 a lot less confusing than they did Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Of course, Windows 10 Mobile is meant for all tablets and that could mean users won’t be able to install Desktop apps like iTunes on their Intel-powered tablets running Windows 10 too.
Windows 10 Mobile Will Come as a Free Upgrade to Windows Phone Users
Right now, the upgrade situation for Windows 10 Mobile is up in the air. That being said, we do know a little about how things will work.
Reportedly, Microsoft will release a Windows 10 Mobile Preview for Windows phone owners this coming February. When that happens anyone who has signed up for the Windows Phone Insider program should be able to download the update to their phones. Late last year Microsoft confirmed that smartphones running Windows Phone 8.1 would get an upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile.
The Windows 10 Mobile upgrade path for other devices is less clear. We don’t know whether there’ll be a cost in upgrading tablets running Windows 10 with Intel processors or for anyone upgrading from Windows 8.1 for that matter. Microsoft hasn’t said anything about pricing, and it’s not expected to discuss that until closer to release.
Expect a Radically Different Windows 10 Tablet Experience
The Surface 2 and Surface RT are a rare breed. Originally, Microsoft bet on tablets powered by ARM processors being its next success story. To that end it designed the Surface 2 and the original Surface. In exchange for losing compatibility with Desktop apps like iTunes, Surface 2 and Surface RT users enjoy long battery life and notifications when their device is in sleep and a slimmer profile.
Again, Windows 10 Mobile is expected to replace Windows RT for ARM-powered iPad rivals. Because of that transition, Surface 2 devices running Windows 10 Mobile could work very differently from the way they do today. As for the Surface RT, it’s unclear if it’s even getting an update at all.
Microsoft is no stranger to aggressively ending hardware support for older devices. Windows Phone 8.1 didn’t come to devices running Windows Phone 7.5, even though Microsoft’s partners still sold them to users on two-year contracts. It’d be strange if Microsoft didn’t discuss the upgrade path to Windows 10 for Surface 2 and Surface RT customers.
By all accounts, Windows 10 Mobile should be Microsoft’s consumer coming out party, its big chance to tell users why they should adopt its smartphones and tablets instead of rivals from Apple and companies that use Android. Look for Microsoft to spend a lot of time talking about what having all of your devices powered by Windows means for normal people.
Word is that Windows 10 Mobile will arrive on new smartphones sometime this fall. Presumably, it’ll be around that time that smartphone makers begin updating their Windows Phone 8.1 devices to the new operating system too. Windows 10 for notebooks, desktops and 2-in-1s should arrive around that same time too.