This morning, Microsoft finally shared all of its plans for Windows 10, That’s the operating system that it hopes will help it hang on to longtime users of the mouse and keyboard plus bolster its position on touch-centric devices like 2-in-1s, tablets and smartphones.
At today’s Windows 10 event, Microsoft highlighted all of the reasons notebooks and tablet users should upgrade to Windows 10 when it’s available or purchase a device with it already installed. The company also revealed that Windows 7 and Windows 8 users will get the update for free, provided they upgrade within the first year. Microsoft says it has plans to support devices upgrading to Windows 10 for their entire life, but hasn’t yet elaborated on what that means exactly.
As rumored, Cortana, the digital personal assistant that debuted in Windows Phone 8.1 last year, is available in Windows 10. This’ll be the first time either of the three biggest personal assistants from the smartphone space have made their way to notebooks and tablets. For now, Google Now has some limited functionality for users who install Chrome. Apple’s Siri voice assistant isn’t available on Mac OS, yet.
It was clear from last year’s Windows 10 announcements that Microsoft planned on trying to seduce notebook and desktop users away from Windows 7 with a mix of features they’d love and upgrades to the Desktop interface that they left out in Windows 8. Windows 10 boasts multiple Desktops so that users can organize their programs around what tasks they’re doing. The Desktop auto suggests items for users to snap if they’re trying to multitask too.
With Windows 8, Microsoft launched the Windows Store, a centralized place where all users – whether they’re on a notebook, desktop or tablet – could download apps and pick up new games. It was Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Mac App Store. The problem with Windows Store, was that users couldn’t download apps from their and use them in the Desktop if they were more comfortable there. Windows 10 fixes this too. When users have a keyboard attached they get the Desktop experience they’re familiar with. When they don’t have a mouse and keyboard, but do have touch they’re presented with the updated Start Screen.
Windows 10 finally moves away from the last vestiges of the Aero design introduced in Windows Vista, enhanced and Windows Vista and paired down in Windows 7. The translucent taskbar that dominated the Windows Desktop is gone, and its place is a black bar that holds buttons for the new Action Center notification area, the Start Button, some shortcuts for new users and the search box that acts as a shortcut to Cortana.
All told, Windows 10 stands to be Microsoft’s boldest bet yet. With its improvements to the Desktop and Windows Store, Windows 10 is a tacit admission that Windows 8 didn’t work. In hind sight, Microsoft seems to have realized that putting one single interface on every kind of device wasn’t the best idea its designers ever had. It’s hard to imagine that Microsoft will have a hard time convincing anyone that buying the new notebook or desktop they need with Windows 10 preloaded is a good move.
The question is how Windows 10 will shape the future of Windows tablets.
Microsoft says it has plans to make Windows 10 available to users late in 2015. It’s unclear whether the company plans to offer Windows 10 as a free upgrade to Windows 8 users or not. We’ll hear about and see much more of Windows 10 during BUILD 2015, Microsoft’s pre-scheduled conference for developers.