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Windows 10 has been the talk of the tech community for some time, and Microsoft executives have provided another update on what they’re planning to do with the next version of their operating system. For the first year after its release, Microsoft will be offering it as a free upgrade for those upgrading from Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows Phone.
Windows 10 marks departure from previous strategy
In the past, Microsoft has always charged for major Windows upgrades, but this time, the company is taking a different tactic. In today’s event, executives said they’re now looking at Windows “as a service” rather than as just an operating system.
It seems clear they want to spur adoption of Windows 10 in hopes of avoiding another mass rejection like what happened to the much-maligned Windows 8. According to the BBC, Forrester analysts estimate that only approximately 10% of computers are currently running on Windows 8.
The biggest changes in Windows 10
Windows 10 is part of Microsoft’s broader “One” strategy, which brings the same experience onto all devices, including not only PCs and tablets but also smartphones and even the Xbox One.
Perhaps one of the most exciting changes to Windows 10 is the bringing of Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant from Windows Phone onto PCs. Executives showed off how users could speak commands to Cortana to do things like pull up PowerPoint presentations or even find pictures that were snapped during a specific month of the year.
They also demonstrated how Cortana can be used to dictate and send emails and even provide advice about if the user should wear a coat based on what the weather will be like that day. Additionally, executives demonstrated how Cortana could enable users to even provide responses to typed requests in addition to spoken ones.
Windows 10 focuses on voice control
One of the reasons people hated Windows 8 so much was because of how it focused on control through touch instead of through the mouse and keyboard. Of course this was problematic because most desktop computers can’t be controlled through touch.
This time around though, it seems like Microsoft may have scored a win because control is more focused on voice. However, Windows 10 doesn’t completely ditch touch or the mouse and keyboard. Clearly the operating system is designed to take into account the many different input methods people use today by offering a good mix of all of them.
Windows 10 brings back the Start menu
While the addition of Cortana is certainly exciting, the return of the Start menu is perhaps the most-needed change. The Next Web shared some photos of Windows 10’s new Start screen. There are two modes available. One is a mini mode, while the other is a newer “expanded” mode, which is designed to be use on tablets. Devices can easily switch between the two different Windows 10 modes by detecting if the user is using a touch screen or a keyboard and mouse.
There’s also a new notification center available on the Windows 10 desktop.
Windows 10 brings Spartan browser
In addition, the new version of the operating system is bringing the new Spartan browser, which replaces Internet Explorer. Gizmodo showcased the new browser, which now offers the ability to take notes on web pages. This feature was previously rumored to be coming, and indeed it will be included on Microsoft’s new browser. As users take notes on webpages, their notes are synced to OneDrive for easy collaboration.
There’s also a mode for reading and a way to create a reading list that can be viewed across all the user’s devices. Of course Cortana is also part of Spartan. What executives did not make clear was whether Internet Explorer will bite the dust or whether it will stick around. Also it’s unclear if Spartan will be available for non-Windows operating systems.
One rumor that did not come out was that the browser will support Chrome extensions, so it seems this particular rumor isn’t true.
Windows 10 coming in the fall
Microsoft is also focusing on making Windows 10 easier to use in other ways, like moving all of the apps into a single app store, according to the Daily Mail. Management also said today that while the operating system is a major overhaul, it should feel familiar to Windows users.
According to Microsoft executives, 1.7 million people have already been trying out the beta versions of Windows 10 for desktops and laptops, although the mobile beta hasn’t yet been available. It is expected to become available next month, and the full Windows 10 is expected to be rolled out in the fall.
Shares of Microsoft dipped as much as 1% during regular trading hours today.