Well, I had written about the new Windows 10 operating system in October last year. That time, the software giant Microsoft Corporation had just revealed some features of the new OS and, had announced that it will give more emphasis on other new consumer features after New Year 2015. Microsoft had even given ‘Technical Previews’ for the last three months, for the enthusiastic users to go through its limited features.
Suggestions and complaints from the people all over the world, including India, were gratefully accepted by Microsoft, keeping in mind the blunder committed in the Windows 8 series. Taking every suggestion seriously and building new and new features, for the ease of its traditional users, using a computer with a keyboard and mouse, was not the Microsoft’s cup of tea, taking account into the today’s ‘touch-enabled world’. The company finally revealed the new consumer features at an official event at the Redmond headquarters in San Francisco on January 21, 2015.
The first important announcement made by the MS chief Terry Myerson was Windows 10, would be a free upgrade for the first year from Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, after the new sleek OS, hits the streets later this year. By all accounts, it will be the easiest thing in the world for Windows 8.1 users to upgrade to Windows 10 when it becomes available. Microsoft has not said that how the final upgrade will work exactly.
Windows 8.1 was the first time Microsoft rolled out a large update through a method other than Windows Update. Overtime, Microsoft required anyone who wanted to continue getting updates to upgrade to Windows 8.1 through Windows Update eventually, but for the first couple of months users needed to go into the Windows Store and download Windows 8.1 manually. Presumably, it might be how users upgrade from Windows 8.1 to the final version of Windows 10.
Windows 8.1 users can upgrade to Windows 10 through the Windows Insider Program. That involves signing up for the program, downloading and installation file, copying that installation file to a disc or a pen drive and getting through the setup process. Windows 8.1 devices can be upgraded to Windows 10 without a fresh install, meaning users get to keep their programs installed. Of course, during an upgradation or installation of an OS, users have to backup their files and programs.
Windows 8 users trying to upgrade to Windows 10, will find themselves in a bit of a jam. Officially, Microsoft treats Windows 8 as Windows 8.1, meaning you should have already upgraded to Windows 8.1 by now. To upgrade to Windows 10 right now, users should need to install all pending updates, including the major Windows 8.1 update and then upgrade to Windows 10 after joining the Windows Insider Program. Both Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 have similar hardware requirements.
Windows 7 is where upgrading to Windows 10 gets very interesting. The Desktop interface that dominated previous versions of Windows is back in all of its glory. Microsoft has upgraded the Desktop with a new design, apps from the Windows Store and some new Snap suggestions for better multitasking. Once again, the upgrade path and system requirements are the same. Windows 7 users are able to upgrade directly to Windows 10. That means users are not required to install all of their programs again. The hardware compatibility should be absolutely fine, provided a device is not running a Windows 7 Starter Edition.
Users running Windows XP and Windows Vista will have a bit of a bad luck. Both these OS are quite worn out now. Going from either XP or Vista to Windows 10 is going to be extremely painful and time consuming. Windows Vista was the first major upgrade to require faster processors and new hardware for Windows XP. The only trouble is that both Windows XP and Windows Vista are unsupported OS by Microsoft. Upgrading to Windows 10 will require users to do a fresh install. In short, they have to install every app to the device again and again, even after the update.
The next step taken by Myerson was the DirectX 12, a graphics software, enabling users for a better gaming experience, will ship with the new OS and currently, it will be implemented as a trial and testing mode in the Technical Previews of Windows 10. Both Windows 7 and Windows 8 supports DirectX 10 and 11 and can be updated to the newest version easily. It also will support the 10 year-old Vista. The CEO of XBox Phil Spencer announced all these little features.
The main doubt regarding Windows 10 and DirectX 12 has always been the graphical features. The general idea had always been that individuals will have to upgrade their graphics cards in order to enjoy DirectX 12. The reports suggest that the gamers will not be required to add to or replace their graphics cards. Although, the company is not ready to share all information about DirectX 12, but they have promised to help out the manufacturers like Nvidia and Intel in helping out to design the next generation GPUs. With the current graphic cards, DirectX 12 will not be at its full flow, but the gaming experience will be enhanced significantly.
After Myerson occupied the centre stage for about an hour, the next one to take over was the Vice President Joe Belfiore, showing off a further number of consumer features coming to the Windows 10 Preview that are designed to make using the operating system a smoother and seamless experience. The start menu will be able to expand to fill the full screen as per the user’s requirements. The Action Center, rechristened as ‘Notification Center’ in Windows 10 has improved its functionality, such as Windows Phone 8.1’s quick action buttons that let you activate features like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Brightness and so on with a single click. Also, notifications in the Action Center will be able to be expanded.
More helpfully for everyday workflow, Windows 10 will condense the Control Panel and the modern user interface(UI) PC Settings into a single interface, thereby eliminating Windows 8’s maddening insistence on dumping crucial system tools into two separate locations. Microsoft has also announced that its Continuum feature, which dynamically shifts the Windows 10 interface from the Modern UI to the desktop depending on whether a user is using a computer device or a touchscreen device, will soon appear in Windows 10 Preview builds over the next month.
The new OS will integrate Xbox capabilities deeply and seamlessly. A new Xbox app essentially looks like a more fully fleshed-out version of the SmartGlass, letting users to chat with their Xbox Live friends, view their achievement information or access game DVR clips. The app also lets you like, share, and comment on game clips, just like in social networking websites. Additionally, the games do not directly have to support the functionality as it is being overlaid directly by the Microsoft in Windows 10.
But Windows 10’s new gaming techniques and experiences is about more than merely expanding Xbox’s footprint. While users are playing traditional PC games, be it in Steam or otherwise, a new Windows key + G keyboard shortcut will bring up an interface for saving snapshots and a 30 second video clip of the gamer’s adventures, which then brings them into the Xbox app to share it. Also, they will be able to stream the Xbox One games directly to any Windows 10 device, though it will be limited to local networks only.
Another new feature added is the introduction of Microsoft Cortana, a intelligent personal assistant originally included in Windows Phone 8.1, which made its debut for the PCs. Assuming control of many of the operating system’s search features, Cortana, will get an own place next to the start button in the desktop taskbar. It can perform many of the same basic tricks, it generally does in the Windows Phone. Cortana can be interacted with via text or natural voice queries, just like on mobile devices.
Windows 8.1’s universal Bing SmartSearch features are incorporated into Cortana, which replaces the previous Bing Search app which is activated when a user presses the search button on their device. Cortana also includes a music recognition service. Plus, ‘Concert Watch’ is a feature that helps Cortana determine which bands or musicians the users are interested in by monitoring the Bing searches. It also integrates with the Microsoft Band for Windows Phone devices if connected via Bluetooth. On the Microsoft Band, Cortana can make reminders and bring phone notifications.
The ‘Notebook’ is where personal information such as interests, location data, reminders, and contacts will be stored for access by Cortana. Cortana will be able to draw upon and add to this data in order to learn the user’s specific patterns and behaviors. The user will be able to view this information, with the aim of offering greater control over privacy settings by allowing them to specify what information is collected. Users can also delete information from the Notebook if they deem it undesirable for Cortana to know. Most versions of Cortana takes the form of a two nested and animated circles. The circles are animated to indicate certain activities such as searching or talking.
Also new to Windows 10 is the ‘Spartan Browser’. It is a new, clean-looking and a lightweight browser built around a new rendering engine. It will not be available in the first Windows Insider builds and it is expected to only come to phones eventually. The Spartan Browser includes a note-taking mode that lets you annotate a webpage, then share a user’s marked-up, commented-on version with others using Windows 10’s native Share feature. There is also a clipping tool so that users can save portions of websites directly to Microsoft OneNote.
The browser integrates an updated version of the stellar Reading Mode found in Windows 8’s Metro Internet Explorer app. Reading Mode strips all the ads and sidebar crud out of webpages, formatting articles so that they appear similar to a book. Spartan also taps into the Windows Reading List app, so that users can save articles to read later, synchronizing the list across multiple devices. Unlike the Reading List app in Windows 8, the one in Windows 10 will let them save the content to read offline. Additionally, Cortana will be directly integrated into Spartan, resulting in a quick advanced search manner by the users.
Next up are the innovative HoloLens and Surface Hub technological devices. Windows Holographic is an augmented reality computing platform developed by Microsoft that will be introduced in the Windows 10 operating system when it is released in 2015. With Windows Holographic APIs(Application Programming Interfaces), which are enabled in all versions of Windows 10, augmented reality features can be readily implemented on any Windows universal app, across a wide range of Windows 10 devices.
The premier device for Windows Holographic, Microsoft HoloLens is a smart glasses unit that is a cordless, self-contained Windows 10 computer. It uses advanced sensors, a high-definition 3D optical head-mounted display using holographic lenses, and spatial sound to allow for augmented reality applications, with a natural user interface that the user interacts with through gaze, voice, and hand gestures. Codenamed “Project Baraboo” initially, HoloLens had been in development for five years before its announcement in the starting of 2015.
Among the sensor types used in HoloLens is an energy-efficient depth camera with a 120° × 120° field of view. Other capabilities provided by the sensors include head-tracking, video capture and sound capture. In addition to a high-end CPU and GPU, HoloLens features a Holographic Processing Unit(HPU), a co-processor which integrates data from the various sensors, and handles tasks such as spatial mapping, gesture recognition, and voice and speech recognition. Microsoft expects HoloLens to be made available in the Windows 10 timeframe and priced for use in both enterprise and consumer markets.
Miscrosoft Surface Hub is Surface-series device announced and developed by Microsoft itself. It will be a wall-mounted device with a 210 cm or a 140 cm multi-touch and multi-pen 4D touch screen, for Windows 10 exclusively. It is targeted for businesses to use for collaboration and video conferencing. There is Bluetooth, a camera, speakers, a microphone, Wi-Fi, and a motion sensor that detects when a person approaches. Directly from the home screen, one can make a video conference call, start a whiteboarding session and connect to personal devices like PCs, tablets and phones.
Microsoft made a demonstration of how the OneNote app takes over the Surface Hub’s launch screen. From there, whoever is driving the meeting can draw directly on the Hub with a digital ink. The annotated images can be shared via OneNote or E-mail, putting an end to the barbaric practice of taking a photo of a whiteboard and then sending them to the other persons.
It is very simple to start a video conference on the Surface Hub. Just simply tap once for a meeting and you are in the limelight. Cool, isn’t it folks? Once your attendees have joined your Hub meeting, they can see all your digital ink-driven whiteboarding and you can see their avatars off to the side. The conferencing engine is Skype For Business, which is designed to take full advantage of the Hub’s large screen and speakers.
The gigantic touch device can quickly pair with PCs, tablets and phones in the room, so that the user can cast the content directly from those devices to the large screen. Users can also draw directly on the Hub and the resulting digital ink will reflect back to the screens of the smaller devices. Once the meeting session is over, the Surface Hub will share the entire conferencing session attendees, and reset the hardware for the next meeting. Microsoft will reveal the cost and construction of the smart device later this year.
Along with the PC version of Windows 10, Microsoft has also released the mobile operating system side by side. It is simply named as Windows 10 and not Windows Phone 10, compared to the previous versions of the mobile OS, succeeding Windows Phone 8.1. Its primarily aim is to bring tighter integration and unification with its PC counterpart, and provide a platform for both smartphones and small tablets with ARM(Advanced RISC Machines – RISC is a system which stands for Reduced Instruction Set Computing) system-on-chips.
Most smartphones running Windows Phone 8.1 will be capable of being upgraded to Windows 10. In 2014, Microsoft’s then new CEO Satya Nadella explained that the company was planning to streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into a single converged operating system for screens of all sizes, unifying Windows, Windows Phone, and Windows Embedded around a common architecture and a unified application ecosystem.
The Action Center has been redesigned to match the version adopted by Windows 10 for PC and notifications can be synced between devices, and certain types of notifications allow inline replies. The home screen resembles that of Windows Phone 8.1, except that the wallpapers are now displayed as the background of the screen rather than within the tiles. The messaging app adds support for internet-based Skype messaging alongside SMS.
The camera app has been updated to match the Lumia Camera app previously exclusive to Lumia products. The on-screen keyboard now contains a joystick for manipulating the text editing cursor, and can be dragged around the screen. The Office Mobile suite has been updated, and a new cross-platform Outlook app also has been added. The Mail and Calendar functionality now provides support for additional third-party services such as Gmail.
The new Photos app aggregates content from local storage and OneDrive, and will be able to perform automatic enhancements to the pictures, intelligently removing duplicate and blurred pictures. A revamped universal People app will collate a person’s contacts, while the Music app is also receiving a universal overhaul. As rumoured, Microsoft will add support to put a user’s music collection in OneDrive within the next month or two, so that he/she can listen to music anytime and anywhere.
With all these consumer features demonstrated and announced, Microsoft will be hoping to regain the golden run it had for Windows 7, Windows XP and the previous editions of Windows. After failing miserably in Windows 8, the software giant are keeping their fingers crossed for the grand and tech-savvy OS to be a huge success all over the world and dominate the technology industry. So, the new OS proves it all – it is multi tasking, more comprehensive, unified, more seamless and above all, hassle free.