Microsoft Windows 10 touches down on July 29, and it's more than just another version of the popular OS.
It's designed to run everything from smartphones and tablets to notebooks and desktops, plus a new generation of hybrid 2-in-1 touchscreen devices.
It's an incredibly ambitious play – and some would say, a 'bet the company' move – to reinvent the foundation product on which Microsoft's empire rests. Here's why.
1. It’s FREE. No, really.
If your personal computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone currently runs Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.1, Windows 10 will come as a completely free upgrade in the first year of its release.
Even beyond that first year, Microsoft will “continue to keep it up to date for the supported lifetime of the device” for no additional charge, so you won’t be stung with an ongoing software subscription fee after day 365.
2. It leapfrogs Windows 9
Microsoft deems it such a big jump that Windows hops straight from 8.1 to 10, skipping Windows 9 altogether.
It's also rumoured that we might not ever see 'Windows 11', with Microsoft adopting Windows 10 as the platform brand in the same way that Apple has been sitting on Mac OS 10.x for over a decade.
3. The real Start menu is back
The ‘forced tile’ approach of Windows 8 becomes an option in Windows 10 with the return of the Start menu as we once knew it.
What's more, you can customise it to keep things like your email inbox, calendar and other apps close at hand.
When paired with a Windows Phone, that same layout follows you, whether you’re on your small or large screen:
4. It’s one OS across all your devices
Microsoft is doing away with separate versions of Windows for computers and smartphones, so that Start menu following you around isn’t so much a cool syncing trick as a sign that your devices will all be on the same page and that you can switch between them with ease.
Your kit will also tap into Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage system, making it easier to access all your files anywhere and anytime.
The 'one OS for all devices' approach could also be lighter on the hip pocket when buying apps, as some programs will now be available in a single version rather than ‘for desktop’ and ‘for smartphone’ thanks to the use of adaptive coding.
5. All programs run in ‘windows’, just like they used to
Gone will be the days of Modern UI apps, or ‘Windows apps’, that only run in full-screen mode, with Windows 10 making it possible to use these alongside more traditional desktop applications such as Microsoft PowerPoint:
Although full screen apps are commonplace on tablets – including on rival products such as the Apple iPad – their forced use on desktop computers made it considerably more difficult for keyboard-wielding users to multitask in Windows 8, which we’re happy to see addressed.
6. Meet Cortana: she's Siri, and more
Microsoft will bake its Cortana personal assistant software into Windows 10 for Siri-style commands and control over the OS and apps.
Cortana is billed as "the world's first truly personal digital assistant", and she'll respond when you type a question in the taskbar's search box or tap the microphone icon and talk into your device's microphone.
7. There’s a new Microsoft web browser: Edge
A new out-of-the-box web browser seemingly brings together Internet Explorer, OneNote and Paint under a roof named Edge… but there’ll still be a separate app named Internet Explorer if that’s how you scroll.
Users will be able to annotate webpages for their own future reference and can share those notes with friends or colleagues – saving time during digital teamwork or when collaborating to assemble holidays and business trips one piece at a time.
8. You can switch between desktops, not just windows
Ideal for users that rely on the same device whether on the clock or at 5 o’clock, you can switch from one complete desktop layout to another by pressing Ctrl + Windows.
Keep your tablet ‘work friendly’ with emails and your latest project on the desktop by day and revert to your home layout with Facebook front and centre after hours. The next day, it’s as simple as switching back to where you left off at work. Easy.
9. There’ll be new hardware to match
While Windows 10 is designed to run on devices already powered by Windows 7 and above – including the all-new and currently-Windows 8.1-powered Microsoft Surface 3 (below) – we’ll inevitably see the next evolution of Microsoft tablets in the Surface Pro 4.
Add to that the latest wave of laptops, tablets and 2-in-1s; Lumia, HTC and Huawei Windows Phones and the sixth generation of Intel Core processors to supersede the Core i3, i5 and i7 range.
10. The Action Centre is your ‘here and now’
Everything happening in your digital world all comes together in the Windows 10 Action Centre, whether that’s the latest from your social media accounts, your calendar alerts or even as a quick heads-up that one of your apps has been updated seamlessly in the background.
There you’ll also find your messages – which you can easily reply to right there and then...
… along with handy shortcuts to your gadget’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and mobile data settings.
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