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Microsoft unveils Windows 10 details

Microsoft unveils Windows 10 details
Microsoft / Windows 10

Windows 10 is the next major version of Microsoft Windows, and it's due out later this year. Microsoft is hoping 10 will placate its customers after Windows 8 turned out to be really unpopular, not without good reason.

Over the last year, Microsoft has been slowly releasing details about the new release, but today it gave a full demonstration of the upcoming operating system. So, is there anything in there that's going to make you upgrade? Let's find out.

Basic tweaks

As promised, Windows 10 is going to fix many of the mistakes in Windows 8. It brings back a version of the Start Menu, and ditches the Start Screen on desktops and laptops.

Apps are now loaded in windows, just like traditional programs, so you can move them around the screen however you want. Windows 10 will also streamline tablet and computer settings so you aren't hunting through multiple areas for the settings you're used to. In other words, it works more like Windows 7.

There will also be some new features like improved notifications and virtual desktops, which I've mentioned before. However, there are five new things Microsoft revealed.

But first, I'm just going to tell you the most compelling reason to upgrade: it's free. Yep, if you upgrade from Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone in the first year, it's absolutely free. Vista users are going to need to pay, but no one knows how much it will be yet. Still, if you're unhappy with Windows 8, this is a deal you're probably going to want to take!

OK, back to the new features.

1. Universal Windows

Despite the problems computer users had with Windows 8, it actually worked well on tablets. Windows 10 will also still work on computers and tablets, as well as smaller gadgets like smartphones. However, now it's smarter thanks to Continuum.

Continuum detects what kind of gadget you're using and adjusts the interface so you have the best one for the screen. On desktops and laptops, it works just classic Windows. On a tablet, it works like Windows 8 with the Start Screen and full-screen apps.

The payoff is when you have a tablet that plugs into a keyboard or a convertible laptop that turns into a touch screen tablet. Windows can seamlessly switch between modes as you change how you're using the gadget.

That means your open full-screen apps in tablet mode turn into windowed apps in desktop mode. You can even arrange your windows in desktop mode and they'll remember where they were when you switch back from tablet mode. It's truly like having two separate gadgets in one.

2. Always-on personal assistant

A while back, Microsoft debuted Cortana, which is its answer to Apple's Siri and Google's Google Now personal assistants. So far Cortana has only been available in Windows Phone, but now it's going to be in Windows 10.

So, you simply need to say to your computer, "Hey Cortana," and she'll be ready to help you out. You can ask her if you need a jacket tomorrow, to show you family photos from Christmas, run Web searches, look for files on the computer and much more. She's powered by the Bing search engine, so she's good at understanding requests and finding helpful answers.

Cortana has a notebook, which records everything she knows about you. So, if you're on a special diet, you can ask for recipes and she'll know which ones she shouldn't show you. She'll know if you're married, have kids, have pets, upcoming flights, hobbies and much more. Of course, you can open up the notebook and edit or delete the information at any time.

3. Connected gadgets

Microsoft's big push with Windows 10 is ecosystem. It wants your computers, tablets and smartphones to be completely interconnected. It's doing that with universal apps that work the same on every gadget and sync everything do on one with every one using the cloud.

So, if you ask Cortana for directions on your computer, she'll remember it for you on your Windows smartphone. Office documents, messages and anything else you do on one gadget will be available on every Windows gadget.

Microsoft is even going to allow music on its OneDrive cloud service that you can then stream to any Windows gadget, similar to Google Play Music, Amazon Music or iTunes Match.

4. New browser

That's right, Microsoft is releasing a new browser to replace Internet Explorer on every gadget. Right now it's code named Spartan.

It has a new rendering engine that's going to be faster and display websites better. There's a newer, sleeker look that takes a back seat so you can better focus on the content you're looking at.

Microsoft specifically highlighted three new features.

1. Note-taking mode. This lets you annotate Web pages either by drawing or typing comments. You can then save and share the page with the annotations with your co-workers or friends.

2. Reader mode. This makes any webpage easier to read by stripping out extra confusing elements. It also includes a reading list so you can save content to read later, even when you don't have an Internet connection.

3. Cortana built in. Cortana will pop up answers to questions before you can finish asking them. So if you're headed to an airline site to check on a flight status, she'll show you the flight details before you even finish typing the address. If you're on a restaurant website she can show you directions, hours of operation and even if there are dishes that fit your diet. You can also right-click any word or phrase online and Cortana will give you more information.

5. Gaming

Microsoft isn't just bringing together computers, tablets and smartphones, it's also bringing the Xbox One gaming console into the mix. Certain supported games will allow gamers on computers, tablets and Xbox to play together in the same game.

Windows 10 will also let you stream games from the Xbox One to your computer or tablet so you can play anywhere. Windows-based games will also now have links to Xbox Live for uploading game videos and chatting with Xbox Live friends.

Conclusion

So far, Windows 10 is shaping up to be a great Windows release. It looks like Microsoft is learning from its mistakes with Windows 8 and making the right moves.

I know plenty of people are going to still stick with Windows 7 as long as possible (it will get security updates until 2020), just like people did with Windows XP. However, if you're buying a new computer, Windows 10 is going to be much more friendly than Windows 8.

I'm not sure yet how useful Cortana is going to be on a desktop or laptop, but it's an additional option not a replacement for the keyboard and mouse, so having it around can't hurt.

What do you think? Are you going to upgrade to Windows 10? Let me know in the comments.

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