On the official Windows blog, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced today’s big event, saying “As you can imagine, we’re pretty stoked to show you what’s next for Windows 10!” I don’t think anyone doubts the company’s enthusiasm.
After the disappointing launch of Windows 8, the failure of Windows smartphones and tablets to take meaningful mobile marketshare and the double-whammy of tablets then cheap Chromebooks running rival Google Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) operating system hitting PC sales, Microsoft was anxious to prove it’s on its game.
Windows 10 is Microsoft’s shot at fixing so much that’s not been going its way in recent years. Here’s what the company showed off at today’s Windows 10 event.
Windows 10: Universal Apps
Microsoft Office was shown as an example of a new universal app designed for Windows 10, with a familiar look and feel on mobile devices — but in a mobile-friendly version. The Office ribbons are retained from desktop to mobile, making it easy for people to transition from mobile to their PC seamlessly and without having to figure out a new interface. These universal apps will reside in a unified app store, making things easier for both developers and customers.
Touch gestures are the same between desktop and mobile versions as well, so “pinch and zoom” or “swipe” do the same thing whether on a touchscreen PC, a tablet or a smartphone.
Microsoft is also prepping OneDrive for storing music collections, with songs and playlists automatically updated across a customer’s PCs and mobile devices.
Windows 10: The Start Menu
After Windows traditionalists tore a strip off the company and refused to upgrade to Windows 8’s tile interface, Windows 10 offers a more familiar Windows 7 style look and feel in its UI — including the start menu. Those who preferred the tile interface can easily switch back to the Windows 8-style interface.
Windows 10: Cortana
MSFT’s virtual assistant Cortana isn’t just an important feature to keep up with Siri and Google Now, it’s powered by Bing — the more people that use Cortana, the better Microsoft’s Bing business does.
Microsoft announced that with Windows 10, Cortana will be moving to the desktop, opening up hundreds of millions of potential new users. Cortana gains local search functionality, including the ability to locate PC files on hard drives and Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage.
Windows 10: Continuum
With the proliferation of mobile devices, Microsoft says technology needs to get out of the way and let people move from mobile to desktop — securely and seamlessly. That’s the concept of Continuum, a feature with a name that sounds an awful lot like Apple Inc’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Continuity in OSX and iOS 8.
In the Windows 10 version, a big part of Continuum is automatic switching between PC and tablet mode in convertible devices, depending on whether a mouse and keyboard is being used. This should make users of convertible devices like Microsoft’s Own Surface Pro tablet very happy.
Windows 10: Project Spartan
The new web browser for Windows 10 is code-named Project Spartan.
It has a new rendering engine for better graphic performance, a new Windows 10 UI, a notation/mark-up feature and the ability to share clips of websites. It also gains a reading mode (with offline capability) and Cortana is fully integrated with the web browser — the virtual assistant can auto-fill information pulled from other apps.
Project Spartan is a Windows 10 universal app, designed to offer a similar user experience across all Windows devices.
Windows 10: Gaming and Closer Xbox One Integration
Microsoft pushed gaming as a personal experience and social activity. Windows 10 has a universal Xbox app with friends, games, an activity feed and the ability to chat with Xbox Live gamers or share gameplay clips from Windows games (via a Game DVR feature).
MSFT’s new DirectX 12 engine improves PC gaming performance while cutting power consumption by 50% compared to the current DirectX 11.
When running a universal app version of a game, players can be on both Xbox One and a Windows 10 PC, playing together.
Xbox One owners will also be able to stream a console game from an Xbox One to a Windows 10 PC or tablet.
Head-to-head gaming between PC and the Xbox console is a big win for Microsoft, while the streaming capability answers threats like Sony Corp’s (NYSE:SNE) ability to play PS4 titles on its tablets.
Xbox One will also be running Windows 10 in the future.
Windows 10: Windows Phone 10
On a phone (or small tablet), Windows 10 retains the tile interface from Windows 8. The Action Center has additional notifications and they’re synced with the PC desktop.
Anywhere you can type on Windows Phone 10, there is also a microphone icon for speech dictation instead. Skype is being integrated with messaging for a richer experience.
Word, Excel and Powerpoint will be included with Windows Phone 10.
Windows 10: Microsoft Surface Hub and Windows Holographic
Surprise! A wall-mounted, 84-inch, 4K touchscreen display with built-in cameras, microphones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC. Running Windows 10, this high tech whiteboard runs Skype for business calls and can save any content to OneNote.
If that’s not enough in the new hardware department, MSFT is releasing its own take on virtual and augmented reality in Windows Holographic. All Windows 10 devices will have the capability to run Windows Holographic apps, with the new Windows HoloLens headset.
Windows 10: Price and Availability
Windows 10 is free to all Windows 7 PCs (nearly half of current desktop PCs in operation) for its first year, free on release to all Windows 8.1 PCs and tablets, including Phone 8.1 devices.
The expected release date for Windows 10 is sometime in the fall 2015 timeframe. As for the new hardware, Microsoft says it will be available along with Windows 10 (no pricing as yet).
Was Microsoft successful in building excitement with its Windows 10 pitch? The actual releases won’t be happening until later this year, but with PC sales showing signs of thawing after several years of decline and a new line of Broadwell CPUs launching from Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), the point of this event was to build buzz.
If all goes well, that will help convince consumers and IT administrators to upgrade the estimated 600 million PCs that have been chugging on outdated hardware and an older version of Windows for four years or more. There is also cause for hope for Windows in the mobile world, especially with Microsoft’s emphasis on a unified experience.
In other words, if everything goes according to plan this time, Windows 10 will erase the bad taste of the Windows 8 era, kickstart a new upgrade cycle and make Windows on mobile an easier sell. Windows Holographic might just be the technology that takes VR mainstream –with Microsoft on the cutting edge instead of playing catch up.
And MSFT should have no problem maintaining the growth trajectory it’s enjoyed since the start of 2013.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.