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With its new version of Windows, Microsoft has done the seemingly impossible: It skipped right over version 9 and straight to 10. Really, though, the maker of the world’s most popular operating system dropped a lot of major announcements during its press event about Windows 10 on Wednesday. Here are the top five most interesting decisions by Microsoft for its next OS update—not including the holograms.
Windows 10 is free!
When was the last time you paid for an operating system? Because it might have been the last time… period. Just as Apple has begun making OS X free — iOS, Android, and Windows Phone updates have always been free — Windows has finally joined the gratis club. Well, mostly: Microsoft says it will let customers of Windows 7, 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 upgrade to Windows 10 for free for the first year of Windows 10’s availability. (There is, unsurprisingly, some fine print.) Once you’ve upgraded, though, you’re supported on Windows 10 for life.
“We think of Windows as a Service,” wrote Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s executive vice president of operating systems. It’s clear that Microsoft wants to push its customers to Windows 10 as much as possible, which would mean fewer platforms for both the company and its developers to support. A low, low price tag helps make that happen.
As rumored, the virtual assistant Cortana from Windows Phone will debut on the desktop in Windows 10. You mainly interact with Cortana via a search box next to the Start button, and it can retrieve information when prompted, either by typing or by vocalizing your search terms. Besides searching your computer and the Internet, Cortana can retrieve specific information about things like flight information, appointments, weather, and more; it even learns about what you’re interested in so it can provide tailored results. Additionally, the assistant is seamless across devices, so what it learns on your Windows Phone, it also knows on your desktop PC.
Microsoft is trying hard to prove that Windows is the same Windows everywhere. Case in point: No matter which platform you’re talking about, it’s just “Windows 10”; the “Windows Phone” moniker has bitten the dust. The company also redesigned its apps, music, photos, mail, calendar, messaging, and so on to look and work similarly across all of its devices. The company’s goal is to keep a consistent experience between its mobile platforms and desktop PCs, allowing users to seamlessly transition between the two. It’s even rolling out a universal version of Office apps for tablet, phone, and PC, in which it elevates touch interfaces to the level of traditional keyboard and mouse input. Some people may balk at creating an Excel spreadsheet with a touch of the finger, but once you learn it one place, you’ll know how to do it everywhere.
Microsoft has finally realized that its Internet Explorer web browser seriously lags behind the rest of the competition, so the company has issued a brand new browser that’s code named Project Spartan. While Microsoft didn’t delve too deep into its capabilities, it called out a few, such as an engine built on modern web technology; its support for annotation via keyboard or stylus; and an updated and simplified layout that puts the emphasis on the content itself. The company said Spartan will make it to Windows Phone, too, but wasn’t ready to demo it today.
Xbox on Windows 10
Want to play your Xbox games on your PC? No problemo. Windows 10 includes an Xbox app that lets you stream games from your Xbox One to your Windows 10-compatible tablets and PCs, capture gameplay footage on your PC with Game DVR, and—perhaps best of all—provides full interoperability with the Xbox Live service. The feature finally lets you play games on your PC against your friends on their Xbox One consoles, as well as message and chat too.