(Source: The Verge)
Windows 10 keeps getting more and more perks for PC users

Windows 10 has some new tricks in Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Build 9901 of the upcoming operating system.  The last public Windows Technical Preview for testers was Build 9879 (the third such preview released).  The next public preview is likely to be released in mid-January, possibly at Microsoft's Jan. 21 press event.  In the meantime, though, we have an early taste of what's to come via leaks.

I. Leaks -- Overview and the Recent Updates to Cortana

Before I get into the changes, it's important to first note that this build is not a publicly released build.  While the features added are likely to appear in the next public Preview Build, this build is mostly only being tested at Microsoft and at a few high profile third party partners.  For normal testers, Build 9901 is unavailable.  And even if it becomes available via leaks from trusted partners, it'd be wise not to install it, as it may be unable to upgrade to the next latest and greatest public release.

Windows 10 Cortana
[Image Source: The Verge]

Both Neowin and The Verge got their hands on Build 9901 and they document a few high profile/interesting changes.

One change, noted by The Verge is the addition of the Cortana voice assistant.  The integration appears only partially complete at present, but in Build 9901 Cortana responds to voice and text inquiries.

Windows 10 -- Cortana
Cortana in Windows 10 Build 9901 [Image Source: The Verge]

"She" appears as an option (search my stuff) when you click on the search button in your taskbar.

Cortana integration
Cortana in Windows 10 Build 9901 [Image Source: The Verge]

Click it and you get the full blown app, complete with hints for new users.

Windows 10 Cortana
Cortana in Windows 10 Build 9901 [Image Source: The Verge]

Think of "her" as search on steroids.

Windows 10 Cortana
Cortana in Windows 10 Build 9901 [Image Source: The Verge]

For comparison's sake, here's a video from an earlier build, showing some of her current functionality in Windows 10 internal builds:

Looks like Cortana has advanced significantly over the past couple builds and is nearing primetime on the PC.

II. Unifying Content, Eliminating Redundancy

The next major addition is the inclusion of an Xbox App.  While Windows 10 is expected to still allow third party game distribution from Valve's Steam and other sources, Microsoft is pushing gamers towards its proprietary marketplace, the Xbox Market.

Windows 10 test build
The Xbox app, a new hub in Windows 10 Build 9901 [Image Source: The Verge]

For game makers there's some perks to going this route, namely more prominent placement and easier cross-platform access.  For gamers, the advantage will be the ability to keep a common profile across multiple games with unified forums and leaderboards.  For the gamer, the new Xbox hub will also unify the device and console experience, much as it does with Windows Phone and Xbox One currently.

Windows 10 Xbox app
The Xbox app, a new hub in Windows 10 Build 9901 [Image Source: The Verge]

On the store front Microsoft also appears to be integrating its Xbox Music and Xbox Video services into the Windows Store.  Searches will reveal multiple kinds of purchasable content.  For example searching for "Halo" might come up with games, but also the soundtrack and animated films.

Store beta
The new beta Store app in Windows 10 Build 9901, complete with unified search of Xbox Music and Xbox Video offerings [Image Source: The Verge]

There's also a new preview build of the next version of Internet Explorer (IE) -- IE 11.

IE Preview
A new build of Internet Explorer 11 is seen in Windows 10 Build 9901. [Image Source: The Verge]

There's also new animations for the taskview switcher and it appears that the Settings app has been upgraded to have more in-depth Control Panel-like options.  

Windows 10 settings
Windows 10's Settings begins to merge with the Control Panel in Build 9901. [Image Source: The Verge]

It is expected that Settings may replace the Control Panel in the final release.

The Verge also mentions spotting new animations for the TaskView switcher (triggered by the multi-desktop button).  There also appears to be a new look for some folders.

III. To the Cloud!  Inside the New OneDrive Backup Options

The final major change, noted by Neowin, is the inclusion of OneDrive as a broader backup solution.  Currently OneDrive is integrated into core Microsoft apps, such as Microsoft Office, offers integration in some third party apps, and offers backup of folders to the cloud.

With Build 9901 users can now additionally opt to automatically back up their apps and/or Windows Settings to their OneDrive account.  Of course the Windows Store already includes some degree of backup as you can always redownload apps your purchased.  But with the new OneDrive features you'll be able to backup to ensure you don't lose access to your game saves and other information.

Windows 10
[Image Source: Neowin]

Also new in Build 9901 are easy upgrade options, which in settings allow you to join various applicable OneDrive plans directly from the settings menu without having to travel to OneDrive's online pages.

Windows 10 -- Build 9901 -- One Drive
[Image Source: Neowin]

Combine these new features with the fact that Microsoft is in the process of rolling out unlimited OneDrive storage for Office 365 subscribers and you get a very pleasing picture.  Cloud storage remains optional in Windows 10, and surely won't be embraced by everyone, but for the majority it is looking increasingly like Microsoft may become the new king of tightly integrated cloud storage, besting third party solutions and rival platform providers like Apple, Inc. (AAPL) and Google Inc. (GOOG).

Neowin also noted a couple of minor tweaks to the look of Modern UI apps

Windows 10 Modern UI tweaks
[Image Source: Neowin]

Notably, the app icon disappears, and the "hamburger stack" menu of options grows a bit bigger in the window frame.

Sources: The Verge, Neowin

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch

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