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  (Source: The Verge)
New features include Cortana, IE Spartan

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) at a press event today revealed crucial details of its Windows 10 testing timeline.  Specifically, it will be releasing a new milestone build of Windows 10 "next week" and in Feburary will launch the first build of Windows 10 to target smartphones and ARM tablets.

Windows 10 is the successor to Windows 8.1.  It will be offered as a free upgrade to all Windows 8/8.1 users.  Microsoft has not announced a specific release date yet, but is expected to offer up a near-complete build at a soft launch in April.  According to the most recent reports this will be followed by a full rollout, complete with new Windows 10 phones and PCs this fall.

Windows 10 Jan. 21 event
[Image Source: Neowin]


Before we get to newly announced features, it's worth noting that Microsoft mentioned that Windows 7 users would also get a free upgrade to Windows 10.  That's a big deal as before we had only heard about Windows 8/8.1 users getting that privilege.

Windows 10 upgrade
[Image Source: The Verge]

At its event Microsoft also previewed new Windows 10 features, many of which will be included in next week's release.  The demoed changes include:

Cortana

As expected, everybody's favorite Microsoft voice-controlled assistant (well, the only Microsoft voice-controlled assistant) made an appearance.  "Her" duties include the traditional scheduling (interfacing with the calendar and reminders apps), search (with web support via Bing), dictation, email addressing, and more.

Windows 10 Cortana
[Image Source: The Verge]

The PC build of Cortana includes support for local searches of files, with natural language processing to understand context such as a date range.  It also adds the ability to type queries/commands to her.  You can bring her up by saying, "Hey Cortana."

Windows 10
[Image Source: Neowin]

Core Apps

The key here, of course is the Universal Apps program, which aims to offer apps across a broad range of devices with a disciplined focus on reducing effort on the developer front.  Microsoft showed off a new version off Office that transitions seamlessly from touchscreen devices to the traditional PC, boasting more powerful features than current mobile Office builds.  The new build of Outlook features Microsoft Word fully integrated as its email editor for rich text.

Windows 10 apps
[Image Source: Neowin]

New Maps, Photos, and Music apps were also demoed which featured tighter integration to Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage service, as well as integration with Cortana.  The new Photos app even touches up photos like Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Google+.  The new Xbox app features DVR functionality and is even tied to Valve's Steam (maybe Gabe Newell doesn't hate on Windows 10 like he did on Windows 8)?

Windows 10 features
[Image Source: The Verge]

On the mobile front there's a new fully adjustable keyboard.  There's also a new Messages app with Skype integration alongside the traditional SMS/MMS capabilities.

DirectX 12

In support of the universal apps effort in the games space, DirectX 12 will become the cross-platform graphics API.  Microsoft claims its offers greater power efficiency and "50 percent higher performance" in PC games (compared to DirectX 11).

Continuum

Microsoft's flexible UI technology switches between touch controls or traditional PC controls, based on the target device hardware.  The demoed example showed a new expand button on top of the "new Start Menu" which allows you to take it full screen for easier touch contrls

Windows 10 Continuum
[Image Source: Neowin]

Xbox One Games on the PC

Microsoft plans to offer streamed versions of popular Xbox One games.  These games will be offered for play on tablets and PCs.  And you won't need a powerful GPU to play them; most of the processing wll be done in the cloud.

Windows 10
[Image Source: The Verge]

Project Spartan Browser

The new build of Internet Explorer, Project Spartan will be the de facto browser for Windows 10.  And this time around you might actually have good reason to pick it.  It will feature extensions (reportedly, it will have native compatibility with Google Chrome extensions, although this wasn't confirmed).  Spartan is lightweight and fast thanks to its branched version of the Trident rendering engine.  The only bad news is that the rendering engine will revert to the old IE 11 for compatibility with some websites.

Windows 10 Spartan browser
[Image Source: Neowin]

There's also some serious tie-ins to Microsoft's other core apps.  Spartan has full Cortana integration -- for example if you type weather in the URL bar, Cortana will tap Bing Weather to give you a local forecast above suggested searches.  Likewise, there's OneNote integration.  You can save Reading Lists and clip content for offline reading; these items can be synced across all your Windows 10 devices (including phones and tablets).  Imagine EverNote on steroids and you'll get the picture.

Windows 10 Spartan
[Image Source: The Verge]

All in all Windows 10 is shaping up to be an impresive release.

Sources: The Verge, Neowin





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