Microsoft Windows 10 event recap: HoloLens, Cortana, Free Upgrade, Project Spartan and More!

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With Microsoft’s Windows 10 event over it is time to take a look at what the Silicon Valley giant has in store for the next version of the legendary OS. Announcements definitely did not disappoint both in volume and quality.

Most of our questions about Windows 10 as well as some long-standing disputer were finally settled, but Microsoft went a step beyond and touched upon cross-device application usage, unified PC and Xbox gaming, improved DirectX performance and a whole new enterprise collaboration 84-inch touch device.

So if you think you might have missed anything here is a quick rundown of what Microsoft offered in Windows 10 and beyond and boy is it exciting!

Cortana is now part of Windows 10 on PC

The cloud-based Cortana assistant is officially going to be part of Windows 10 on the PC. It is now more intelligent and useful than ever. During today’s Microsoft Windows 10 event the assistant software was showcased in all its glory, working on a Desktop machine.

Cortana will not only be available on your computer, but she has gotten a whole lot better than on your phone. The software has undergone a major upgrade and is now specifically tailored for a full PC experience.

The assistant is built straight into the Shell and resides constantly in the new search bar, in the remodeled task bar. But it does not only act like a simple voice search service. Use cases are incredibly varied and include easy and seamless access to files, settings, web and local search results and basically any other core function of Windows 10.

Microsoft says Cortana is now more personal than ever with the soft female voice now cracking jokes, and understanding 7 new languages – it even does impersonations. Voice interaction and trigger words are very natural as well. You can simply ask Cortana to play some music or be quiet, which is definitely a step toward elevating it the status of an almost human-like assistant, rather than simply a clever voice operated machine.

The increased personality factor comes from the fact that Cortana is now aware of the user it is aiding. Microsoft demoed some of these implications by asking for personal advice and suggestions and Cortana was more than happy to oblige.

Cortana has also learned a trick or two from Google Now and is now really contextually aware, It will provide the right suggestions and notifications, just when you need them. Voice recognition has also taken a huge step forward. Voice typing was showcased as pretty coherent and almost usable on a daily base.

Cortana will also be baked straight into the new web browser, codenamed “Spartan” for an even more intuitive and content-aware experience with link suggestion, info boxes and a lot more.

We are more than happy to see Cortana in the new Windows 10 and with the new added functionality it seems that Microsoft is really making an effort to bring forward a tailored experience for better productivity.

Windows 10 will be a free upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 for the first year

At its Windows 10-related “briefing” today, Microsoft has just announced some very good news for those of you who are running an older version of its desktop OS – be that Windows 8.1, or even Windows 7, believe it or not.

Namely, the software giant has revealed that for one year after the official launch of Windows 10, you’ll be able to upgrade to the new version for free.

That’s regardless of whether you’re using Windows 8.1, Windows 8, or even Windows 7. This move is clearly meant to entice as many people as possible to make the jump to Windows 10 as soon as possible after it gets released, with Microsoft possibly hoping to have some very nice adoption numbers for the new OS a few months in. It is, however, following in the footsteps of Apple, which has pioneered free desktop OS upgrades.

Microsoft has also mentioned free upgrades for Windows Phone 8.1, but hasn’t given more details yet. It’s clear that the company wants as many mobile devices to see the new software as possible, but it remains to be seen if all WP 8.1 handsets will actually get the update to 10.

Microsoft announces the much rumored Project Spartan browser for Windows

One of the highlights of Microsoft’s Windows 10 event today was Project Spartan, the software giant’s next generation Web browser. This will be built into Windows 10, and according to company execs you can expect to see it both on the desktop version of the OS as well as on mobile devices.

Microsoft hasn’t yet told us if Spartan will replace IE on Windows 10, but past rumors did mention they’d both ship alongside each other, so perhaps that’s what will happen.

Three main features of Spartan were introduced today, but undoubtedly there’s more to come. And even before we get into those, it’s obvious that the new Microsoft-made browser looks more modern than IE, in line with its competitors such as Chrome and Firefox. The whole UI is simplified and there are much less ‘chrome’ elements to be seen (stuff that’s not actually part of the webpage you’re looking at, that is). So that’s one step in the right direction, clearly.

Based on the official image you can see above, it’s also likely that Spartan will support themes, though probably not by itself – we assume it’s going to adapt its looks to the Windows theme you currently have selected. The browser will also come with built-in note-taking and sharing features, allowing you to ‘select’ any part of a webpage, annotate it, and then share it with your friends or coworkers.

Project Spartan is going to get a reading mode too. This will show you a distraction-free view of the page you’re looking at, with nothing to get in the way of a good reading experience. Think of it like Microsoft’s interpretation of Safari’s Reader Mode. Spartan will have a built-in reading list to complement this mode, and this will be synced across devices naturally.

Finally, Cortana will be inside Spartan, not just Windows 10 as a whole. She will do things to make your life on the Web easier, such as quickly show you weather details, or give you more information about places such as restaurants. She will make the most of the information she has on you, using it in ways that can help you find things out quicker.

Start menu resurrected with Windows 10, but with Live tiles

Windows 10 is taking a step back and forward – the Start menu is back, but unlike the classic menu this one has Live tiles in it. For those who enjoyed the full-screen mode, it’s still on board and is the default for tablet mode.

That’s right, Windows 10 will power both phones as well as tablets and convertibles.

Another change is that the search functionality has been excised from the Start menu and is now part of the dock, making it always visible.

Anyway, switching between the modes is done via the new Continuum feature, which will come especially handy for convertibles. In laptop mode, keyboard and mouse run the show with the compact Start menu. When going into tablet mode you’ll be prompted to switch, which enables the Windows 8-style Start screen.

Microsoft details Xbox integration on Windows 10 – streaming to PC on board

In today’s Windows 10 press event, Microsoft spilled the beans on the Xbox app for its latest OS. The application will be available on every tablet and PC running Windows 10.

Microsoft approached gaming as a highly personal activity with its latest Xbox implementation. System-level features will include messaging and friends list. The Windows 10 app will interact with the Activity Feed, as well as support Steam games.

DVR will arrive to gaming with Xbox for Windows 10 as well. Users will be able to capture and edit gameplay footage just like they do on Xbox One.

DirectX 12 will be part of the graphics subsystem. It will ensure smooth graphics and low power consumption. The popular Unity game engine will also support DirectX 12.

Furthermore, Xbox One users will be able to stream their games to a Windows 10 PC at some point later this year. Microsoft demoed the upcoming feature by playing Forza on a Surface 3.

Microsoft Surface Hub is an 84″ all-in-one computer for the conference room

Remember the Microsoft Surface? No, not the tablet, the large, touch-sensitive table. It never took off, but it’s successor is here and it leverages all the new tech in Windows 10.

The Microsoft Surface Hub was demoed on a massive 84″ 4K touch-sensitive display and it can even detect you when you walk into the room.

The Surface Hub is aimed at businesses and promises to streamline meetings. No more wrangling conference calls and trying to get your presentation files on the projector.

Skype for Business will bring in the people who can’t physically attend while the extensive sync functionality with OneDrive will make your presentation easily accessible.

A special version of OneNote is available when you need to sketch something on the spot. Microsoft promises a fast, lag-free experience, just like you would get from a real marker writing on a whiteboard. This works with mulitple fingers and multiple pens writing on the roomy screen.

The Microsoft Surface Hub packs dual cameras and a mic array for those Skype calls, plus a number of additional “advanced sensors.”

There’s no word on price yet, but we have a feeling this will be one of those “if you have to ask…” type of deals.

Windows 10 will run on phones, share apps with the desktop

Microsoft is unifying Windows 10 for large devices (8+ inch screens) and small devices (phones and small tablets). It has tailored the experience to the size class so you won’t get a large desktop on your small phone, but many shared interfaces will make things feel familiar to users as they switch between form factors.

Developers will be able to create apps that work on a desktop, a phone and even Xbox. Joe Belfiore demoed a special version of Office (still under development) running on a phone, but it will work just as well on a desktop.

The tile-based launcher remains unchanged, but the Settings menu and the Action Center share their base design with the desktop Windows, which will improve the learning experience for users.

The People app will work across device and will aggregate your contacts. The app will let you quickly start a call (regular or Skype) or message a contact. The upcoming Outlook update will feature Tinder-like swipe functionality – left for delete, right for flag. Meanwhile, composing emails will be handled by Word.

Speaking of, Windows 10 will come with a rich set of Office apps – Word, Excel and PowerPoint. They have the full capabilities of their desktop counterparts, but can reflow docs so they fit better on the small screen.

Messaging is now more unified – the default Messages app can handle all Internet-based messaging like Skype, so all messages accross supported services will be in one place (third-party apps need to support it though).

The on-screen keyboard can be moved around to position it more comfortably on phablets. You can also rely on Cortana to transcribe spoken text.

Maps features Cortana integration and the universal app makes it easy to plan a route on a computer and send it to your phone.

Photos is another universal app. It features OneDrive integration and will sync photos from multiple devices, so you can view your entire photo collection from one place. The app will handle duplicates and burst-shots to avoid clutter and automatically group photos in albums. There’s also auto-enhance that handles common issues with photos.

As for upgrades, the Nokia Lumia 1520 has been confirmed it will get the upgrade – it was the device used to demo the OS. However, Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for Windows Phone 8.1 users during the first year of availability. That doesn’t mean some devices won’t be left out though, we’re yet to find out the full details.

The first release of Windows for phones will become available in February to members of the Preview program.

Microsoft’s HoloLens headset is a holographic display for Windows 10

Microsoft is building support for holographic displays into Windows 10, so it only makes sense that the company would make one of those displays, wouldn’t it? Meet HoloLens, an official headset with see-through lenses that merge digital content with the physical. It includes spatial sound so that you can hear things happening behind you in the virtual world, and it even has a dedicated Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) to make sure everything works smoothly. The company is shy about just when it’ll start selling HoloLens, but it should be available “in the Windows 10 timeframe.”
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One thought on “Microsoft Windows 10 event recap: HoloLens, Cortana, Free Upgrade, Project Spartan and More!

  1. That is great news, am a Microsoft fan and i think microsoft is trying to get to the lead in many different fields especially in the gaming industry, now that the XBOX ONE is the lead gaming console competing against SONY’s PS4.

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