Microsoft has at last revealed that it will be releasing Windows 10 into the wild on July 29, having teased the free-upgrade operating system for Windows 7 and 8.1 users since its unveiling in January.
But while you can pre-register today, what will you actually be signing up for? Here’s our rundown of all you need to know about the Windows 9-leaping OS for desktop, mobile and, of course, Xbox One.
Windows 10 will come in seven different flavours
There will be quite a few new names to get used to for Microsoft’s universal operating system – seven, in fact. The exact titles are:
Windows 10 Home: The consumer-focused desktop edition.
Windows 10 Mobile: The re-branded Windows Phone for smartphones and tablets.
Windows 10 Pro: A desktop edition for PCs, tablets and 2-in-1s aimed at small businesses.
Windows 10 Enterprise: Builds on Windows 10 Pro with added advanced features designed to meet the demands of medium and large sized organisations.
Windows 10 Education: Designed to meet the needs of schools with academic Volume Licensing.
Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise: Designed to deliver the best customer experience to business customers on smartphones and small tablets.
Windows 10 IoT Core: Windows 10 for other devices and machines such as ATMs and handheld terminals.
The company has also revealed that Windows 10 will be the “last version” of Windows, meaning Windows 10 will receive regular updates rather than an entirely new version of Windows launching after a few years.
How much will it cost to upgrade?
For the first year, from July 29, Windows 10 will be available to upgrade for free if you’re currently running Windows 7 on desktop or Windows 8.1 on a desktop or mobile. Price outside that has yet to be revealed.
Bye bye Internet Explorer – Edge is your new web browser
Microsoft confirmed that its new web browser, Edge, previously codenamed Project Spartan, will come with a new streamlined UI.
Edge is designed to work on both touchscreen and non-touch devices, featuring a minimalist layout and letting users to take notes on top of web pages, using a stylus or finger and the whole thing can be saved – or just a small section – as well as shared with friends. Those without a touch device can also get involved with comment boxes.
Reading mode is coming to the browser, too – this has already been seen on Windows Phone and makes web pages look like pared-back magazine pages. Users can compile an offline reading list to read later, and it supports PDF files.
Cortana is coming for your desktop
As rumoured, Cortana, the Siri/Google Now-alike digital assistant, will make the move to desktop on Windows 10, built into Edge and providing information in the address bar. Microsoft has made her smarter, though, learning more facts using Bing. She’s also a little more conversational and will display pop-up notifications and reminders you have set in the bottom left on your desktop.
If you type weather, she will automatically display it without having to navigate to a page. If you’ve already told Cortana about a flight and you type the company’s name in the address bar, it will display the flight information. Cortana also knows about restaurants and will direct from where you are right now, alongside reviews and the menu.
Microsoft also claims Cortana is more secure and respects user privacy. Cortana only knows what you tell her and it is possible to see exactly what you have told her in the Notebook. Asking Cortana to display the Notebook, you will see everything she has learnt about you from previous voice commands, and she allows users to add or remove anything.
Working on desktop means that Cortana will work with a greater scope of files, so she can find anything you search for within documents, find photos from a certain date or play music you request.
Windows Hello is bringing biometric security
Windows Hello will allow users to unlock their device via facial, iris or fingerprint recognition, in place of a traditional pin or password. Microsoft claims that the feature will bring heightened security, system-wide, using advanced biometric sensors to offer greater protection than a standard password.
Any device with a fingerprint scanner can take advantage of Windows Hello, but specific hardware and software is required for iris and facial recognition. The service works in conjunction with a platform called Microsoft Passport, which authenticates the user’s apps and services.
Windows Hello does not need to store an image of the user’s face as it authenticates them locally, then triggers Passport; so biometric data is not at risk of being stolen. Microsoft Passport will include a broad range of tools that will allow developers to add Windows Hello support to their apps and websites.
Compression algorithm to save storage space?
Microsoft claims that users who upgrade to Windows 10 will save significant storage space. The operating system is said to demand less hard drive space than its predecessors and uses a compression algorithm to free up between 1.5GB and 2.6GB.
Furthermore, Windows 10 no longer requires a separate recovery image to reset a PC to factory settings, and these can occupy as much as 12GB. This particular saving only applies to computers and tablets, as smartphones do not require a recovery image to restore factory settings.
“Through the capacity savings of system compression and recovery enhancements, Windows devices can be lightweight and highly mobile, yet, when you need it, have the full capabilities of the Windows OS,” said Microsoft in a blog post.
Universal apps for everybody
Microsoft is making a family of apps that will run on mobile and PC seamlessly using the same code, making it easier for developers to create apps for multiple platforms.
But Windows 10 will also include a unified storefront that brings together apps, movies and music, so customers will no longer have to jump between Xbox Music and Xbox Video to download media, as all entertainment content will be placed under a single umbrella.
Elsewhere, Photos is a new app that will store your photos automatically on OneDrive and sync them directly from your smartphone to your PC, while storing them locally, too. It also has auto-enhance features (red eye removal, brightness adjustment etc) but you can do it manually as well if you choose.
To make things easier, Windows 10 will create albums automatically by detecting the place, time and people that are in a series of photos (sounds very much like Google Photos).
A People app aggregates everyone you know across social networks and lets you perform quick actions like making a call, while it’s also possible to use the Maps app on your desktop to find an alternative route and sync it directly to your smartphone.
The Start Menu is returning to the left-hand corner but will be fuller than before, while those who like the Charms Menu can still access the full screen view from the Start Menu. Meanwhile, Setting and the Control Panel are being simplified and combined into one on all devices.
Windows 10 will also run reworked iOS and Android apps.
Microsoft Music gets a Spotify makeover
Windows 10’s revamped Music app was glimpsed up close after an official screenshot appeared on an Xbox support page. The software appears to sport an overhauled interface and a darker colour scheme that is reminiscent of Spotify’s latest apps.
Indeed, the Music app is evolving to allow music to be stored on OneDrive and accessed on other Windows 10 devices. This is a different application to the default Music player included in Windows 10 Technical Preview, which can be downloaded now and has a similar design to its Windows 8 counterpart, displaying songs ripped from the user’s CD collection, hosted in OneDrive or purchased from digital music stores, as well as playlists and tracks from the Xbox Music catalogue.
Windows 10 Mobile is a big reboot – but you’ll have to wait
Windows Phone devices say hello to Windows 10 Mobile – and some big changes. Smartphones can now act almost exactly like a full PC when connected to an external screen. Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore demonstrated the ‘Continuum’ functionality, but warned that it will only work on future smartphones using Windows 10 and not on current Windows Phone devices.
When hooked up to a larger display, the Windows Phone main screen will appear as the Start Menu and when apps are opened they look just as they would on an ordinary PC. The feature is being made possible by Microsoft’s efforts to make apps universal, so that the same app will run on smartphones, tablets, computers and Xbox, and adjust screen size automatically.
Similarly, Microsoft is pushing the idea that you can work seamlessly from desktop to tablet, too, using a Surface device. With the Type Cover attached, Windows 10 will work in desktop mode as you would usually expect, but as soon as you remove it, it will convert to tablet mode by removing the Taskbar and expanding apps into full screen. A prompt appears asking whether you want to enter tablet mode and vice versa.
On a smaller scale, Windows 10 Mobile will now feature the same settings menu that exists on desktop, while recently installed apps will now appear at the top of the full app list menu, and Quick Actions shows more options.
Messages are being integrated with Skype, so that all communications between contacts are displayed in one place, while Office apps for Word, Excel and PowerPoint are being improved with the same Ribbon menu across all of them, as well as Outlook mail.
However, Windows chief Joe Belfiore has admitted that Windows 10 Mobile is likely to come out a bit later in the year than Windows 10 for PCs.
“Our phone builds have not been as far along as our PC builds,” he told the Build developer conference in April. “We’re adapting the phone experiences later than we’re adding the PC experiences.
“From the device view, our main focus is to kick off the Windows 10 launch wave with a great launch on the PC. You should expect that the other devices – phone, HoloLens, Xbox, Surface Hub – will be staggered, probably not on the same date as the PC.”
If you need further advice or help with upgrading to, or setting up Windows 10, please contact Henley Computer Support.