At an event held in Microsoft’s visitor centre at its Redmond campus, Microsoft unveiled much more information about its next-generation not only of Windows, but of computing.
Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 users for one year, which will create a new ‘Windows as a Service’ to keep all Windows users updated and create one massive platform for developers.
It will deliver Cortana so you can talk to your computer, in a natural voice, saying ‘Hey Cortana’ and asking it to do various things for you.
A new browser called ‘Spartan’ will be the new browser Microsoft wants you to use, with Cortana even appearing as you are typing web addresses or queries to deliver instant answers, such as weather, flights you are tracking and plenty more.
A new touch version of Office will come free on Windows Phones, which is now called Windows 10 also, and has virtually all of the desktop power of Office on your phone, including fantastic document fidelity.
Touch control of Windows tablets has been dramatically improved over Windows 8 and 8.1, delivering the interface that Microsoft should have delivered with Windows 8 but didn’t.
The touch interface is called ‘Continuum’ and it lets you effortlessly switch between tablet touch and desktop Windows modes, far more smoothly than is currently the case.
Windows 10 is fully enterprise ready as well, which is Microsoft’s great hope to get Windows 10 into the enterprise and business environments, allowing much more effortless interaction between desktops, tablets, phones, OneDrive, Office and all your other hardware.
Xbox gaming has come to Windows 10, as has DirectX 12, which can display much more detailed and complex graphics on the same hardware, without chewing through battery life on mobile devices. It also means Windows 10 and Xbox One game players can play together for the first time, and your entire library of Xbox One games can be streamed to any Windows 10 device you own.
Microsoft wants to ensure your Windows 10 experience flows smoothly across all your Windows 10 devices, so your documents, your photos, your contacts, your emails, your everything in Windows 10 is available no matter which Windows 10 device you are using that you have logged into - without compromising security or personal and corporate information.
Universal apps - something Microsoft has promised for a long time - appears to be finally delivered, allowing developers to write programs that will run on Windows 10 desktops, laptops, 2-in-1s, tablets, Windows phones and the Xbox One.
And Microsoft has created a new and independent Windows 10 Holographic headset called Microsoft HoloLens - more details are below.
Here’s my extended look at this morning’s presentation:
First to the stage was Windows boss Terry Myerson, who displays none of the charm of Steve Jobs, and with his seeming initial nervousness, none of the cool and calm collectedness of Tim Cook.
But while he occasionally stumbled over his words, he laid out his initial goals for the first part of the presentation - explaining that feedback from the public was crucially important and was being taken very seriously by Microsoft’s Windows programmers, explaining that we wold see the most comprehensive view yet of new experiences coming to Windows 10, including Cortana, and how Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella would come at the end to discuss Windows and its importance to Microsoft.
At this early stage just minutes into the two hour-plus event, Myerson was still keeping the coming Windows 10 holographic revolution under his hat.
All of this is definitely a MUST SEE presentation that is ready and waiting for you to experience NOW at Microsoft’s site here.
Myerson then re-capped what we learned at the September unveiling of the Windows 10 Technical preview - from the re-introduction of the Start Menu to Windows 10 being the best enterprise platform ever, from Windows 10 supporting the broadest range of devices, from the new touch ‘continuum’ interface that finally delivers the long-awaited, proper touch interface, to universal apps and more.
He then announced that there would be two new device categories launching today, which ended up being an 84-inch 4K touch screen ‘Surface Hub’ computer to revolutionise the collaborative working in meetings, and the new Microsoft HoloLens, a holographic computer you wear on your head to interact with the real world in ways that were once but science fiction but which have now become science fact.
We learned that 1.7 million people have downloaded the current Windows 10 Technical Preview builds and have installed it onto 3 million PCs, with 800,000 pieces of feedback on 200,000 topics already received.
He also made sure to profusely thank the ‘Windows Insiders’ from the public who are helping to shape this new version of Windows and invited anyone to become a Windows Insider at the Windows.com website.
He then explained three things, where I’ve paraphrased because I was typing very quickly:
1. Moving windows from our heritage of a single device to what we’re calling ‘more personal computing’. Mobility of experience - devices are exploding around us. It should be easy to put a device down, pick another up and continue where you left off. The tech needs to get out of the way and deliver mobility of experience.
2. Privacy. You are our customer, not our product. We take privacy seriously.
3. Natural interactions. Interacting with technology should be as natural as interacting with people - pen, touch, voice and even a glance - which means ink, voice, gestures and gaze.
Before Microsoft wrote a single line of Windows 10 code, it create a vision of Windows in use at work, and Windows in use at home, in new ways that hadn’t been done before.
To do this, said Myerson, “We need our work in the hands of our customers. But not just our work but the great work being done by windows developers. Developers are always looking for their next customer, their next million customers and we’re looking to deliver the next billion customers with Windows 10.”
Naturally, Microsoft wants Windows 10 to be as seamless as possible for its customers and developers, and Myerson touted the 200 million people that had ‘seamlessly upgraded’ from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1, and the 650 million that had seamlessly upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 7 SP1.
It’s at this point that Myerson announced that Windows 10 will be available as a free upgrade for Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 users for the first year. Clearly this is to encourage as many people as possible to upgrade as quickly as possible, but whether Microsoft can start charging again after the first year for stragglers who haven’t updated yet is yet to be seen.
All Windows Phone 8.1 users will also get a free upgrade to Windows 10.
This will make Windows 10 a new type of Windows - Windows as a service, which will keep Windows on all these devices current, although enterprises will still be able to run versions of Windows with ‘long term branches and long term support’.
Soon after this, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore came on stage to showcase a wide range of new Windows features. Despite telling us several times that we were looking at ‘early builds’, Belfiore’s presentation went off without a hitch, which has quite possibly never happened before in any Microsoft presentation ever.
Cortana showed it could answer questions with ease, perform PC-based tasks like searching for files across the local device and the cloud, sort through photos, and do much, much more, becoming a true digital personal assistant that learns about you.
We got to see the new touch features dubbed ‘continuum’ that makes the Windows touch experience make a lot more sense while preserving full capabilities for keyboard and mouse users, with effortless switching between the tablet and desktop computing environments, whether on a larger tablet or an 8-inch device.
We finally got to see the new touch-based versions of Microsoft Office on the Windows Phone platform, with what looks like almost the full functionality of the desktop versions but on your phone’s screen, with perfect document formatting fidelity right through to the icons and features from the desktop’s ‘ribbon bar’.
We saw new versions of Outlook email and calendar on Windows 10 computers and phones, which was the same code through Microsoft’s ‘universal apps’ initiative, and with it all synced together.
We saw Windows 10 getting a much better ‘notification and action centre’ giving you ultra fast controls and much better notifications that can be actioned within the notification.
He also showed other features to come in the form of videos in the interests of time.
Likewise, as I race to finish this article, there was much, much more.
Xbox gaming is finally coming to Windows 10, with Windows 10 gamers able to play live with Xbox One gamers. Xbox One games can be streamed and played on any Windows 10 device in your home right from an Xbox controller, with amazing frame rates.
DirectX 12 was released showing vastly improved graphics and complexity compared to DirectX 11 while delivering much better battery life on mobile devices.
You also get the ability to ‘DVR’ games you’re playing so you can effortlessly record yourself playing them to share with others.
We then got to look at Windows 10 on an 84-inch 4K TV touch screen with inbuilt compute, microphones, speakers, dual cameras, Windows 10 and more, with special features to make the whiteboard brainstorming experience amazingly productive, with effortless sharing of content from other devices as well as full Skype for Business integration so people can join and interact in your meetings from anywhere.
The device is called the Surface Hub and Microsoft will clearly be pushing it very strongly to businesses.
Finally we saw the new Microsoft HoloLens presented by Microsoft’s Alex Kipman.
In short, this is a complete computing device you wear on your head, looking like an ultra futuristic pair of glasses. But it needs no wires, no connection to a phone or PC. Put it on and you see a holographic computing interface around you, controlled by voice, eye tracking and gestures - and it looks every bit as science fiction as you can imagine, except that is actually and absolutely real!
Here’s what Kipman said - I was typing fast so there’s some paraphrasing here and there, but you will get the holographic picture:
“A few years ago we started asking ourselves, could we make things so simple that technology would just disappear? Could we make tech more human and easier to control? Windows 10 is more powerful by connecting with your real life - getting content into your real life.
“What if we could take technology and bring it into our world? Just as punch cards turned to keyboards and mice turned to touch, with each advancement in input and output, technology becomes more personal, each advancement reduces the distance between us and technology, each step brings us closer to more personal ways of computing.
“Today we take the next step - we’re not taking about putting you into virtual worlds. I’m really excited about all of the progress with VR - we’re dreaming beyond virtual worlds, beyond screens, pixels and digital borders.
“We’re dreaming about holograms mixed in your world. Welcome to a new era of Windows. Welcome to Windows holographic.
“This is the world of holograms. Today you’ll not only see that holograms are real but every single person in the room will experience holograms for themselves in our labs.
“Humans are constantly processing terabytes of info around us. We are translating all this into very simple signals. Think of catching a ball, we can do this from a very early age - it’s inherent in what makes us human. Imagine if tech had the same sensing capability so that we could see the world as we see it. New ways to interact with technology, communicate, create and explore.
“That’s what we’ve been pursuing and that’s what you get when you mix holograms with the real world.
“Imagine an architect walking around the designs while remote clients are reviewing. A surgeon practicing without picking up a scalpel.
“Maybe this sounds impossible.
“In software, nothing is impossible. Maybe this is improbable but it can become possible.
“Holographic computing is here. Every Windows 10 device has APIs focused on human and environment understanding. It’s in every Windows 10 build from the little screens to the big screens - to no screens at all!
“We have brought new attributes to windows in ways that empower not only developers but device makers to unleash their creativity to the world. Windows holographic was built form the ground up with the same heritage in mind.
“Developers - Windows 10 is yours. Holograms are Windows universal apps - and all universal apps can be made to work with Windows holographic. Unleash your imagination and create experiences not possible on any other device or any other platform.
“We knew we needed more than just software to make holograms in our world a reality. So we invented the most advance holographic computer the world has ever seen.
“I’m incredibly excited to introduce to you Microsoft HoloLens.
“This is the first fully untethered holographic computer. HoloLens is real and this will be available in the Windows 10 timeframe.
“What’s inside? HoloLens has see through high-def holographic lenses.
“HoloLens has spatial sound so we can hear holograms even when they are behind us. Advanced sensors to capture info about what we’re doing.
“HoloLens has a built-in high-end CPU and GPU. But to handle all the processing required we had to go beyond the traditional CPU and GPU. So we invented a third processor - a holographic processing unit. The HPU gives us the ability to understand where you’re looking. Your gestures, your voice. Spatially map the entire world around us and to run without any wires all while processing terabytes of info from all these sensors, all in real time.
“This is all we need to step into the holographic landscape. All we need to create, consume and share holographic experiences.
“HoloLens enables holographic computing natively. No phone, no connection to a PC needed, no wires, no cameras. We believe Windows 10 will make things more valuable, more immersive and more personal.
“Holograms can unleash the experience in all of us.
“Paint and Solitaire helped us experience what a mouse and keyboard is like.
“Holostudio allows you to create your very own holograms, 3D print them and share them with the world.
“Let’s see the first live holographic experience live on Windows 10.”
Here we saw ‘Lorraine’ create a quadrocopter in mid-air. She did it effortlessly and you must see this on Microsoft’s video. It had been 3D printed earlier and when Kipman threw it into the air, it flew!
Microsoft says it has been working on this top secret project for many years and has hidden its top secret lab directly under the visitor centre.
NASA has been using this technology to allow its scientists to virtually walk on the surface of Mars, with NASA set to roll out the HoloLens into the command centre and to control the rovers directly by July.
Satya Nadella then came on stage. He said:
‘What an incredible moment. Just incredible technology. These are the kind of magical moments that we live for. moments of category creation. Windows 10 and holographic computing is one such moment.
“Playing Minecraft, see Skype in a completely new way - mind blowing experiences. Today is a big day - a big day for Windows, a big day for what it means to our customers, parnters and Microsoft. It is about windows and our innovation going forward. New categories, new experiences, new opportunities.
“Also about our ambition and aspiration for Windows and its impact on the world. The fact that there are 1.5 billion users of Windows is incredible humbling. It’s a responsibility that none of us at Microsoft take lightly. But we have bigger hopes and higher aspirations for Windows. We want to move from people needing Windows to choosing Windows to loving Windows.
“I've talked in the past about Microsoft’s mission to empowering every individual on the planet to do more and achieve more. Achieving that mission by being the productivity platform in the mobile first, cloud first world.
“Windows 10 is core to all of that, is central to all of that. Windows 10 is built for a world where everything or nearly everything both at home and work is digitally mediated, when you want to interact with your computer in the most natural ways - speech, touch, ink and now gaze and holographic input.
“A world where there are more devices than people. Windows 10 built for a world where not only are you consuming lots of data and content but where you are generating lots of data about yourself, your environment. You can enhance the very experience across devices.
“Windows 10 ushers in an era of more personal computing in a mobile first, cloud first world. You saw the experiences throughout the day - not just a checklist of features, but that design sensibility that lets us put the personal into computing and build things that centre around you.
“The way we approached certain and it knows you on all your devices and helps you proactively. How Spartan lets you browse, annotate and share the web.
“How Surface Hub makes it easy and really brings the power of the team together in a meeting. The first time I had a chance to see and experience HoloLens and see what a NASA scientist can do to move a rover and walk on Mars was nothing short of surreal.
“These are the experiences that make a Windows 10 personal computing environment that people will love.
“First I want to talk about Windows as a service, talk about Windows and mobility and talk about how does and our cross platform strategy come together.
“When it comes to windows as a service, it’s a pretty profound change.
“It’s much more fundamental, it is about our aligning our goals and success for windows with our customers expectations. For customers they will get a continuous stream of innovation and an assurance their Windows devices are secure and trusted.
"For developers it creates the broadest opportunity to target. For our hardware and silicon partners we can drive hardware innovation. For Microsoft it allows us to think of success, measure it and progress in a way that is aligned with engagement - we want people to love Windows on a daily basis.
‘Windows and mobility - throughout today you saw an explicit focus on mobility and experiences. Not just mobility of any single device but the mobility of the experience across devices. That is what we are focused on. We are building into Windows the experience from productivity, gaming, Spartan, how Xbox Live comes together [and more] to enable that seamless cross-over between devices.
“We also have unified our developer platform, the universal app platform that runs across the phone the pc and the TV - and new categories such as holographic.
“We have unified the application to target the widest set of devices. Monetise as a developer. We believe that will be attractive for developers to write universal apps.
“You saw some hardware innovation that is driving and stimulating demand with surface hub and HoloLens. We will do some fantastic work form the flagship phone to the affordable phone.
“Let me talk a little about our cross platform approach. Simply put, Windows is the best place. It’s the home for the very best Microsoft experiences. We are going to have services everywhere but when it comes to Windows, we are not bolting on apps, we are seamlessly harmonising our experience - the way Cortana is built in, one drive, Skype, Outlook, Xbox - how it is all built in in the most seamless, delightful, personal ways for users.
“That’s what we’re doing with Windows. Services and application end-points everywhere. But we absolutely believe that Windows is home for the very best of Microsoft experiences. There’s nothing subtly about this strategy - a practical approach that is customer first, we want to give ourselves the best opportunity to serve our customers everywhere and the best chance of helping customers to find Windows as their home.
“Let me close out by talking about my own personal experience of Windows. Windows touches all of us, at work and at home. For us who are close to this, each day we are reminded about the enormity of the responsibility we have to move the innovation of Windows forward. For me in the last year I visited a school in the Bronx to see how students there to use PCs to open up a completely new world for themslves, exploring, making things.
“I was in the ICU room with my son who was recovering from surgery. I saw Windows embedded devices and tablets in use by doctors and nurses to take care of him - it can’t be more personal that that.
“I saw a young girl open up a Lumia 530 which was the first computing device for the family. She downloaded Candy Crush and Skype and teached her parents to use these things. This was in India. The delight in that little girl’s eyes left an undeniable impression on me.
“That’s what everyone feels - Terry, Joe, Phil, Alex [and others]- that’s the passion that drives us. Windows, unlike any other product at Microsoft, brings all teams together to build Windows. We are really looking forward to our insiders using Windows - this is one of the most collaborative versions of Windows. We want to make Windows 10 the most loved release of Windows.”
At this point Terry Myerson came back on stage to close the show and promise incredible things to come at Microsoft’s upcoming conferences, from MWC in Barcelona to WINHEC in China and others.
In a closing video, the video ended by stating: “Windows will always be for people who do because the people who do are the ones who move the world forward.”
There was then an invitation to “join us as insider.windows.com”.
To view the entire MUST SEE event for yourself, click here.