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January 28, 2015 — by KEN PERKINSSHARE ARTICLE
This week for our Wireless Wednesday post, we wanted to take a closer look at the Windows event that took place today. PC Mag published a great round-up article that includes everything you need to know about what’s new with Microsoft. Take a look–
Microsoft today provided an early look at what consumers can expect in Windows 10, from Cortana on the desktop to a totally revamped Web browser, dubbed Project Spartan. Oh yeah, and holograms (seriously).
When the OS does make its debut (in late 2015), Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for those currently running Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1, Executive Vice President of Operating Systems, Terry Myerson, said during a press event in Redmond.
Meanwhile, Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division, promised that “gaming on Windows 10 will be more social and interactive,” thanks to the Xbox app, which will be loaded on all Windows 10 devices.
Microsoft first showed off Windows 10 in the fall during a small, business-focused event. It took a different approach than in the past, opening up an early build of the OS to developers in order to get feedback. Since the launch of the Windows 10 preview, 1.7 million developers signed up to test out the OS, installing it on more than 3 million devices, Myerson said today. They shared more than 800,000 pieces of feedback on over 200,000 topics, “and our team is really embracing this feedback and leaning in to this open development process,” he said.
That feedback has helped inform some of the features Microsoft showed off today. Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President of the Operating Systems Group, stressed that everything on display today was in the early stages, but “it’s our psychology now to involve people in that development process.”
Among the things he showed off was Cortana on the PC. Microsoft’s digital assistant has been integrated into the desktop, where she will live—listening, learning, and serving up tidbits of information she believes you will find useful.
You can summon Cortana by voice (“Hey Cortana, will I need a coat tomorrow?”) or type a query, Belfiore said. The more you use Cortana, the smarter she will become, though you can edit what she knows about you.
Cortana will also play a role in Microsoft’s new browser, currently codenamed Project Spartan. Right-click on an item displayed on a webpage, and ask Cortana for more information about it. She might also pop up unannounced to tell you that the restaurant whose website you are browsing has menu items that work with your diet.
Project Spartan, Belfiore said, features a new streamlined user interface that fits in with the design landscape of Windows 10 and puts the focus on the content of a webpage. With Spartan, you can draw or write notes on a website (using a touch screen or by typing on a keyboard), which can then be shared or saved to a program like OneNote.
Microsoft also wanted to improve the reading experience on Spartan, so it features a reading mode for a standardized view of Web content, as well as built-in support of PDF files.
Belfiore also showed off the apps that Windows 10 users can expect, all of which will have a similar look and feel no matter what Windows 10 device you are using (PC, tablet, or phone).
Word, Excel, and PowerPoint will be included on all Windows 10 phones and tablets, he said, and provide a “highly rich and complete experience,” like the familiar Office ribbon and wireless printing.
Redmond has been working on a new universal app for Outlook, he said, which will allow for easy email organization: swipe left to delete, right to flag – no matter which device you’re using.
Belfiore also demoed revamped apps for Calendar, Photos, People, Music, and Maps, which will include – among other things – automatic photo album creation, music support in OneDrive for playlist syncing, and Cortana remembering where you parked your car.
On the gaming front, meanwhile, Spencer showed off a DVR function that will let you record gameplay – including the previous 30 seconds, in case you want to remember a particularly epic play.
Every Windows 10 PC and tablet will have the Xbox app, according to Spencer, who talked up the power of DirectX 12. Power consumption is cut in half when compared to DirectX 11, he said, which is important as mobile games continue to soar in popularity.
“None of this is possible if we’re not getting adoption from studios,” Spencer said; Epic has already signed on, and the exec said today that Unity has also adopted DirectX 12.
The most unexpected part of today’s press event, however, was Microsoft’s introduction of Windows Holographic, a hologram-based virtual reality offering intended to bring you “beyond screens, beyond pixels, and beyond today’s digital borders,” Redmond said.
Those equipped with the Microsoft HoloLens will be able to see and interact with items in front of them – from a screen displaying Netflix movies to a model needed for work. Microsoft had researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) describe how Holographic has been used in their Mars rover work.
All Windows universal apps will work with Windows Holographic, according to Microsoft, which invited developers for Oculus VR, Leap, and Google Glass to “come create holograms with us.”
The HoloLens headgear, meanwhile, includes see-through holographic lenses, spatial sound, advanced sensors, and a built-in, high-end CPU and GPU. To handle the required processing, Microsoft said it “invented” a third processor that understands gestures and voice, and “can spatially map the entire world around us.”
It will run without wires and will not require a connection to a phone or PC. Microsoft promised a release in “in the Windows 10 timeframe,” but did not elaborate.
Meanwhile, Redmond also showed off an 84-inch 4K display, dubbed the Microsoft Surface Hub, which is essentially a huge whiteboard plus video-chat screen for businesses.
Click here to see this PC Mag article in its original context.