Microsoft has, as promised, released further details on its plans for the next-generation Windows 10 - including the fact that, for the first year after launch, it will be a free upgrade for all Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 users.
In a two-hour-plus presentation for press, Microsoft's executives trotted out all the consumer-oriented news relating to its upcoming Windows 10 release. By far the biggest news, but one that has been long expected, was that the operating system will be a free upgrade for anyone running Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 - plus Windows Phone 8.1. Microsoft's largesse is, however, tempered by a time-limit: the free upgrade will apply for the first year after Windows 10 launches, after which anyone who has yet to upgrade will have to shell out for licence. Once upgraded, the company has pledged that it will keep all users up-to-date at no extra charge under a rolling-release system dubbed 'Windows as a Service
.' How far into the future these free rolling releases will stretch was not specified.
Microsoft's Joe Belfiore took to the stage to highlight the new integration features between the mobile and mainstream variants of Windows 10. Some of these are subtle, such as the ability to dismiss entries in the notification system on a smartphone and have it reflected on the desktop, while others are more in-depth - including the integration of Word, Excel and PowerPoint using the desktop Office engine on all Windows 10 mobile devices, bundled with the platform free of charge. Cortana, the Halo-inspired voice-activated personal assistant, will also be coming to the desktop both as a function built into the operating system and as an extension to the browser.
Speaking of the browser, Belfiore showed off the badly-kept secret of Spartan. As per previous leaks, Spartan is a rewritten browser designed to take a leaf out of Chrome's minimalism book. Its biggest feature, however, is in collaboration: any web content can be marked up with PDF-style annotation functionality, either using a touch or keyboard and mouse interface, and sent to other users.
Phil Spencer was next with news about the gaming experience, and as well as talking up the many advantages of DirectX 12 - all covered previously - he showed off the new Xbox for Windows functionality. This, he explained, will bring Xbox One-inspired features to desktop gaming, including the ability to record footage from any game using a 30-second rolling buffer to ensure the beginning of the action isn't missed. A bigger feature was the ability to run a game on an Xbox One and stream it to any Windows 10 device, similar to rival Sony's streaming of PS4 content to a PS Vita hand-held. While unlikely to be of interest to those who have gaming desktops, it does provide access to Xbox exclusive titles when the TV is in use - and, more importantly, its support for Windows 10 tablets mean never missing a match because you needed a toilet break.
A brief interlude for business tasks followed, including a demonstration of the next-generation Surface: an 84" all-in-one PC with a 4K display and various gesture-sensing technologies. It was followed by something Microsoft had, remarkably, managed to keep under its hat for a change: Windows Holographic. A whizz-bang demonstration video showed the concept off: augmented reality for work and play, supported by a device dubbed the Windows 10 HoloLens. This head-mounted display device included a built-in PC with powerful processor and GPU alongside what Microsoft called a 'holographic processor
' designed to accelerated the augmented reality projected onto its transparent visor. A live demo followed, and while relatively impressive several aspects suggested that it wasn't quite as 'live' as the company was claiming.
As well as an open invitation for other companies - with name-drops for Oculus Rift and Leap Motion - to get involved in Windows Holographic, Microsoft showed off its vision for the system: creating 3D objects using a squint-and-gesture interface, then sending said objects to a 3D printer for immediate manufacture. The clunky nature of the interface suggested that making anything other than simple objects would be a challenge, but Microsoft is giving itself time to iron out the kinks: it has committed to releasing the HoloLens 'within the Windows 10 timeframe
,' rather than offering a simultaneous launch.
More information is available on the official website