BreakingModern — In the past decade Microsoft has been a staid, lackluster company producing mundane software and services while reacting slowly to important technology trends. After the introduction of the ill-fated Windows 8, no one expected much from the lumbering Windows giant, but MS’s recent announcement about Windows 10 has tweaked everyone’s expectations.
The first, and to many the most important announcement, was that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for one year after its release. Although I had predicted that Windows 10 would be free to Windows 8 and 8.1 users, I was surprised to discover that Microsoft had extended its free offer to Windows 7 users, as well. After thinking about it, though, it made perfect sense. Since many enterprise users have never updated to Windows 8, this is a good way to get Windows 10 entrenched in the business arena. While this was a welcome change from the usual Windows software upgrade, it certainly wasn’t groundbreaking. After all, Android, Mac and iOS users have been getting free operating system upgrades for quite a while.
Another somewhat expected announcement was that Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant, will be included in Windows 10. Apple’s Siri was released three years ago, and Microsoft’s Cortana only made her appearance on Windows phones this past April, so most people think that Siri has a big advantage. In fact, the opposite is true.
For one thing, Cortana was inspired by the artificially intelligent character of the same name in the Xbox Halo games — and that means she’s been around for 10 years. For another thing, Cortana’s voice is softer and less artificial than Siri’s. She also supports more-natural language than Siri, which makes you feel like you’re talking to a person rather than a computer. Microsoft says more improvements to Cortana are in the works, and when complete, Windows 10 will let you simply say,“Hey, Cortana” to ask her to set reminders, find files or get information.
Microsoft also announced that along with Windows 10, it would release a new headset called HoloLens. This would be used with Windows 10 as an augmented reality device. It would enable the user to interact with 3-D holographic images that are superimposed on the user’s real surroundings. Other companies like Oculus VR (now owned by Facebook), Google, Samsung and Sony have done serious work in the areas of augmented and virtual reality. But, depending on its release date, HoloLens may be the first useful (and consumer-based) device of its kind. Although Microsoft has touted its HoloLens for building 3-D models and holding immersive videoconferences with colleagues, its demonstration showed a version of Minecraft, a popular video game, with the user blowing a virtual hole in a coffee table to see imaginary lava flow beneath it.
Windows 10 will also bring back the Start menu and will automatically switch between the traditional desktop and the Metro desktop depending on your hardware. It will also have Spartan, a newly refreshed web browser (goodbye Internet Explorer!) and Surface Hub, a team-collaboration device.
It’s all very exciting. If Microsoft can make this new technology work seamlessly it may have gotten back in the game. And if so, this game will be fun to watch!
For BMod, I’m Sandy Berger.
All screenshots: Sandy Berger courtesy of Windows