SINGAPORE - By now, you would probably have heard that the next version of Microsoft's operating system will be called Windows 10. The software giant skipped a version number because it believes that the upcoming version is a significant improvement over the much-maligned Windows 8.
Windows 10 will be available sometime in 2015, though you can sign up for the Windows Insider Program for access to an early version. (This is an early technical preview recommended only for tech-savvy folks). Here's what we know so far:
1. Back by popular demand: The Start Menu
The Start Menu is now a hybrid of Windows 7 and Windows 8. - Microsoft
The Start Menu may be back, but it looks like a mash-up of the traditional Windows 7 version with the tile-based Modern user interface (UI) of Windows 8.
At a glance, you can see updates such as the weather or new e-mails. At the same time, you can pin favourite apps to the Start Menu and open them directly. Search results from the Internet will also be shown if you use the Start Menu's search box.
2. Multiple desktops
You can now have multiple virtual desktops to increase the amount of desktop real estate. - Microsoft
A feature that has been present on OS X (Spaces) and Linux, multiple virtual desktops helps you organise your computer better. You can have a desktop space allocated where you have your personal files, apps open, while another desktop has all your work-related apps running.
To complement this feature, Microsoft has added a Task view button to let you quickly switch between tasks and desktop spaces.
3. Snap enhancements
Another new Windows 10 feature to help with your productivity is the ability to "snap" up to four apps neatly on the screen. Microsoft claims that the operating system will even suggest other open apps to fill up unused screen space.
4. Run Windows Store apps in a window
Apps from the Windows Store can now be resized and moved around, just like desktop apps. - Microsoft
Some of Microsoft's best apps in recent times have been available in the Windows Store, such as the News and Sports apps. These apps are designed for the Modern UI, but you can now use them on the desktop with Windows 10.
They also behave like any desktop app, which means you can resize them and move them around. This is an improvement from Windows 8.1, which only lets you pin these apps to the taskbar.
5. Switch seamlessly between tablet and laptop modes
Switching between the laptop and tablet modes on Windows hybrid devices such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 can be jarring. To improve this experience - the Continuum feature in Windows 10 will detect how you are using the device and adapt by presenting the appropriate interface.
For instance, if you attach a tablet to a keyboard dock, Windows 10 will know and ask if you would like to switch to the Windows desktop.
What we do not know yet
Microsoft has left out a lot of details. Despite rumours before the announcement that it will be free for upgraders, Microsoft did not reveal any pricing information.
Microsoft has not mentioned the minimum hardware requirements, except that Windows 10 is intended to work on all devices from desktops to tablets. But this could change when the technical preview is released.
We also have no idea where Microsoft is taking its Windows Phone platform. Is Windows 10 a step towards integrating both platforms into a universal and coherent system for all devices?
This article was first published on October 1, 2014.
Get a copy of Digital Life, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.