The upcoming features in Windows 10

The upcoming features in Windows 10
Screenshot of Windows 10, a new operating system from Microsoft.

Return of the Start menu: Windows 10 brings back the Start menu, though it now looks like a mash-up of the Windows 8 Start screen (with the Live Tiles) and the traditional Start menu of Windows 7. The power button is also back, so you will know how to shut down the device properly.

Multiple desktops: As with other modern operating systems, it is now possible to have multiple desktops in Windows 10. This is useful for those who need more desktop real estate for short cut icons, or who prefer to organise their stuff for a clean, uncluttered desktop environment.

Windowed Modern apps: Remember those tile-based apps in Windows 8? In Windows 10, they can look more like traditional desktop apps, with a windowed form and the familiar Minimise, Maximise and Close buttons.

Notifications: Windows 10 adds a new notification centre where the Charms sidebar used to be. Besides aggregating messages from apps, the bottom of this sidebar has commonly used settings such as Display and Wi-Fi.

Latest updates of the operating system

So what did we find out about Windows 10 at the Build conference?

One of the more impressive demos was by Microsoft's corporate vice-president, Mr Joe Belfiore, who showed off the Continuum feature on a Windows 10 smartphone.

Continuum is a feature that smooths the transition between touch and non-touch interfaces for users. Microsoft had illustrated this idea before, using a Windows 10 hybrid device.

When the keyboard is removed, the interface switches to a touch-friendly version and a virtual keyboard pops up when required.

Continuum for Windows phones

It turns out that Continuum works for smartphones too. In the demo at Build, a Windows 10 phone was connected to an external display via HDMI. It was also paired with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

Windows 10 was able to detect these changes and adjust the interface accordingly. The mobile apps on the phone scaled up to fit the larger display and looked almost like desktop apps. Even keyboard short cuts - Ctrl-C for copy and Ctrl-V for paste, for example - worked, despite the fact that this was all running on a tiny phone.

As Microsoft's chief operating officer Kevin Turner eloquently put it: "Think about it, your phone can now become your laptop. All you need is a place to have a big screen and a keyboard and you have all of your technology, all of your data, with you wherever you go."

However, Windows 10 for phones will require new hardwareand and will be launched much later than the PC version.

New billing for Windows Store

Microsoft has been tweaking its Windows Store. It had previously added movies, music and TV shows. The new Store is now a universal app and should look and behave the same across all Windows 10 devices.

The other major change is the inclusion of carrier billing for the Windows Store for all devices.

Users without credit cards will be able to buy apps and content from the Store. Carrier billing is supported by all three Singapore telcos and 90 carriers worldwide.

For developers, Microsoft is introducing new monetisation options, including the ability to accept paid subscriptions for their apps along with video advertisements inside their apps.

The biggest change will probably be the number of apps in the Store, about 650,000 apps currently.

But with new software tools being launched to help developers port their Web, desktop, iOS and Android apps to Windows 10, the number of apps in the Store can only increase.

Interface tweaks

Microsoft has continued to refine Windows 10, based on feedback from the Technical Preview. The latest version 10074 was released during the Build conference and comes with tweaks to the user interface.

For instance, the Live Tile in the Start menu now gets some spiffy animations. The Start menu also gets the translucent Aero Glass theme last seen in Windows 7.

The Cortana personal assistant is now apparently able to answer more types of questions, including telling you the status of a flight and the weather at a certain location. It gets a hamburger menu that opens up to let you access Reminders and other key features quickly. But Cortana does not work in Singapore.

Microsoft has added more functionality to the Windows 10 lock screen. Spotlight can customise itself and change over time, based on how you interact with it. For instance, the screen displays beautiful images taken of the planet, but you can determine what images show up in the future by indicating your preferences.

In time, Spotlight can even recommend certain apps that you should check out, depending on the ones you use. This feature can be disabled, if you feel it is too intrusive.

Finally, Microsoft says that it has added some new system sounds in Windows 10.

Members of the Windows Insider programme can update to the latest Windows 10 build now. ISO images are also available for those who prefer a clean install.

Windows 10 is expected to be released by mid-August in more than 190 countries.

vinchang@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 11, 2015.
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