Technical preview versions of Windows 10 have been out there for months and have already started to get reviews from testers, but Microsoft had a big Windows 10 event last week anyway. Part progress report and part consumer preview, the event also served as a reminder than the much-maligned Windows 8.1 is not long for this world.
One thing that got immediate attention: Microsoft announced that for the first year, Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users. Windows Phone 8 users also get the free update.
To recap previous peeks, yes, the Start Menu — or a variation thereof — is back into the system, no add-on software required. Also, instead of having the old familiar Windows Control Panel in the Desktop Mode and the colorful “Change PC Settings” world of Windows 8 off the Charms bar, Windows 10 brings all the system settings into one place.
And speaking of that frustrating hybrid of desktop and Modern UI, there’s a Continuum feature that automatically switches the interface between the more desktop-y mode with floating windows to the full-screen app style of the touch interface. The Notifications Center, or Action Center, will let you adjust settings with one click.
That new streamlined “Project Spartan” browser (still a code name) has been confirmed for the Windows 10 mix. Among other things, it’s got markup and a reading list function built in so you can spend more quality time with your webpages.
As previously leaked to Windows Watchers, Cortana, the voice-activated personal assistant from Windows Phone is coming to Windows 10. You can verbally command Cortona to pull up files and photos, just like those computers do in the movies. The Xbox and Windows X, er 10, are also going to be getting a lot closer.
However, it was the HoloLens headset and its gesture-based holographic projection system that got most of the attention at the Microsoft event. These augmented-reality goggles were demoed (and some journalists got to try them out) for the first time in front of an audience, and earned a number of predictable ooohs and aaahs.
Microsoft managed to cram in quite a bit into the event (check out the video supercut from The Verge to see the highlights) and the company’s shift into a more nimble, less-tied-to-selling-boxed-copies-of-Windows way of life has gotten praise. But it may be the HoloLens that got developers and other techies excited about Microsoft again — after the high-tech goggles were unveiled, tickets for Microsoft’s 2015 Build Conference sold out in less than an hour. Game on, Apple and Google.