In recent years, Microsoft has tried very hard to impress, but failed to make any breakthroughs. You wouldn’t know it watching the company’s PowerPoint presentation on Wednesday. It was a set-piece event that showed off some remarkable new features that users can look forward to with Windows 10 — a new, free, cross-platform version of the venerable operating system.
To accompany the hype, Microsoft soft-launched the latest build to the general public. Although it doesn’t have everything the final version will contain, it already provides a distinct flavor of what is to come.
Perhaps the biggest news is the arrival of Cortana on desktop. This talking form of AI has won plaudits on Windows Phone, but now, it is possible to utilize her many talents on PC. These include seeking out requested information, offering reminders about your schedule, and even performing basic tasks, such as composing an email.
Internet Explorer’s demise has been expected, and it has now been sealed in style with the introduction of Spartan. The new browser, which Microsoft clearly sees as its answer to Google’s Chrome, will work across all Windows-powered devices. Along with a Safari-style reading list — complete with offline access and PDF support — Spartan allows you to annotate web pages. While IE is still the browser provided in the current build, an early version of Spartan is evidently not far away.
Gamers should also be very happy with the release. Any PC running Windows 10 will be able to connect to your Xbox, and run the games natively. As Microsoft’s Vice President, Joe Belfiore, suggests in the launch video, this will no doubt save many familial squabbles over the TV.
Overall, however, the major theme was a push for integration. Microsoft is focusing on making all its apps truly universal, with the likes of Mail and Photos receiving a new lick of paint to maintain the same look and feel across all Windows-powered devices. Windows Phone users will rejoice at the reintroduction of SMS into the Messaging app, along with proper Skype support.
You can try out this semi-beta version of Windows 10 now, but there’s no need to rush — the finished version will be free. As a committed Mac user, it almost makes me want to get a PC.
You can watch a re-run of the event here.