Microsoft took to the stage on the 21st of January to show off a number of new features in the latest build of Windows 10, which they claim has three focus points for the end user: “Mobility”, “Trust”, and “Natural actions”. These focus points were called out by Microsoft’s Terry Myerson, who then went on to expand on each point, some better than others.
Myerson really tried his best to make natural actions and mobility sound exciting in the introduction, but nothing really seemed “new” here. However, he went on to explain that Windows 10’s security is ramped up, and how the security could have prevented recent high profile hacks – something that will undoubtedly appeal to enterprise customers. This then took Myerson onto Windows update and how Windows should be thought more of “Windows as a service” being constantly updated, maintained and improved by customer feedback.
Windows as a service sounds VERY intriguing and exciting idea – especially as the introduction went on to talk about mobility. Here we were promised that you could take your desktop experience with you across any device, such as tablets, phablets and mobile phones, something which they tried to achieve through Windows 8, but now with a name: “Continuum”.
Skipping forward, Joe Belfiore took the stage to show off this mobility and latest features in the Windows 10 builds, such as the search bar built into the task bar – which looks to incorporate Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Siri and Google Now, right into your desktop. The interface on a desktop PC/Laptop really doesn’t differ too much from Windows 8’s desktop mode, but there is a definite improvement on the start menu which is warmly welcomed by users who prefer the older style start buttons before Windows 8.
The mobility focus point now manages to gain more interest as Belfiore lifts his Surface Pro 3 off the keyboard peripheral and is prompted to enter “tablet mode”. After entering tablet mode Windows 10 the application in focus is switched full screen and the user can easily swipe from the left of the screen to flip between windows. In tablet mode, the start menu is displayed full screen for easy tap controls which will be familiar to the Windows 10 users. Further transformations take place when scaling down to 8inch tablets relying more on gestures to control applications, such as swipe down to close applications.
Windows Phone 10 now gets its place on stage running on the Lumia 1520 and it looks just like Windows 8 with the live tiles showing information stacked on the home screen, however it allows your own custom background. It does, however, look very fluid, with animations running smoothly as well as the transition between apps.
Next, Head of Xbox Live, Phil Spencer takes to the stage to show off the Xbox Live app which is installed on every Windows 10 device by default. It looks set to evoke gamer’s interest in Windows 10 with access to their Xbox Live friends, achievements and cross platform party chat right from their PC. Something that will come in very useful as Fable Legends was demoed on stage showing cross platform co-op multiplayer. It looks as though Microsoft are trying out technology similar Nvidia’s “SHIELD” technology and the Wii U, as you will now also be able to stream games from your Xbox One to any Windows 10 device which looks very promising.
After a quick demo of the friend’s Xbox news feed including clips from a friends Minecraft world, Game DVR was shown off for the first time. There appeared to be a record button which records clips for as long you wish, but then we were shown an option that was used to record the past 30 seconds of video, similar to Xbox One’s recording features. This should be very well received by the gaming community as it eliminated third party paid software, and given close ties with the streaming community Twitch I’m sure we can expect to see streaming directly to twitch integrated too.
Finally, before leaving the stage, Phil Spencer announced that Windows 10 will be coming soon to Xbox One. Given that the Xbox One has an 8 core 64-bit processor, we may even see some Win32 applications available to run on the Xbox One, something which could really aid in turning your Xbox One into an all in one Home Theatre PC!
The nervous Alex Kipman, the visionary who brought us the Kinect took to the stage to unveil what has set the internet alight and delivered what sci-fi movies have promised us for decades. Holograms. A trailer was played on Microsoft’s new Surface Hub “Whiteboard – gone touchscreen TV with webcams” which shown a home littered with these virtual objects – from a TV on the wall playing Netflix, all the way down to decorative landscapes projected on the kitchen worktops. At this point, you can see the journalists in front of the stage frantically tweeting and taking photos of the trailer.
A small white podium with a white cloth draped over was brought onto the stage, where Kipman announced that he had been working on the product named Microsoft HoloLens for the past 7 years, right under the visitor centre in California. Then proceeded to unveil the device that looks almost like high tech snow goggles. The HoloLens features full spatial sound, and “Advanced sensors” which allow it to be able to tell exactly where your gaze is focused in the 3D world. The HD lenses are transparent and it appears that it doesn’t obstruct your view in any way, offering the best immersion in the surrounding world augmented with the holograms.
Seeing the introduction video for these glasses was exciting, but it seemed almost too good to be true. Would it really look like what we saw? Could we really stream Netflix via a floating screen pinned to the wall whilst playing a game of 3D Minecraft on the coffee table?
The live demo answered these questions with a yes – showing off Microsoft HoloStudio, a helpful assistant named Lorraine took to the stage to create a 3D model in front of the audience – a Quad copter. She began by opening HoloStudio by looking at the HoloStudio tile and with a quick curl of the index finger, the application started – plonking a virtual toolbox down beside her. She instantly got to work creating the first arm of the quad copter and used the “mirror” command to clone the second arm, and again for the final arms. It really became impressive when she was rotating the whole model in real time without any sort of jumping, just smooth actions.
Overall Windows 10 looks to be very impressive and we can’t wait to see it when it’s release ready. With many new features available in addition to the visual overhaul to return to a more classic Windows feel it should see much higher adoption rates than Windows 8 did – this is without even mentioning it’s a free upgrade from Windows 7, 8, and 8.1. Gamers who watched the keynote weren’t left out either with the announcement of DirectX12 and the new Xbox App built into Windows 10.
All of this, however, we can’t help but feel has been overshadowed by the HoloLens – we’ve only seen it in action for a couple of minutes but already we want to see more and hear about the price tag. More importantly, when can we get our hands on them?