Free Software, Shared Apps, And Frickin’ Holograms: What You Need To Know About Windows 10

Microsoft just rolled out a fancy new operating system, Windows 10, and new hardware to go with it. And it’s a substantial change in some respects, both for Windows and for Microsoft. Here’s what you need to know.

It’ll Be In Everything Microsoft Makes

First of all, if you’ve got a Windows Phone, a Surface, or just a laptop running 8, 10 is the new hotness. It’s a multiplatform OS. Which isn’t the biggest surprise considering the tablet-like look of Windows 8, but it’s still a bold move that not even Apple has fully pulled off yet.

Apps Will Be Shared Across All Platforms

Yep, if you’ve got Office on your tablet, it means you have Office on everything else. Yes, that’s including the Xbox One; finally, the dynamism of formulas on the big screen! How that’s going to work is anyone’s guess, but it definitely seems like Microsoft is committed to giving you the same experience no matter what you’re doing. Speaking of Office…

Office Comes Free For Phones And Tablets

Obviously this is aimed squarely at people with desk jobs, but it’s a not-inconsiderable step, and it’s a lot better than their previous attempts to make you a “subscriber” to Office.

It’s Free For The First Year, If You’ve Got A Recent Operating System

When Windows 10 becomes available, it’s free if you’ve got Windows 7, 8.1, or even Windows Phone 8.1. You’ll have to pay if you wait more than a year, but not many people are going to.

Cortana Is Everywhere, And Useful

Yes, we know, nobody actually uses Cortana. But if you like to talk to your computer for practical reasons instead of just being lonely, it can now take commands.

More interesting, though, is that Cortana is part of Microsoft’s new browser, which learns why you use websites and just takes you right to what you want. Microsoft demonstrated that by having it go to a restaurant’s site and Cortana taking you straight to the menu and hours, and sending you directly to the flight tracker on an airline website.

PC Gaming Is A Big Focus

Essentially, Microsoft wants everyone PC gaming to be on Xbox Live, which they’re calling a “social network.” Furthermore, Windows 10 will ship with a DVR of sorts that will record gameplay and let you post your triumphs online, operating much like the Xbox One’s share feature.

They’ve also substantially upgraded DirectX, and the new Xbox Live functionality will let console users and PC gamers play together in what will surely be a seamless integration that will bring joy to both parties. Oh, and there are also achievements, and if you pair your Xbox One to your PC, you can stream your console games to it.

Not spoken but heavily implied is the statement that “apps” can be easily brought to the Xbox One. The word “Steam” is never mentioned in this context, but we all know what Microsoft is thinking, here.

Parody Has Been Made Reality

Hey, remember this?

Seven years later, Microsoft’s putting out an 84″ 4k display that can basically be used as a computer, a TV, or a digital whiteboard. But let’s face it: It’s the table of Microsoft’s dreams. They built the table. They just hung it on a wall.

And Finally, Frickin’ Holograms

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Microsoft also wants you to put on a headset so you can see holograms. Really. I’m not making this up. Microsoft has what’s probably best called an “augmented reality” technology where you put on a visor and can see holograms overlaid in the world around you. It’s wireless, has a “holographic processing unit” and is a standalone device. It can understand voice commands, it can read your gestures, and it will probably be used almost exclusively by nerds, perverts, and the rather large intersection between the two.

In other words, it’s basically Microsoft’s version of Google Glass, except it’s actually a standalone product and Microsoft isn’t pretending it’ll be the next iPod. And it’s coming this year, possibly with Windows 10.

What It All Means

Basically, Windows 10, and the associated products, are a two-fold bid, here. The first is to get people back to using Windows outside of work, either by catching up with or by leapfrogging their competitors. It’s telling that throughout this presentation, Microsoft used every possible form factor and that Windows 10 can be used on pretty much anything with a processor, not to mention how tightly they want to integrate Xbox and PC on the gaming front.

The second is to reinvent itself. True, their technology seems aimed squarely at businesses, which makes sense as that’s their biggest market. But Microsoft’s increasing appetite for risk and willingness to get weird is highly welcome and lights a fire under a few of the more complacent tech companies. We probably won’t be wearing holographic headsets in the near future, but that Microsoft is willing to roll the dice on them speaks volumes.