Today sees the launch of Windows 10, a free and complete update for the Windows operating system. It follows on from the disaster that was Windows 8, which bombed so spectacularly that Microsoft has skipped Windows 9 altogether. During the development of Windows 10, the company used their ‘Insider Program’ to allow millions of users to test new features and provide feedback during development. The final result is an update that melds the most popular elements of its previous two incarnations; a potent mix of the reassuringly familiar and the enticingly unknown.
One of Microsoft’s foremost priorities is a fresh attempt to tackle the mobile industry, in which its recent track record has been bleak. Only 3% of smartphones use Windows software, so Microsoft will focus on making apps for rivals’ phones like Apple and Google. CEO Satya Nadella hopes that such applications will increase the company’s presence in the mobile market and draw people to purchase Microsoft devices. To this end, Windows 10 is multi-platform, meaning it will be utilised across PCs, smartphones, tables, games consoles and wearables. Microsoft hopes that this universality will make it more attractive for developers to design software for the system, as well as catering to the two enduring camps of mobile and desktop users.
Arguably the most interesting of the update’s additions is Cortana, a smart digital assistant that uses typed or voice commands to assist with daily tasks such as calendar planning and browsing the web. Over time ‘she’ gradually collates information to increase the relevance of her suggestions and the accuracy of her predictions about user behaviour. Microsoft has been quick to address concerns about privacy by making all Cortana’s knowledge visible to the user, giving greater control over exactly how much she learns. In fact, the company has placed a very welcome emphasis on security and overall privacy, with Nadella stating “we’re not trying to sell you advertising...we’re trying to sell you software and devices [that work] on your behalf”. The new Windows Hello – which scans your face or fingerprint – is another step towards ensuring the safety and privacy of your machine.
Its other features serve both useful daily functions, as well as vehicles for grandiose visions of the future. Amongst the former camp is its new browser, Edge, which allows you to annotate a web-page before sharing it with friends or colleagues. Amongst the latter are the virtual-reality possibilities it creates with the forthcoming Hololens headset, a wearable technology which overlays the world with virtual elements and displays. Microsoft expects this to see the most use in the home and workplace, providing it delivers on its impressive stage demonstration.
From now on Microsoft will quietly update the Windows software piecemeal over months and years. As the final large update of the famous operating system, Windows 10 represents both a conclusion and a new beginning for the corporation, as it seeks to improve and expand its influence in other markets. It’s currently staggering release of Windows 10, partially to deal with potential bugs, but you can expect to a consumer version very soon.
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