Windows 10 release date, features, consumer preview news and how to download
Microsoft skips a version by announcing Windows 10 instead of 9. We bring you all the details
After the failure of Windows 8 it was hoped that Windows 9 was going to make everything better. Turns out that it won’t, as Microsoft has jumped straight to Windows 10. Apparently, the naming convention has got something to do with the company wanting to make it clear that this is the final big version of the Windows OS (we’re not sure we follow), and that more regular, incremental updates would be rolled out from now. An OS with the number 10? Incremental updates? We wonder where Microsoft got that idea...
Naming aside, the exciting thing is that Microsoft seems to have truly learned from the terrible Windows 8 experience and has realised that foisting the Modern UI, Start Screen, Metro, or any of the other names it’s had interface on people wasn’t the smartest idea.
ONE OS, MANY DEVICES
Windows 10 has been designed to run on a wide variety of devices, including desktop PCs, laptops, Xbox, phones and tablets. While it may sound like we’ve been there before with Windows 8, Windows 10 is designed to adapt to the advice it’s on and adjust the user experience to match. Desktop-wise, which is where Windows 8 really went wrong, it means a far better user experience back to the good days of Windows 7; on a tablet without a keyboard or mouse, the current Windows 8 touch interface will be available. Some modes won’t be available on some devices. For example, on a phone there will be no desktop.
RETURN OF THE START MENU
As widely leaked in the run up to the official announcement, the Start Menu that everyone has been clamouring for is back. It’s got everything that we know and love about the Start Menu, including short-cuts for apps and a search bar. There’s also a section of it that can be customised with Windows 8-style Live Tiles and shortcuts. It’s a definite improvement and at least these apps are easier to ignore here.
It’s clear that Microsoft is going to have to do some work with the Live Tiles, as shortcuts to Desktop apps can look a little under-designed and out of place. Take a look at the Office shortcuts in the screenshot below to see what we mean.
Apps, desktop programs and folders can all be pinned to the Start Menu, so that you’ve got access to your most commonly used items. Thankfully, those horrendous scroll bars from the leaked images have gone, replaced with much neater and more modern ones.
WINDOWS APPS RUN ON EVERYTHING
With Windows 10, any app available from the Windows Store will work on any and all devices. That means that you can have the same set of apps on your phone, desktop and tablet.
From Microsoft’s point of view, it will hope that this will convince more developers to write apps for its system, as they’ll only have to write one version for all systems. Of course, this refers only to Windows 8-style apps, as regular desktop applications will be installed and run in the same way as they have always been.
For desktop users, Windows apps will run in a Window, where they can be maximised, minimised and shut down using the Taskbar buttons. It remains to be seen if desktop users can be convinced to run the far-more simplistic Windows apps, rather than the desktop programs that they’re used to.
TASK-VIEW BRINGS EXPOSE-STYLE MODE TO WINDOWS
Microsoft hasn’t really updated the Windows task switcher before, with only the rather-pointless Windows Vista Flip 3D added into the mix, which let you scan through open apps in a strange 3D view. With Windows 10, Microsoft is adding a genuinely useful task switcher. As with Mission Control (previously Expose on OS X), the new mode, called Task-view, displays all of your open windows, apps and documents, so you can quickly switch between them.
As any user of Linux or OS X will know, having multiple virtual desktops is a great way to increase productivity. It lets you quickly move between different groups of apps, keeping your computer well organised. For the first time natively, Windows 10 will have multiple desktops built in. You'll be able to launch separate instances of programs and Explorer windows and toggle between virtual desktops for streamlining multitasking.
It’s fair to say that Windows has always had the best windows management system, with the Snap system letting you quickly move an app to go full-screen or take up half the screen. This time around, Microsoft has added a quadrant system to Snap, so you can have up to four windows neatly aligned on your desktop. This should make it a little more useful for multitasking, particularly when working on a 2560x1440 or greater screen resolution.
Although there were rumours that the operating system was going to be a free upgrade to Windows, Microsoft certainly didn’t say that in its announcement. In fact, it made no mention of price at all. This leads us to believe that there will be a similar desktop pricing structure as currently exists. That means roughly £70 for a single user home licence, although Microsoft may still surprise us.
Windows 10 was initially revealed in September at a small developer-focused event in San Francisco, but it isn't set to get a full commercial release until 2015. We don't have an exact date yet, but sources speaking to The Verge have suggested that Microsoft will be hosting a small event in January to reveal the Windows 10 consumer preview. This will be widely available for enterprising users to trial, in order for Microsoft to stamp out any remaining bugs before a full release. As well as revealing new features, it is also expected to announce a new touch interface known as Continuum and will likely show how Windows 10 will work across phones, tablets and the desktop. We may even get a Windows 10 dashboard update for the Xbox One. As soon as the consumer preview is made available we'll update this article with links to the download.
From what we’ve seen so far, Windows 10 is definitely a step in the right direction for the company. Our review of Windows 8 said that it felt oddly like two unrelated operating systems; Windows 10 looks set to change that, giving desktop users what they want.