Microsoft Windows 10 features, release date & news - launching this summer
We dig down into Windows 10 to find out what the free update to Windows 8 and 7 will offer
You have to wonder if Microsoft’s been a little bit Machiavellian with Windows. By giving everyone the much-derided Windows 8, which managed to be a bit rubbish and annoying on touch-screen and desktops alike, it’s now reinstating a whole bunch of features for Windows 10, making it feel like the company’s saving Windows and listening to what we want.
Whatever the reasons behind Windows 10 (and why there’s inexplicably no Windows 9), the truth is that Microsoft seems to have its mojo back and its new OS looks set to make PCs a force to contend with again.
Now, we’ve had a chance to take a close look at Windows 10 thanks to a live demonstration by Microsoft’s corporate vice president of operating systems, Joe Belfiore. Here’s everything you need to know about the OS, plus when it will be released and how much it will cost.
CONFIRMED: Windows 10 is launching in summer
The good news is that we don't have long to wait until Windows 10 is released, as Microsoft has finally confirmed that its new operating system will be launched this summer. Given that the company has yet to release a consumer preview of the OS, sticking with a less-developed Technical Preview, it means that Microsoft is working on a tighter schedule that with previous generations of Windows.
"We continue to make great development progress and shared today that Windows 10 will be available this summer in 190 countries and 111 languages," wrote Terry Myerson, the Windows chief, on a Microsoft blog.
What we don't know from this statement is what 'available' means and how we'll be able to get the operating system. Given that Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will be a free update for Windows 7 and 8 users, it's feasible that as soon as the new OS is complete and Released to Manufacturing (RTM), it could be available as a free download. We'll have to wait a little longer to find out for sure, but we'll bring you more information as we have it.
You can get Windows 10 TODAY (if you’re brave)
Microsoft launched the Technical Preview last year, putting out an updated version of the OS after the Windows 10 unveiling. While you can no longer sign up for the programme, you can download the ISO from alternative mirrors and take a look at the operating system yourself. Be careful, as this is very early software and isn’t as stable or as reliable as the Consumer Preview, which we’re bound to see in the next couple of months. If you want to see Windows 10 in action, though, our in-depth guide on how to install the Windows 10 Technical Preview now shows you how to get it running on a fresh PC, with a dual-boot configuration and on a virtual machine.
It's goodbye Internet Explorer and hello Spartan
For the first time since 1995, there will be no Internet Explorer web browser, with Microsoft shifting to its new lightweight Spartan browser, which will run on everything from phones to workstation PCs. Spartan is only a codename at the moment, with Microsoft yet to pick the final name for its browser.
Microsoft has announced that Spartan will not have an option to render as IE, and will only use its new Edge engine (possible based on Webkit, but not yet confirmed). As a result, IE will continue to be available as a separate download, primarily to support businesses that have built applications using the browser.
We've already seen a preview of Spartan, with Microsoft demoing the browser early on. It appears to take several design cues from Google Chrome, including tabs in the title bar and the address bar inside those tabs. Spartan also includes support for Cortana, a Reading List for saving web pages for offline reading and syncing between devices, annotation and clipping web content.
Spartan has been included in Build 10049 (and later) of the Windows 10 Technical Preview, although it's still rather basic. At the moment it lacks basic functions, including a browsing history; however, the current version does include web browser annotations and the Reading List/Reading View, which lets you save websites for later browsing in an ad-stripped window; this is similar to Apple Safari's Reading mode.
New icons and visuals leaked
While the first couple of versions of Windows 10 looked quite similar to Windows 8, it appears as though Microsoft has been working behind the scenes to give its new OS a completely fresh look, as proven by new leaked screenshots. The screens, published on the Russian website Wzor, show a new set of desktop icons for the Control Panel, Recycle Bin, Network menu and others. The icons have an almost cartoon-like feel and are in keeping with the visual refresh that we've seen in more recent builds of Windows 10.
Windows 10 will be FREE for Windows 7 and 8 owners
For the first year after launch, anybody running Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. It’s a classic move from Microsoft, as it helps people sell computers and laptops now, with consumers safe in the knowledge that they’ll get the new OS when it launches for no additional cost.
We don’t have other pricing information, but if Microsoft sticks to current prices, expect to pay around £70 for a home-user licence. There may be some surprises on that front, but we’ll bring you more information when it’s available.
No more VERSIONS
Rather than waiting years for a big update, Microsoft is promising more regular updates. Terry Myerson announced the news at Microsoft's press conference in California. Myerson also said that the question of "what version are you running?" will soon cease to exist, as Microsoft aims to keep developing Windows 10 for the foreseeable future, suggesting it could be "one of the largest internet services on the planet" in the next couple of years.
This is great news for consumers, as it could signal the end of big drastic OS upgrades every couple of years. It's also good news for developers as it means they'll be able to target all device types with just one application, providing greater parity across PC, laptop, mobile and Microsoft's Xbox One games console ("the most fun games console ever", according to Myerson).
Windows 10 should be appearing on practically every phone that currently runs Windows 8. Microsoft confirmed that this was the case late last year, and more recently has stated that it's trying