Windows 10, the biggest update Microsoft has ever made to its computer software, is set to launch tonight.
The new software will be the first to work across all Windows-powered devices, from smartphones to tablets and desktop computers, as well as Microsoft’s Xbox One games console.
Microsoft is also introducing a new web browser – Edge – to replace Internet Explorer, while the firm’s voice assistant Cortana will also move to desktop computers for the first time.
The much-loved Start menu, which was removed in Windows 8 to much public outcry, is also making a return in the new software, as the US-firm looks to modernise and appeal to a new range of customers.
At the heart of this are six features that could swing it either way for Microsoft, and here they are.
In Windows 8, Microsoft ditched its familiar Start menu button and pop-up column in favour of a tile-orientated screen. The public did not take to it, and now the Windows team has listened to the feedback and is re-introducing the classic menu. But it is not without some modern twists, as the Start menu in Windows 10 has the classic single column list of options, but it also has a scaled version of the tile screen too, blending the previous generations together.
Another landmark moment in Windows history sees Internet Explorer – the web browser of 20 years – replaced in Windows 10 by Microsoft Edge. The new browser will enable users to annotate directly on to web pages as though making real notes, and then save these screens for later referral.
Microsoft needs to get more users on its Store as it battles Apple and Android for users, and a new unified Windows Store is the company’s way of attacking that problem. In Windows 10 there is one Store for purchasing content for all devices; from apps and games to music, movies and TV shows, it is now all done from one place and will appear across your devices.
Personal digital assistants is one area Microsoft is ahead of the competition – its own Cortana regularly outperforms Apple’s Siri and Android’s Google Now. Windows 10 will look to run with this advantage by pushing Cortana to desktop for the first time. The assistant is integrated into lots of apps, including Edge, where it can be used to make reservations, set reminders and get directions based on the web page you are currently viewing.
Working across devices
A big part of Windows 10 is its ability to work seamlessly across devices. Microsoft’s idea is to have the same operating system running on your smartphone, tablet, laptop and even games console. Windows 10 has a feature called Continuum that allows users to stop mid-task on one device, and then pick it up on another without any issues or delay.
An eye-catching feature if you like your video games – Windows 10 will also work on the Xbox One, and will hand players the ability to stream games from their console to their laptop or PC in another room. Great if the living room is otherwise occupied.