Windows 10: Release date, price and everything you need to know

Windows 8.1 launched for the public last October, but that doesn't mean Microsoft's Windows team immediately went on holiday. On the contrary, it started working on the next major release.

It is called Windows 10 and it will be a free upgrade for a majority of Windows PC, tablets and phone users. It is also coming to Xbox One eventually, to keep the entire Microsoft ecosystem within the same frame work.

Check out Pocket-lint 's Windows 10 round up of all the developer-focused technical features for more details, and you could also read our Windows 10 round up of all the new consumer-focused features.

READ: Microsoft Windows 10 new features: Cortana, universal apps, and more

However, there is still plenty of other features and details that are gradually being revealed. We've collated some of the most important revelations and rumours for you to keep up to date with the current skinny on Windows 10.

What is Windows 10?

Goodbye, Windows 8

Windows 10 is the next version of Windows. Microsoft first unveiled Windows 10 on 30 September 2014 during an event in San Francisco and has elaborated more in events at the beginning of 2015 and more recently.

Microsoft reportedly wanted to abandon the Windows 8 brand with Windows 10, simply because Windows 8 was not well-received by critics and users. Microsoft also said it didn't use Windows 9 because it "wouldn't be right".

The company also didn't want to go with Windows One, because it already used the "One" brand for other products.

The new OS will undo many messy bits that both critics and users didn't like about Windows 8, while also bringing back some Windows 7 elements and keeping touch alive for two-in-one devices. Microsoft also wants Windows 10 to be a one-application platform.

READ: Windows 10 teased officially by Microsoft, with logo

When will Windows 10 release and for how much?

Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 10 will be offered as a free download to customers using Windows 8.1, Windows 7 and Windows Phone 8.1.

Announced during its Windows 10 media briefing, the free upgrade will be available to all of those customers - 200 million using Windows 8.1 alone - for an entire year after its official release date.

It will be coming in the "summer" for consumers, it has been confirmed. Many have speculated that it will be available from June, therefore. A preview version of the software is already available for those foolhardy enough to install it.

The revelation that Windows 10 will also be available as a free upgrade for Windows Phone users means that the company has confirmed it is killing off the separate Windows Phone operating system.

Instead, Windows 10 is scaleable and will form the system software of all the devices under Microsoft's banner. That includes laptops, tablets and desktop computers, naturally, but also Xbox One, smartphones and wearables.

READ: Microsoft might make Windows 10 upgrade free

What will Windows 10 bring to the party?

Microsoft first held an event on 21 January to show off new features that'll get consumers talking about Windows 10. Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of the Operating Systems Group at Microsoft, demonstrated both productivity features and universal apps on stage.

The company also held an event at the beginning of 2015 that showed off additional features and expanded on those previously revealed. Here are some of them...

Two versions, one code

Microsoft is developing two versions of Windows 10. Both versions will use the same code; they're just formatted to fit different screen sizes. The first version, for instance, is for a PC or tablet with a screen size that is 8 inches or larger. The second version is for a smartphone or small tablet (aka phablet) with a screen size that is 8 inches or smaller.

PC/tablet features

  • Taskbar now has a search box with a microphone that brings up Cortana... but more on that later. You can click in search the box and start typing to search for web info, installed apps, new apps, documents, photos, and settings. It'll look online, across all your Windows 10 devices, and in OneDrive (similar to Spotlight in OS X).
  • You can access a Windows 7-style Start menu from the taskbar, though it has some Windows 8-style icons. The Start menu can also go full screen, sort of like it did with Windows 8, making it easier to navigate via touch.
  • You can access an Action Center that expands from the right. It has Quick Action buttons on the bottom, such as the ability to toggle airplane mode, while the top has notifications that can expand. You can also interact with apps through notifications, if the app's developer includes such functionality.
  • There's a new Settings app. It's a combination of the Control Panel from Windows 7 and Settings from Windows 8.
  • 2-in-1 devices can go into a tablet mode when removed from a keyboard (you'll get a prompt to approve tablet mode). This mode includes full-screen windows and a full-screen start menu. You can use touch gestures to switch between apps, as well as tile apps and move the tile midpoint.
  • 2-in-1 devices run full Windows 10, so you'll still be able to access PC-type things such as the taskbar.

Phone/small tablet features

  • A Windows 8-style Start experience shows up after you unlock your device. You can swipe to the right to see most-recently installed apps, or you can drag down from top to see the Action Center that’s synced with your PC.
  • The combined Settings app is also available on phones. It's a universal app across all form factors.
  • The Workflow keyboard is still around, though it's been improved. You can of course pull the keyboard to right or keep it in full screen at the bottom, but now there is a new microphone button above the keyboard. It's for inputing voice commands, and it can recognise contact names and automatically add the correct punctuation.
  • Messaging on the phone has been improved too. Microsoft is building in support for messaging apps, so you can switch to Skype, for instance, or a mobile operator's messaging app.
  • Microsoft emphasised that this version of Windows is tuned for devices under 8 inches, and it's designed to go with the PC version. It'll have universal apps as well as deep Skype integration.

Is Cortana available in the PC/large tablet version of Windows 10?

Yes. You can say "Hey, Cortana" to bring up Cortana on a PC or tablet. She knows 7 languages now and can do impersonations like Yoda from the Star Wars space opera. She also has a home on the taskbar, located in the new search box.

You can ask questions out-loud, and Cortana will answer by serving up relevant results. (Example questions: "Do I need a coat tomorrow?" or "How much is tuition at UCLA?") Alternatively, you can type commands into Cortana via the search box.

Cortana has integrated search capability, meaning she can search your hard drive and OneDrive to bring up things like Powerpoint slides, specifics apps, or photos from a certain month. She can send emails for you.

Cortana keeps a notebook about you that includes your interests and device-usage habits. You can edit this notebook to tailor Cortana results.

Is there a new browser in Windows 10?

Yes, and it's codenamed Project Spartan. It has new rendering engine and is desigend to fit in with the new Windows 10 apps. It'll also offer three main features: a note-taking mode that allows you to mark up webpages with a stylus or finger, and Cortana.

Cortana is built into Spartan, and you can access her from address bar. She will serve up search results. She can also get Yelp reviews, book a reservation, pull up menu items at a restaurant, give directions, etc.

What about Internet Explorer?

Although Microsoft might keep the Internet Explorer name for enterprise users, the consumer browser will be completely renamed. It is unlikely to remain "Project Spartan" for long.

Need to know more?

Pocket-lint's Windows 10 and Windows 10 Threshold hubs have all the latest about the next version of Windows.