Windows 10: Release date, rumours, 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. 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

According to the latest batch of reports and leaks, the successor to Windows 8.1 will allegedly accomplish many things and come with an entirely new brand name. Apart from bridging the gap between the classic desktop environment and the latest Windows experience, it will introduce much-requested features and unify Microsoft's three platforms (Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox One).

That sounds like a lot of hopes pinned on to one operating system - and it's not immediately clear how Microsoft can juggle all of these ambitions and pack them into a single release. Still, the rumour stories are popping up left and right.

To help you keep track of it all, Pocket-lint has compiled a rumour round-up.

What is Windows 10?

Goodbye, Windows 8

Windows 10 is the next version of Windows. Microsoft first unveiled Windows 10 on 30 September during an event in San Francisco.

It was thought to be called Windows 9 and once went by the codename Threshold. Microsoft surprised everyone during a media event on 30 September in San Francisco, where it unveiled the next Windows as Windows 10.

Microsoft reportedly wants to abandon the Windows 8 brand with Windows 10, simply because Windows 8 was not well-received by critics and users. Microsoft has 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

Prior to September 2014 event: All the leaks, rumours, and confirmations

A single-yet-customised OS

Microsoft plans to streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system for screens of all sizes.

Satya Nadella, CEO at Microsoft, said there are no longer multiple teams working on different versions of Windows: "Now we have one team with a common architecture. This allows us to scale, create Universal Windows Apps," he said.

Developers will be able to create one version of an app that should work across PCs, Windows Phones, and Xbox consoles. That said, Windows 10 is expected to be customised for different types of devices.

For instance: Some reports claimed mobile devices will have an app tile layout by default, while desktop and laptop users will have the traditional Windows layout by default.

As for hybrid devices running Windows 10, like the Surface Pro, they'll boot to a desktop layout if a keyboard is attached.

READ: Microsoft promises Universal apps

Cortana

Microsoft's Cortana is the equivalent to Apple's Siri and Google's Google Now.

It debuted on Windows Phone 8.1. According to tech website Neowin, which apparently had access to internal Windows 10 builds, Cortana should make it to the final version of Windows 10.

It is thought Cortana will be deeply integrated into the OS, likely bringing new search capabilities. It's not clear how Cortana and Bing will co-exist on Windows 10.

Charm bar

The Charms bar, a feature ushered in by Windows 8.1, offers access to quick settings and functions. Although it is considered useful for touch-enabled devices, its effect is lost when a mouse and keyboard are thrown into the mix.

Leaked screenshots of Windows 10 builds have shown the Charms Bar will not make it to the desktop and laptop versions of Windows 10. It might not even be included in the tablets and 2-in-1 laptops version of Windows 10.

ZDNet has claimed Metro-style windows apps will get title bars with menus and Charm features. Microsoft might nix the Charms bar from a dedicated position on the desktop and instead fold relevant Charms into the title bars of apps.

Developers will allegedly need to add enable Charm features for their apps.

READ: Microsoft to ditch Charms Bar

Start Menu

Teased during the Build 2014 keynote address, the Start menu that disappeared in Windows 8 is officially returning with Windows 10, according to Microsoft.

Leaks have revealed the classic Start menu will appear in the bottom-left corner of your screen. It doesn't take over the entire screen in a tile-layout as it does in Windows 8. The order of things is different from Windows 7's Start Menu.

Folder shortcuts are at the top, for instance, and pinned Live Tiles are on the right side of the Start menu, where they can be resized and reordered in a gridview.

One last thing: according to a leaked video, the full screen Start menu isn't completely gone and might be accessible through Taskbar.

READ: The Start Menu is back

Virtual desktops

Virtual desktops is thought to be another major change in Windows 10. It will allow you to spread your work across multiple desktops, while still remaining on one device.

The idea is that you will have an improved workflow, free from clutter. You will likely be able to control or access the feature by clicking an icon on the left side of the taskbar, as several leaked screenshots have revealed.

READ: Windows 10 revealed in screen dump

Extras

Two German websites, called Computer Base and WinFuture, recently published about 20 screenshots that show off a leaked build of Windows 10.

Change included a notification center in the corner, as well as a Start Menu, tweaked Taskbar, and a new search icon near the Start button. There's even another icon next to the Start button that might lead to the virtual-desktop feature.

And finally, WZOR claimed that Windows 10 will focus heavily on cloud computing and even indicated a type of Chrome OS-like operating system that would require an internet connection.

ZDNet also described Windows 10 as the bridge between Microsoft's past of big-bang releases and a licensing model to one focused on the cloud. That said, it's not immediately clear how deeply Windows 10 will focus on the cloud.

It might just be the first step down a long road of transitions. Keep in mind Microsoft's CEO was formerly responsible for building and running the company's computing platforms, developer tools, and cloud computing services.

It's therefore safe to assume Microsoft will want to embrace cloud-computing in the near future.

Leaked videos

Check out the leaked videos below to see certain features - such as the Start menu, notification center, and virtual desktops - in action.

After September 2014 event: All the leaks, rumours, and confirmations

Action center

Microsoft rolled out a new build (9860) of Windows 10 in October. It was considered the first update to the Windows 10 Technical Preview release and featured nearly 7,000 improvements and fixes.

One of the newest features was a Notification-like Action Center. You can access it in the system tray to see alerts from traditional Windows apps, system notifications, and Windows 8-style apps. Notifications appear grouped by app and time.

Another feature involved a new keyboard shortcut (WIN key+Shift+Direction Arrow) for moving apps between monitors. Microsoft also included an animation for when you toggle virtual desktops.

You can get the latest Windows 10 builds via Windows Update. You can also get it by going to PC Settings, then Update and recovery, and Preview builds. From there, click the Check Now button, then download, and install the build.

Upgrades for phones

If you own a Windows Phone 8 device and are curious about whether you'll get a software upgrade next year when Windows 10 releases, fret no longer. Microsoft has confirmed Lumia devices will.

The official Lumia Twitter account publicly tweeted the following: "There will be Windows 10 upgrades for all Lumia Windows Phone 8 devices :) And we will release new Windows 10 models in the future!"

Windows Central was quick to point out that Microsoft's Lumia team left out "phone" from the Windows 10 upgrade description, reaffirming plans about Microsoft no longer using "phone" when marking Windows 10-based smart devices.

That's not too surprising though, considering Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, said the company wanted to streamline the next version of Windows into one single converged operating system for screens of all sizes.

A converged operating system wouldn't really be converged if it went by multiple names across various devices. That said, many reports have questioned if it's too early to speculate which devices will get the Windows 10 update.

Microsoft did say "all" Lumia Windows Phone 8 devices though, so we'll go ahead and classify that statement as fact.

New web browser

Microsoft is supposedly developing a web browser, codenamed Spartan.

Spartan will launch around the same time Windows 10 is set to debut, transitioning Microsoft away from Internet Explorer, according to ZDNet. The new web browser is not the next version of Internet Explorer, thought to be called Internet Explorer 12. Internet Explore is Microsoft's age-old browser that typically updates with every major Windows release.

Spartan will be different in that it looks and feels more like Chrome and Firefox. It even sports a new design and nifty features like extensions, but it will still be based on Microsoft's current web technology and use the Chakra JavaScript engine and Trident rendering engine.

Microsoft isn't nixing Internet Explorer in favour of Spartan, as IE 11 will be available to Windows 10 users. ZDNet claimed Microsoft plans to ship two browsers with its next major operating system upgrade.

After January 2015 event: All the leaks, rumours, and confirmations

Microsoft held 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, though he warned much of the new stuff is still in development and should roll out in waves over the next five months to beta users in the Windows Insider Program.

The idea is that Microsoft will get feedback from users and eventually launch honed versions of its new features and apps within Windows 10.

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.

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.

At present, that release is yet to be revealed. It is believed though that Microsoft will make the consumer version available for download from mid-2015 - summertime.

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

When does the Technical Preview release?

Reports claimed Microsoft would introduce a "Technical Preview" of Windows 10 in autumn. And they were right.

Microsoft announced the Windows Insider Program at its September event in San Francisco. The program will only allow PC experts and IT Pros to get access to a technical preview of Windows 10 for desktops and laptops.

The Windows Insider Program launched on 1 October. You can join the program through Microsoft's Windows Technical preview page. Microsoft will also soon release technical previews of Windows Server and management tools.

"The Windows Insider Program is intended for PC experts and IT pros who are comfortable using pre-release software with variable quality. Insiders will receive a steady stream of early builds from us with the latest," Microsoft warned.

Anyone who wants to join the Windows Insider Program must first sign up. They will then be able to download the technical preview and submit feedback to Microsoft. The Technical Preview will end on 15 April 2015

READ: Windows 10 'Threshold' release date should be 30 September

Need to know more?

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



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