Windows 8.1 launched at the end of 2013, but that doesn't mean Microsoft's Windows team immediately went on holiday. On the contrary, it started working on the next major release.
The next major release is called Windows 10 and will be a free upgrade for a majority of Windows PC, tablets, and phone users. It's 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.
Keep in mind 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 during events at the beginning of 2015 and more recently.
Microsoft reportedly wanted to abandon the Windows 8 brand name 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.
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. It will be coming on 29 July for consumers, it has been confirmed.
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.
Microsoft confirmed at Build 2015 that while Windows 10 would launch for PCs this summer, the phone part of the operating system wouldn't debut until the autumn.
Microsoft's Joe Belfiore explained: “Our phone builds have not been as far along as our PC builds," explained Belfiore. “We’re adapting the phone experiences later than we’re adding the PC experiences.”
Preview versions of the PC and phone software builds are already available for those foolhardy enough to install them.
Is Windows Phone dead?
The revelation that Windows 10 will 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 system software that will form to all the devices under Microsoft's banner. That includes laptops, tablets and desktop computers, naturally, but also Xbox One, smartphones and wearables.
Windows 10 will also feature universal apps, a type of app that works across all of Microsoft's device lineup, including Xbox. Microsoft is clearly trying to simplify things for both consumers and developers with Windows 10.
All that said, Windows 10 is still sometimes referred to by journalists as Windows 10 for PCs and Windows 10 for phones, and we'll get into why later.
What are some Windows 10 features?
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.
Some 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 in Windows 10 for PCs and large tablets?
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. 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: "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 also 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?
Yes, and it's known as Microsoft Edge. It has new rendering engine and is designed to fit in with the new Windows 10 apps. It'll officially replace Internet Explorer on mobile devices but will complement Internet Explorer on PCs.
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 Edge as well. You can access her from address bar, and she will serve up search results.
Cortana in Edge can also get Yelp reviews, book a reservation, pull up menu items at a restaurant, give directions, etc.
What other features should you know about?
Check out these other articles on Pocket-lint for more information about features in Windows 10:
- Microsoft Windows 10 for phone: This is what Project Spartan browser can do
- Project Spartan: Here's how to try Microsoft's new browser
- What is Microsoft Edge, and when can you get it?
- 6 new Windows 10 features announced at Build 2015
- Win Phone 10 tech preview: Hands-on with Windows Phone of the future
- Watch Microsoft's Build 2015 keynote live, right here
- Microsoft Windows 10 new features: Cortana, universal apps, and more