Microsoft Skips Windows 9, Unveils Windows 10 And Windows Insider Program

Microsoft decided to really shake things up today when, instead of announcing what many expected to be called Windows 9, they jumped right to announcing their next OS as Windows 10. Many of the leaks and rumored feature enhancements were in fact accurate, though with full details on how Microsoft will implement these features and new information on other enhancements as well, it has become much more clear that the Redmond team wants to not only simplify the experience for novice and power uses alike but also bring a common, “delightful” experience across all platforms and usage models.

One Product Family, One Platform, One Store

One of the more important announcements at the event had to do with Microsoft’s “one Windows” vision. When Windows 10 launches, Microsoft’s goal is to have a single application platform and app store for all devices, from smartphones on up to desktop systems. As it stands today, Windows Phone has its own app store, separate from full-blown Windows. With next wave of universal apps though, i.e. metro app or modern UI apps, the end-game is to have them all work on every Windows 10 device.

Windows 10 New And Improved Start Menu

If there is one feature that has generated the most buzz over the past few months, as details of the Windows 10 Technical Preview leaked, it’s the triumphant return of the Start menu. Now the Start menu has a customizable vertical menu that is similar to previous versions of Windows, with a nested tree of applications and programs, as well as a customizable Live Tiles area. It’s the best of both worlds really and is a very welcomed return for many uses holding out still on Windows 7.

Virtual Desktops

Windows 10 will also feature something power users are sure to appreciate—virtual desktops. If you constantly find yourself with an unruly desktop, chock full of numerous overlapping windows, with Windows 10 you’ll be able to create multiple virtual desktops, segregate your applications, and easily switch between desktops. One desktop, for example, could feature nothing but Office-type applications, while another is loaded with web content, and yet another with content creation applications. Virtual desktops aren’t a new concept, and have been available on alternative operating systems and through third party applications for quite some time, but the seamless integration into Windows 10 is new.

Windows Task View

The new Windows Task View button will allow you to quickly see and view various open files, programs and even other virtual desktops you have open in a tiled quick-glance arrangement. Interestingly, both Apple OS X and Google Chrome have similar though, in some cases, not quite as robust capabilities like this. One thing is for sure, however, Microsoft is keen on, as Microsoft’s VP of Windows explained, “empowering novice users to get better at multi-tasking.” This feature will be highly valuable for novice users and power users alike, of course.

Auto Input Switching

One of the biggest complaints with Windows 8 was that it was designed mostly with touch in mind and that keyboard and mouse users were forced to learn new methods to navigate what were once familiar elements in Windows. Things were improved in Windows 8.1, but Microsoft is going another step further in Windows 10. With Windows 10, if you’re using a tablet or convertible device with a keyboard attached, the new Start menu will be available and menus and other navigation elements will be scaled accordingly. Detach the keyboard, however, and you’ll be prompted to enter tablet mode. In tablet mode, a Start screen similar to Windows 8.1 is automatically loaded if you tap the Start button and touch targets in applications are scaled up for easier input.

There were other minor improvements mentioned as well, like the ability to finally be able to cut-and-paste from the Command Prompt, among others visible in the video above, but these are the major takeaways from Microsoft’s event.

If you’d like to evaluate early versions of Windows 10 on your own, Microsoft is launching its Windows Insider program soon; you’ll be able to sign up here. We of course will be one of those insiders too and intend to bring you our view and experiences with Windows 10 in the weeks ahead.  So stay tuned for more on Microsoft’s new and improved Windows 10 operating system.