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With the release of Microsoft’s new version of Windows approaching, here are 10 pieces of information that may be useful when considering whether or not you want to upgrade to Windows 10 when it comes out:

1. Release date

Windows 10 is currently available for those registered as “insiders” for testing purposes with the full release being due this summer and possibly as early as June. There is also talk of there being an initial release to the public and then a second release (effectively an update) coming along in the autumn.

2. What will it cost

The big news is that for anyone currently running Windows 8 or 8.1 Windows 10 will be a free upgrade. Somewhat surprisingly Microsoft have also said that anyone running windows 7 will be able to upgrade for free during the 1st year after release.

3. Same operating system across different devices

Windows 10 has been designed to work on all shapes and sizes of device and so going forwards if you have a windows based phone, tablet and PC then everything should look very similar.

4. Changes to the interface (continuum)

One of the most contentious issues with Windows 8 was the new Metro interface which did away with the start menu and replaced it with large buttons. In reality this type of interface was ideal for touch screen devices but left most users cold when it came to working on their desktop or laptop with a mouse and keyboard.

With the various Windows 8 updates that have come out, Microsoft has been reintroducing elements of the standard XP/7 interface and, going into Windows 10, the start bar will be properly back but with the added benefit of being able to pin Windows 8 style favourites to it.

Another key change, which Microsoft has called Continuum, is the ability for the operating system to know when you are working on devices with a keyboard and mouse or only a touch screen and to adjust the interface accordingly.

5. Built in Office apps

Windows 10 on phones and tables will come pre-loaded with Office “universal” apps. These apps are designed to be touch friendly and offer the key functionality that you will need to create and edit your office documents without the need for a keyboard and mouse. It is not entirely clear at this point if they will also be free for the desktop version of Windows 10, but indications are that you will be able to download them so potentially/maybe an answer to users who don’t need the full version (and cost) of MS office. Office 2016 is due out later in the year and so Microsoft is clearly not abandoning the full version, but hopefully providing a solution that will cater for all levels of complexity and work seamlessly across all types of devices.

6. Cortana comes to Windows 10

Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Google’s Now, which are all digital assistants. Traditionally phone-based, the idea is that you can ask a question or give it a command and the digital assistant will present the relevant results verbally/screen or update a schedule etc. Another feature of Cortana is that it learns about you and your working practices and will suggest information or services that may be relevant to what you are doing or the area you are in. As to whether this sort of functionality would be useful or annoying remains to be seen, but with Windows 10 working across all of your devices, Cortana (or any digital assistant for that matter) has the potential to become a more established way of managing our digital, business and social worlds.

7. New Spartan browser

The word is that Spartan is going to replace Internet Explorer, but in the short term it will be offered alongside IE rather than simply switching it off. The idea of Spartan is to provide a more stripped down and touch friendly browser which, from reports, will also be a cross platform program for use on Android and Apple devices. The key point of Spartan is to fit in with the fact that Windows 10 will be used on phones and tablets and that, going forwards, many users will increasingly rely on their simple touch devices rather than having full desktop or laptop devices.

8. 3D and holographic capabilities built in

The idea of working with 3D or holographic projections may still seem like the stuff of science fiction but Microsoft is getting closer to bringing this to reality. Although there is no fixed release date, Microsoft’s new HoloLens glasses (more of a visor really) will allow you to interact with 3D images. The key to bringing this technology on is that Windows 10 has the application programming interfaces built in, which means that developers will be able to create programmes that use the HoloLens glasses. At this stage the reports are that a version of Minecraft (a popular game) has been developed and it is easy to see how this will be big in the gaming world, but in reality the potential for this technology is vast and could dramatically change the way that we interact with computers in the not so distant future.

9. Xbox interaction

For most business users this will not be of much interest but the new Xbox app in Windows 10 will allow you to stream Xbox one games to any of your Windows 10 devices, as well as the ability to capture game play and a host of other gaming type activities that were previously confined to those people who have invested in an Xbox.

10. Unlockable achievements

There isn’t a great deal of information about this, but it looks like Windows 10 has added an element of “gamification” where you gain achievements through doing certain things within the operating system. This feature could simply be in the pre-release trials as a way of gauging how much the testers explore the new operating system or it may be something that is included with the full version. Anyone who is a game player is used to this already and will often interact with the application more to unlock something new, but as to how this would work in a business environment is a bit of an unknown at this point in time.

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