It’s only been a few months since Microsoft officially unveiled some of the features we can expect in Windows 10 to the world, but the software giant is now ready to talk specifics. On Wednesday, Microsoft is holding a special Windows 10 event at its company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington. While we got an early look at the Windows 10 user interface in late September, Wednesday’s event will be a chance for the company to detail how Windows 10 will run across PCs, phones, tablets, and even its Xbox One gaming console.
We’ll be covering the event on the ground with a Windows 10 live blog, hands-on videos, Microsoft’s livestream, and much more. Check in at 9AM PT / 12PM ET on Wednesday, January 21st to watch it all go down.
In the meantime, here’s what to expect from Windows 10.
Windows 10 desktop
Microsoft may have shown off the new Start Menu and some various feature additions for power users back in September, but there’s plenty more the company is working on. Wednesday’s event is billed as a consumer-focused one, so we’re expecting to get a closer look at how Windows 10 will power laptops, desktops, and gaming PCs in 2015 and beyond. Various leaks of Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant, have surfaced in recent weeks as part of early Windows 10 builds, and it’s highly likely the company will officially acknowledge the addition. Cortana in Windows 10 will act as the primary search interface, as well as some smart integration in the browser and other applications.
Elsewhere, Microsoft has not yet shown off its new user interface for Windows 10. While some recently leaked builds have hinted at a dark theme that closely matches Windows Phone, we expect Microsoft to show off some of the UI it’s working towards. This will include refreshed icons throughout the desktop, optional dark and light themes, a tweaked taskbar that makes use of accent colors, and some improvements to the style of universal applications.
A SINGLE STORE AND CROSS-PLATFORM APPS
Speaking of universal applications, Wednesday is Microsoft’s biggest chance to show the world why you would want a single app that can run across a phone, tablet, PC, and TV. Microsoft will detail that story more heavily at its Build developer conference in April, but examples of powerful universal apps will be key to the company’s vision for the future of software. Microsoft will also focus heavily on the single Store experience of Windows 10, which allows end users to buy a single app across phone, tablet, and PC, and for developers to more easily create just one application for one app store.
OneDrive will also feature heavily in Windows 10, and Microsoft is looking to extend its capabilities even further. The software maker may detail its plans to let app developers store settings and sync app data through OneDrive across PCs, phones, and tablets, allowing apps to always stay up-to-date across multiple platforms.
Microsoft will also further detail its “Continuum” interface for 2-in-1 laptops and convertible tablets. We got an early glimpse at a concept of Continuum in September, and the feature should allow laptops to be used easily with a keyboard and trackpad, while converting them or using touch will trigger a finger-friendly mode that adapts naturally. This mode will be particularly interesting for devices like the Surface Pro 3 or Lenovo’s Yoga laptops that can be used in multiple ways, including pen-based input.
Windows 10 mobile
Microsoft is building a single version of Windows that will run across tablets and phones. Codenamed Windows Mobile — the same name Microsoft used for its mobile software before Windows Phone — the combination of Windows RT and Windows Phone will be the most interesting part of Wednesday’s event. Microsoft is dropping the confusing desktop mode it kept with Windows RT and replacing it with a single touch interface that will run on tablets and phones powered by ARM-based processors. It’s likely that Microsoft will choose to name this particular version of Windows 10, and many speculate it could be Windows 10 Mobile, Windows Mobile, or just Windows 10 / Windows. Given the huge differences compared to the regular version of Windows, it’s probably time Microsoft dropped the Windows name for its mobile efforts, but it’s highly unlikely the company will do that. Expect some kind of name, but hopefully not something like “Windows Mobile 2015 for Pocket PC Professional Edition.”
In terms of features, Microsoft has largely kept its plans secret here. Windows Phone and Windows RT have both struggled to make any significant impact against Android and iOS, so this could be viewed as Microsoft’s final chance to make mobile work on its own platform. Expect to see tighter integration between the mobile variant of Windows 10 and its desktop counterpart, alongside some new UI changes that align the Live Tile style more closely between phone, tablet, and Xbox. Microsoft’s Windows Phone team likes to ship features that are unique to its platform — think Kid’s Corner, Cortana, or Driving Mode — and it’s highly likely we’ll see one or two big additions here. Given Microsoft’s Office improvements on Android and iOS, the company will be keen to show its work on Windows. Office touch is closely aligned with Windows 10, so we assume that it will be integrated into the mobile version through a Store app, and we should get an even closer look at its features on Wednesday.
Microsoft is also planning to add some of its Lumia Camera features into Windows Phone itself. The default camera app in Windows 10 will include a similar interface to that of the Lumia Camera, and Microsoft will likely show this and other app improvements on Wednesday. Some of the new Windows Phone gestures will also be built into Windows 10.
As Microsoft’s mobile version of Windows 10 is likely to be a radical departure from Windows RT on the tablet side, all eyes will be on how the company manages an upgrade path for existing Surface RT and Surface 2 tablets. Microsoft’s last major mobile shift saw Windows Phone 7 owners stuck on an outdated version of the OS once new hardware with Windows Phone 8 started shipping. That scenario could play out again for Windows RT tablet owners.