What to Expect from Windows 10

   Last week, Microsoft had their Windows 10 Event, and ended up announcing some new "Powered by Windows 10" devices while they were at it.  Did the event live up to hopes?  You bet!

   Back in October when Microsoft did its first formal announcement of Windows 10, I wrote an article about some of the features that we can look forward to with this new OS.  I'll not rehash those here, except to say that the new Start menu is quite nice!  I've been running the latest beta build on my laptop for a couple weeks now, and I really dig it.  I was always a fan of the big "metro" interface (perhaps one of the few that was), but I have to admit the convenience of not having to swing my mouse from one side of the screen to the other is really nice.  I'd forgotten how easy that used to be.  🙂

   In addition to the start menu, though, several other features were announced for the OS as well.  The one that caught my immediate attention was that of "Cortana".  When you hear Cortana, think Siri… but on steroids.  Why steroids?  Well Cortana is actually connected to Bing and all things internet… meaning she is always up to date on what everyone online is talking about, what you've searched for in the past, as well as a full index of things on your system.  Through this, she is able to preimtively guess what you're going to ask once you start talking, and therefore the search results hit back much faster.  Pretty crazy stuff.  Admittedly though, for all the excitement I have for Cortana, I haven't actually tried it yet.  I usually am in front of my computer in an office cube environment, which isn't too condusive to speaking to your computer… so it hasn't actually jumped out at me as the killer app I imagined.  I'll give it a try here soon though… maybe.

   So what's the single most important aspect of Windows 10?  From what I've heard so far… the answer might be price.  Microsoft announced at it's January 21st event that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for the first year after its release for users running Windows 7, 8, and 8.1, as well as users of its current Windows Phone OS.  A couple of things to take note of here.  First, from the tone of the speaker and other things that were said, we were led to believe that Windows 10 would be yours for free, so long as you upgraded within the first year of its release.  It is, however, possible that Microsoft is playing games with its words and what they REALLY meant was that it would be free for a year, and then you'd have to pay for it.  Again, that's now what I walked away thinking, but it is possible.  What happens outside of that year?  Well, here is where the price discussion gets interesting.  The speaker at the event spend a good bit of time discussing what he called, "Windows as a Service".  What does that mean exactly?  Well, Microsoft didn't go into great detail on specifics, but if we look to their Office lineup, I think we can get a good clue.  Since it's release of Office 2013, the software package has been available as both a one-time purchase, or a monthly subscription.  This was somewhat downplayed in the beginning, but nowadays if you go to their site looking to purchase, you have to dig a little bit to find the outright purchase option at all.  This is what I imagine the Windows of the future will look like.  You'll pay a monthly fee for the OS, and then when upgrades come out, you'll get them as part of your subscription.  How much will that be?  Who knows at this point.  It's funny that back in 2000, well before the "everything as a service" movement we are currently living through, it was rumored that Microsoft was heading this way.  Back then this idea seemed outright crazy… now it seems inevitable.

   So why is this such a big deal?  Thinking beyond the home PCs of the world, of which free Windows will no doubt be a benefit, and looking at the business world, this could mean a tremendous savings for Enterprises needing to upgrade.  Companies are traditionally slow to upgrade their systems, and Microsoft felt the brunt of that while they were trying to finally kill off Windows XP.  The end of support date got moved at least 3 times before they pulled the plug for good.  With this move, Microsoft could be helping themselves out as well as us, in that they could rollout out new OSes a little quicker, and have a faster penetration into the market… especially if they make those upgrades easy.  Microsoft also seems deeply connected to this idea of a common programming platform across all versions of the OS (PC / Mobile), which could be very benefitial to us users as well.  Imagine all your applications running smoothly across all your devices.  Maybe that will bode well for the ever failing Windows Phone market as well… though I doubt it.

 

Why Price Might Be Windows 10's Most Important Feature

   Outside of general Windows features, Microsoft also took the wraps off two new devices that it has been secretly working on; Hololens, and Surface Hub.  Hololens is Microsoft's step into the Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality world.  Actually, the speaker said that with Hololens, they were moving past augmented reality… but lets not get too crazy here.  So what is it?  Hololens is a headset that sort of looks like something a fighter pilot might wear.  On the glass is displayed what appears to the wearer as a hologram out in space in front of them.  These images can be snapped to other objects around you…meaning that you can virtually attach a "TV" to your wall that has your favorite sports channel on, and any time you leave the room and come back, that particular feed will be right where you left it, just as though it were a real / physical TV.  Probably the most interesting application they discussed for the device would be the medical field.  With it's Skype integration, people could remotely watch what a surgeon was doing (the device has forward facing cameras so you can see what the wearer is seeing), and then interact with him through drawing on the screen, which would appear in front of the wearer as though it were out in front of him.  So the wearer could be working on someone, and other doctors would circle things in the patient's body of interest.  To the wearer it would appear as though they had circled the actual body part.  CRAZY!!

    Surface Hub is admittedly not quite as cool as Hololens, though maybe a little more immediately practical.  Remember the old smartboards that everyone thought would take over the classrooms of the future?  Surface Hub takes that idea a step (okay, many steps) forward.  The device is an 87 inch — 4K — touch screen display that is screaming of office collaboration.  With Skype for business, other people could remotely participate in a meeting, seeing anything that is shown / written on the Surface Hub.  They themselves could also write on the screen as well.  Their faces could be seen as they talk, adding in a spice of video conferencing to the mix… lots of neat stuff.  I'm betting it is going to be pricey.  No 87" 4K display out today isn't, and none of those are touch screen computers to boot. We'll see.

Hololens and Surface Hub

   One quick explanation on the video above.  Every Wednesday the traffic guy, Ed Rupp, does this same "hump day" routine.  It used to be a camel that he would draw on the screen, but that has digressed into just a picture of a camel that he pulls out from behind one of his displays.  I don't know why, but this always cracks me up.  Anyway, on this particular morning, everyone in the studio was in rare form and we were all laughing about everything… and then Abby announces to the world that I love me some camels.  Hilarious.

–Dan Thompson