Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) seems poised to make the launch of Windows 10 everything the release of its previous operating system wasn't.
When the company unleashed Windows 8 to the world in October 2012, it was met with a ton of confusion. The OS radically overhauled the traditional Windows interface, and it dropped the traditional start screen and menu. It replaced them with what was then called the "Metro" interface, a tablet-like screen which was optimized for touch-based devices.
The problems were numerous, but perhaps the biggest was that most desktop and laptop PCs did not feature touchscreens. That left millions of users with an OS which was not optimized nor was its use intuitive on the device they owned. Those two factors alone were enough to sink Windows 8.
With Win10, Microsoft is making sure that history does not repeat itself. The new version feels like an evolution of something familiar rather than a radical transformation. The start screen and menu are back, and while some of the best Windows 8 features remain, they are presented in a way that users of older versions of the OS can understand. This should reduce confusion this time around.
To further ease that transition the company showed off a number of new devices built specifically for Windows 10 during a keynote address at the Taipei International Convention Center delivered by Nick Parker, corporate vice president of Microsoft's OEM Division. Parker's speech, parts of which were shared in a blog post, noted that all Windows 8 devices can upgrade for free to the new system before he showed off a number of new devices.
The form factors will be broad
Since the launch of its hybrid Surface, Microsoft has been championing computers that go beyond the traditional laptops and desktops traditionally associated with Windows. The new Windows 10 optimized models will include all-in-ones, two-in-one hybrid laptop/tablets, and a wealth of innovative features. The company offered a look at some of the machines during the speech.
- Acer Z3-710 is an all-in-one PC that delivers powerful computing and enhanced audio in a slim, 1.4-inch-thin chassis.
- ASUS Transformer Book T100HA is a two-in-one laptop with a detachable keyboard that boasts up to 14 hours of battery life and a tablet measuring 8.45mm and 580g.
- The x2 from HP is a 2-in-1, ultraportable, "tablet first" detachable -- with an innovative magnetic hinge design that makes the device flexible and lap-able -- and with Windows 10, users can transition seamlessly from tablet to PC mode and back again in an instant.
- A new HP tablet for mobile productivity has revolutionary note-taking capabilities.
- A new Toshiba PC enables Windows Hello with the latest in biometric security technology, including a face-authentication camera, an Ultra HD 4K screen and optimization for Cortana.
These devices continue a trend which started with Windows 8 where Microsoft's partners work to win customers away from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Android by offering multiuse devices. These machines are a major departure from the years when the company and its OEM manufacturers mostly conceded interesting design to Apple.
It's about creating something new
In addition to introducing the above Windows 10 versions of form factors created for Windows 8, Parker showed off two new PC form factors:
- FoxConn Kangaroo is an ultraportable desktop PC that turns your TV into a full Windows PC, including a fingerprint reader to support Windows Hello and up to six hours of battery life.
- Quanta Compute Plug is a mini-PC in a power adapter instead of a stick. Plugged into the HDMI port, it turns a TV into a smart computer and enables users to control their TV using Cortana via Bluetooth remote or headset.
Both of these devices continue to push the boundaries of what exactly a PC is while giving a new meaning to portable computing.
"Our device partners continue to push the envelope of innovation, developing stunning PCs that are sure to delight customers," said Parker. "And our commitment to broaden the ecosystem opportunity with Windows 10 is revolutionizing how people interact with their devices and create new opportunities for revenue growth."
Gamers will be targeted
One of the more interesting aspects of Windows 10 is that it will also become the operating system for the Xbox One game console. Ultimately (but not at launch) this will allow an unprecedented level of gameplay moving from the console to the PC. Once that happens, devices will be in place to offer a premium experience.
One such device is a new graphics processor unit from NVIDIA "that enables a premium, high-performance gaming experience on Windows 10," according to the blog post. "GeForce GTX 980 Ti sets a new benchmark in gaming performance, delivering an exciting new level of capabilities with three times the performance and three times the memory than previous generations (versus GTX 680)."
The GPU allows users to play the latest games in 4K resolution. It also "supports key DirectX 12 features such as Volume Tiled Resources and Conservative Rasters to enable striking new graphics effects on Windows 10."
Windows 10 won't be Windows 8
Unlike the release of its last OS, Microsoft seems to understand the strengths of its new product. While these devices are optimized to make the most of Windows 10, the operating system seems to be developed for the current PC market.
Win8 was built for a total touchscreen world that still has not happened. Win10 will offer a premium experience on a hybrid which switches effortlessly from tablet to PC mode, but will work just fine with no special training on a plain old nontouch laptop. The possibilities for new devices are exciting, but the reality of today's computing environment is also being addressed and embraced.