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Microsoft gets its Windows mojo back

Gregg Keizer | Jan. 22, 2015
Analysts impressed with how Windows 10 is shaping up, predict 'huge' upgrade cycle from free deal.

PC mode in Windows 10
A tablet running Windows 10 being used in PC mode, even though it's not connected to a keyboard, with the task bar showing Credit: MIcrosoft

Microsoft today showed off more of its still-under-construction Windows 10, focusing on features like the voice-activated Cortana digital assistant and its "universal" app model that aims to put the same apps on PCs, tablets, smartphones and hybrid 2-in-1s.

The company also announced that upgrades to Windows 10 will be free to all devices currently running Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 on PCs or tablets, or Windows 8.1 on Windows smartphones.

"One of the key questions for today was 'Can they get lots and lots of people onto the new platform?'" said Jan Dawson, chief analyst with Jackdaw Research. "The free upgrade is going to be huge, because lowering the upgrade barrier like this should produce a huge upgrade cycle."

"They're showing a positive direction for Windows 10," said Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, of the presentation overall. "They like to say, 'It's a journey,' and this one still has months and months to go. But I think they're creating an OS that will be very well received by both consumers and enterprises."

The two hour-and-a-half-hour keynote -- which kicked off a day-long, invite-only press and analyst event on the firm's Redmond, Wash. campus -- both summarized earlier revelations about Windows 10 and then offered up more information about what is coming in impending previews.

"This is the second of several conversations we'll be having with you [about] Windows 10," said Terry Myerson, the Microsoft executive who leads its operating systems group, implying that the company will be doing more than just a developer-centric presentation in April at Build conference before it releases the OS into the wild.

Myerson claimed that Microsoft had accumulated about 1.7 million participants in its Windows 10 preview program, and that the sneak peek had been installed more than 3 million times.

"They showed that they're interested in what the Insiders are saying and taking that feedback and responding to that feedback," said Dawson, using the label for the those registered with the Windows 10 Technical Preview program.

Cortana on the desktop
Most of the presentation was dedicated to trumpeting additions to Windows 10, notably Cortana, the now-on-phones-only voice-activated service that Microsoft bills as its answer to Apple's Siri on iOS. Cortana will be baked into the desktop version of Windows 10, and will accept commands, transcribe emails, search for documents and more.

If Cortana is as useful on PCs as Microsoft showed today, Apple may be pressed to add Siri to OS X, a long-rumored move it has not yet made.


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