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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.

Joe Belfiore, who leads Windows' design, conducted a long, sometimes tedious demo that introduced Cortana and a number of other new aspects of Windows 10, including universal apps, Microsoft-speak for its effort to let developers write one app that runs on multiple device categories, from smartphones and tablets to PCs and 2-in-1s.

Windows 10 will have a core set of universal apps common to all devices running Windows 10, Belfiore said, which will range from a photo editor and mapping app to a music player that taps Microsoft's OneDrive and a new browser, code named "Spartan."

That browser, which had been leaked earlier, sports a new rendering engine, but Belfiore did not specify its origin, meaning that it's still unknown whether Spartan relies on Microsoft's own Trident, the foundation of Internet Explorer (IE), or if Spartan will allow extensions, as rumored. Cortana will also be built into Spartan for natural-language queries.

IE will continue to be packaged in Windows 10, presumably for legacy support reasons, although Microsoft will stress Spartan as the OS's "go-to" browser.

"We're going change the way people use PCs," promised Belfiore.

Not right away, though. What Belfiore showed won't be available, even in the preview, for some time. "These will be coming to Insiders over the next few months ... three, four, five months," said Belfiore.

A next preview will appear shortly: Myerson said a new build would ship "in the next week" for PCs, while the first preview of Windows 10 for smartphones would show up next month.

Myerson's announcement of free Windows 10 upgrades may have been the most significant of the keynote, considering the company's past practice, which has relied on some minor revenue from consumer upgrades but more importantly sparked new computer sales.

Windows 10 for free
"I'm impressed with the progress they've made on Windows 10," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, as he agreed with Dawson that the free upgrade was one of the most significant moves touted today. "They've removed a lot of the barriers of enterprises to upgrade -- they're excited about the new security [features in Windows 10] -- and as far as consumers, they've removed all barriers."

For the first year after Windows 10's official release -- today Microsoft said only that would be "later this year" -- customers running either Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 on personal computers or tablets will be able to upgrade free of charge to the new OS. The same one-year grace will hold for Windows smartphones running Windows 8.1.

Myerson labeled the upgrade and the new, regularly-released updates planned for Windows 10 as "Windows as a service," even though the OS will not, as most services are, be cloud-based. No did he hint that by "service" he meant "subscription."


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