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What to expect from Microsoft's Windows 10 event, from Cortana to new browsers

Mark Hachman | Jan. 21, 2015
On Wednesday, Microsoft plans to unveil a consumer preview of Windows 10. Look for Cortana integration, improved notifications, a seamless new interface, new browsers and more.

Continuum: The Desktop-Metro switch we wanted 
In October, Microsoft executives touched upon what it called the "Continuum" concept: flipping the Windows user interface between the Desktop and Modern/Metro, depending on whether the tablet or hybrid was docked. In reality, this makes perfect sense: Nobody wants to poke through a lot of Desktop settings menus with their fingers, or even a stylus. I'm going to go so far as to say that Continuum is going to be hardly worthy of mention, because it's going to be one of the obvious features that should have been there from the beginning.

Internet Explorer 12 and its Spartan successor
Microsoft's "Spartan" sounds like an interesting beast: a do-over, essentially, of Internet Explorer. Leaks on ZDNet and the Verge point to the browser's becoming a lightweight version of IE, but with support for extensions. 

Anyone who's used a PC for a number of years has probably tried Chrome--if only because the alternative browser of choice, Firefox, suffered notorious memory leaks, bloating it to a point that many considered unusable. But Chrome's habit of sandboxing each tab means that browser isn't exactly lightweight, either.

In the past year or so, however, the trend has been to strip the cost out of PCs to make them more price-competitive with phones and tablets. Microsoft's made Windows essentially free in smaller tablets. Trimming RAM and flash storage to cut cost has been a popular tactic--not just in PCs, but Windows Phones as well.

Re-engineering the browser to make it efficient and lightweight was the foundation of Opera Software--which is the default browser on Microsoft's feature phones, by the way. It seems reasonable that we might see higher-end laptops with Windows, and IE; cheaper, low-end models could run the free Windows with Bing on top of the new Spartan browser.

As far as features are concerned: I care more about the content of the Web page I'm viewing than the browser I'm using. But browser plug-ins have been a feature IE has missed for some time.

Tying the Xbox to Windows 10, via gaming
We know Xbox chief Phil Spencer will present at the Windows 10 event, and on Thursday he spoke vaguely about what he plans to do.

Reading between the lines, it looks like Spencer and Microsoft hope to bring PC gaming more in line with the Xbox. Windows 10 will ship with DirectX 12, an optimized API that will be "closer to the metal" and bring PC games more in line with consoles, from a rendering perspective. That also sounds an awful lot like what Spencer is talking about.

In some sense, PC gamers are a breed apart (and like it that way), with valid complaints that consoles have dumbed down great PC game franchises like Thief, for example. Games for Windows and other gaming "features" have also been reviled by PC gamers. I'm hoping that we begin to see a much more robust PC games store, along the lines of Steam, instead of the anemic, casual Windows Phone games that currently litter Microsoft's Windows Store. 


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