Microsoft’s executives took the stage in Redmond, WA on Wednesday to discuss Windows 10 and how the operating system will work across a variety of devices, including PCs, tablets and smartphones. There was a lot to talk about – the press conference ran for more than two hours. Microsoft discussed everything from Cortana on the desktop to how the Xbox One will integrate with its ecosystem and more.
We filtered through all of this and narrowed down our top five announcements from the press conference today – the coolest of the cool stuff that we learned about – in case you missed any of the individual announcements.
Keep in mind that none of this is going to be available immediately. The next Windows 10 build, which will include some new functionality but not all of it, will be available in a preview form next week. Windows 10 for phones, also simply called Windows 10, won’t launch in preview mode until sometime next month.
Still, there’s a lot to look forward to when all of this does trickle down to consumers, so here’s a look.
1. Microsoft HoloLens and Windows Holographic
Virtual reality has shown a lot of promise, but we’re not so sure if that’s the future after what Microsoft showed us. The Redmond-based company on Wednesday dropped a technological bombshell, introducing a new HoloLens headset that will essentially beam holograms all over the world around you; augmented reality taken to the next level, and it should be able to run Windows 10 apps.
The headset itself is untethered, meaning you don’t need to be hooked up to a PC to use it; all the computers doodads are built-in—CPU and GPU, along with what Microsoft referred to as a Holographic Processor. It can be used to do anything, from creating 3D models to playing Minecraft.
Microsoft promised to get this (not yet priced) technology out within the timeframe of Windows 10, which means you might be able to pick HoloLens up for yourself very soon.
2. Cortana for Desktop
Cortana has already been around for a while, but Microsoft’s personal digital assistant is getting a pretty serious upgrade with Windows 10. The company is bringing Cortana to desktop computers, and integrating her right into the taskbar, maps and even the upcoming Spartan browser (more on that in a second).
You’ll be able to interact with her in a small search area at the bottom left side of your display, where Cortana can be called up through a “Hey Cortana” command. She’ll also pop up notifications that you care about – like the flight you’re supposed to catch in an hour, news stories that matter to you, and sports scores for the teams you follow.
It’s a full-fledged voice-assistant for the desktop, and we can’t wait to try it when Cortana launches with Windows 10 (which will be free) later this year.
3. Project Spartan is Here, Sort Of:
We finally got an official look at a new browser designed to replace Internet Explorer, which Microsoft is currently calling Project Spartan. Beyond offering a cleaner overall look, Spartan introduces new features, including the ability to jot down some notes or draw on any webpage and then quickly send them off to a friend.
There’s also a new reading mode, and integration with Cortana so you can quickly pull up the weather, upcoming flights and more from inside the browser’s search bar. Spartan won’t be available to test out for at least a few more months, but based on what we saw today the new browser is already off the a great start. Let’s just hope there are some great plug-ins to round it out.
4. Xbox One Will Stream to Windows 10 Devices
Microsoft said that the Xbox One gaming console will be able to stream to Windows 10 devices in your home, including PCs and tablets, when Windows 10 launches later this year. That means you’ll be able to kick back and fire up some Destiny on your tablet, so long as it’s connected to your home Wi-Fi network. Unfortunately, Microsoft didn’t say what sorts of hardware limitations there will be – will this functionality work with ARM and Intel-based processors, or only the latter? What about for Windows 10 devices with smaller screens?
Microsoft also added that the Xbox One will also technically run a version of Windows 10, which means developers will easily be able to port applications over to the console. A new Xbox app will launch for PCs, too, and will exist as a new social network for Microsoft gamers who want to share status updates, 30-second video clips and more. Finally, there’s even improved support for cross-platform play between Windows 10 and Xbox One.
Xbox One is very much a large part of Microsoft’s Windows 10 vision moving forward, and we hope to hear more about its role in the near future.
5. Windows 10 For Phones Looks Great
Windows Phone is far from the most popular operating system around, and Microsoft is going to try to change that through some UI enhancements it’s making on the platform. It didn’t show much, but Microsoft did discuss a brand new Office Suite coming for Windows Phone that looks better than the suites available for iOS and Android.
You’ll also find a new floating keyboard that you can move around the screen – probably perfect for phablets – a brand new quick settings page, much better looking notifications, a revamped photos application that will automatically create galleries for you and more. Oh, and that Project Spartan browser we mentioned earlier? Yep, that’s coming to Windows 10 for phones, too.
See? We told you there was a ton of stuff announced today, and those are just some of the our favorites. Be sure to check out the homepage for plenty of other news that was discussed. And, as always, we’ll be here to let you know when all of this starts rolling out.
Brandon Russell and Jacob Kleinman contributed to this story.