Microsoft officially announced Windows 10’s features today, and it includes things like the Cortana digital assistant, Xbox integration, a completely new browser that isn’t Internet Explorer, and yes, holograms. But should you care? We’d argue that even without the gimmicks, Windows 10 is an amazing upgrade for all. And it’s a free upgrade from Windows 7 and 8.
During the announcement, which you can watch here, Microsoft spent a ton of time talking about how Cortana is integrated into the operating system, how Modern apps use the same code across desktops, tablets, phones, and even Xbox, how the new Spartan web browser lets you write on the screen to annotate the web, and the entirely new holographic interface (requires the HoloLens goggles). But most of these features are beside the point and, frankly, aren’t the reason we’d recommend that people upgrade.
First, we’ll go through and opine on all the features that they announced today, and then we’ll tell you why you should upgrade to Windows 10.
Windows 10 is a Universal Operating System Across All Devices
Windows 10 now runs the exact same operating system on your desktop, tablet, Xbox, and your phone… assuming you have a Microsoft tablet or a Windows phone. The new “Continuum” feature will let you switch Windows Store apps from desktop windows to full screen when you undock your Surface or similar device, so you are using a tablet like a tablet, and a desktop like a desktop. In the demo videos it looked a little clunky, but we’re assuming they will continue to refine it.
But is Windows 10 on mobile devices likely to make people switch from iPhone or Android? Not until the apps are a whole lot better and, even then, Google and Apple have such a huge market share lead that it could be forever, or never, until they gain real market share.
The track record on the Windows Store hasn’t been very good so far — sure, they have a ton of apps in there, but most of them are so terrible they can barely be called apps. When they do have an app from a well-known company, it’s generally a pale imitation of the Android or iPhone versions, and nowhere near as good as the iPad-optimized version of that same app. We’re certainly hoping that Microsoft announces some changes at their Build conference that will get more people making more apps for Windows, but so far we’re not holding our breath, despite it being a great platform for developers.
The one area that does seem interesting for home users is that Xbox One will soon be upgraded to Windows 10, and have access to at least a section of the Windows Store. So people will finally be able to make apps for the Xbox, which could mean some amazing things for media centers or pretty much anything you’d like to display on the TV.
This isn’t the reason that you should upgrade to Windows 10, although it helps.
Cortana Digital Assistant Works Across All Platforms, Including Your Desktop
The Cortana digital assistant is basically Microsoft’s version of Siri, for those who haven’t heard of it before. And now it’s completely integrated into the desktop (although we’re assuming you can turn it off). These digital assistants, like Siri and Google Now, are definitely here to stay, and they continue to get smarter and smarter to the point of almost being creepy.
Cortana has a lot of features that Siri doesn’t have, and it taps into more of your information to learn more about you. Just like Google Now, she will give you notifications of things that might be interesting to you, like tracking sports or stocks or whether your flight is going to be on time. You can ask questions to do things on the PC, like search for a file, or make an appointment or a reminder. You can even have her type out an email to somebody if you want to. You can highlight text in the web browser and ask Cortana to look it up for you and give you more information.
We haven’t actually used Cortana on the PC yet, so it’s hard to gauge exactly how well this feature will work in practice, and how likely we would be to use it. But will you really be talking to your desktop PC, or want your PC to start talking to you? The whole point of a digital assistant is that it needs to be wherever you are rather than tied to a computer at home, which is why they make sense on your smartphone. So unless you also use a Windows Phone, you won’t be likely to be invested enough in having a digital assistant to use Cortana.
This doesn’t seem like a big selling point to us.
Internet Explorer is Dead. This is Spartan.
Microsoft has finally decided to retire Internet Explorer for good (although it will likely be available for compatibility purposes) and replaced it with Spartan, a new browser that looks a lot like Google Chrome or Firefox but with a more “Modern UI” feel to it. They took the Trident engine that powers IE and ripped all the compatibility layers out of it, and this new browser should be sleek and streamlined and much better.
It’s great that they finally made a drastic change, but this is a lot of a little too late. About 50 percent of How-To Geek’s readers are using Chrome, and another 40 percent or so are using Firefox or Safari or a mobile device. Only 11 percent of our readers are still using Internet Explorer and those are mostly people using Google to search for our older articles and never come back.
This isn’t much of a selling point for switching to Windows 10 either.
Windows 10 Has a Holographic Display (With the HoloLens Headset)
This feature has the ‘wow’ factor for sure — Microsoft has created an augmented reality headset with APIs that are built directly into Windows 10 across all platforms. You can play Minecraft on your kitchen table, or walk on Mars, or Skype with somebody using the headset.
You have to watch the video to believe it, so we’ll shut up until you do:
We’re guessing that when it comes right down to it, this “holographic” virtual reality is going to mostly be interesting in the home environment for the gaming potential — just imagine being able to play an Xbox game with virtual reality characters coming out of the TV or standing next to you as you play Halo.
For designers, architects, or inventors, this will be absolutely incredible. You can create objects in augmented reality and then send them to a 3D printer. The possibilities are nearly endless with what can be done.
But the reality is that a lot of people are working on products that are similar to this. Google just announced that they aren’t going to sell Glass anymore, but they are working on a successor, and they’ve invested half a billion dollars into a startup called Magic Leap which is supposed to do the exact same thing. Oculus has their VR product, and there are half a dozen copycat clones making full VR solutions that aren’t quite as good as the Oculus.
It’s an amazing development, and we can hardly wait to play with it, but until we know what you can really do with this, and until it is actually released, we can’t tell you that this is why you should definitely upgrade to Windows 10.
You Can Play Xbox Games on Your Windows Computer
If you are an Xbox gamer, you’ll be thrilled to know that Windows 10 and Xbox One are completely integrated — in fact, Xbox One will now actually use Windows 10 as the operating system. You can capture and edit videos with Game DVR, and play multiplayer games across devices, so if your friends are using Xbox and you are using Windows 10, you can play together.
You can stream games directly from the Xbox One to your Windows 10 tablet or PC, so if somebody is using the living room TV to watch some stupid show about housewives of awful somewhere, you can continue to play on your PC, using your Xbox controller. The Xbox App for Windows 10 gives you access to all of your games and friends and achievements, and you can use Xbox Live on your Windows 10 PC.
DirectX 12 in Windows 10 contains a huge increase in speed while cutting power consumption in half, and it will support all existing devices that have DirectX 11 drivers, so people shouldn’t be left out in the cold.
If you are a gamer, this is a huge reason to upgrade.
Why Windows 10 is a Must-Upgrade (Once Released)
Windows 10 is an awesome upgrade for anybody using Windows 7 or 8.x because it includes all the great under-the-hood features that Windows 8 brought like better resource usage, battery life, and performance, but in a package that looks a lot more like Windows 7. In case you were wondering, you can remove those Modern Tiles from the start menu and resize it how you’d like to.
It’s simply a better operating system, and once it is finally released, we’ll definitely recommend that everybody upgrade. The upgrade will be free to redeem for a year after Windows 10 is released, and then you’ll permanently have that copy of Windows 10.
Windows 10 has all sorts of features that you might actually use, like virtual desktops, multiple monitor enhancements, a much better command prompt, and they are finally integrating the PC Settings and Control Panel sections together into a single cohesive app.
There’s a new notification center that works like you’d expect from Android or iPhone. They’ve added tons of new keyboard shortcuts. You can snap windows in new and improved ways. And as we’ve talked about before, it includes a new Linux-style package manager called OneGet. We also hear that the Windows Store will finally include desktop apps, but we’re not sure about that yet.
If you’re upgrading from Windows 8, it’s a no-brainer to make the leap, because Windows 10 is the same type of upgrade over Windows 8 that Windows 7 was over Vista: much of the internals are similar, but the package is so much better.
If you’re upgrading from Windows 7, here are just a few of the things you’ve been missing out on because the Windows 8 interface was so annoying that you didn’t upgrade:
- Improved system resource usage and performance. Less processes running in the background.
- Refresh and Reset to reinstall without reinstalling.
- New and Greatly Improved Task Manager. You almost don’t need Process Explorer. Almost.
- System Boot is significantly faster, and sleep mode works a lot better.
- File History to restore old versions of documents and files.
- USB 3.0 is natively supported.
- Loads of security features like built-in antivirus and network intrusion detection.
- Impressive Resource Monitor application to track system performance.
- And many, many more features.
Since it’s a free upgrade, we definitely recommend that people make the jump. Just… do NOT upgrade right now. Wait until the final version is released. Note that they haven’t actually announced when it will be released. We’re guessing September, but there’s no way to be sure.
Plan to upgrade? Tell us why, (or why not) in the comments. Just don’t start yammering about Linux.
Picture credits: Microsoft