Users of Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 will all be entitled to a free upgrade for the first 12 months after the release of the newest version of the operating system, in a move first heralded by The INQUIRER when Windows 10 was still called Windows 9.
The initiative reinvents Windows as a service, designed to be updated for the working life of the machine on which it is installed. In a huge, but not entirely unexpected, change in policy, upgrades will now be free, seamless and automatic.
Users of Windows XP and Vista aren’t extended this felicity, so the hardcore 15 or so percent still clinging on for dear life will probably remain a little longer.
The biggest headlines in terms of features revolve around the convergence of Windows 10 for devices from phones to PCs and all points in between, with the Continuum feature that allows you to switch between keyboard and touch.
The Start Button is back – but we knew that anyway – with the option to blow it up into something that looks like the Windows 8 Metro interface, or shrink it down to look more like the Windows 7 version.
The other big news is Cortana. It was no secret that Microsoft had been working towards Cortana integration, but the result is now official.
There was a cringeworthy exchange at the Windows 10 launch between Joe Belfiore and Cortana in which she sent her first email from a PC.
Belfiore chillingly described Cortana as “a new member of the family” before going on to demonstrate a number of the universal apps that move seamlessly, including an all new Outlook, Office and Photo Albums.
There will also be a new Maps app with Cortana integration and cloud music storage, and a basic version of Office available free of charge for Phone and on the App Store for larger devices.
Microsoft also announced that Windows 10 will be heading to the Xbox One, and debuted a new Xbox app that will allow users to stream games from the console to their PC.
The company also shared details on DirectX 12, which will significantly improve graphics on existing hardware and cut power consumption on mobile in half.
Also new is the much-rumoured Project Spartan browser. With an an all-new rendering engine onboard, this new version of Internet Explorer lets users doodle on web pages, and brings a new reading mode similar to that found in Apple’s Safari browser.
Naturally, Cortana will also come integrated into the browser.
A new build of Windows 10 will be available to members of Microsoft’s Insiders club next week, with a full release promised for “later this year”.