Move breaks with Microsoft’s past in order to compete in mobile-centric market as company also unveils headset that interacts with 3D holograms
The tech company unveiled Windows 10 at an event in Redmond, Washington – its first update in two years – and announced the new version would be a free upgrade (for the first year) for users of Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone. The company is expected to release the software later this year but has not yet given a specific date.
“Today’s a big day. A big day for Windows. What it means to our customers, our partners and Microsoft,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive officer. “We want to move from people needing Windows to people loving Windows.”
“Windows has always been grounded in the idea that technology should help individuals and organizations do great things,” said Microsoft executive vice president of operating systems Terry Myerson. He said the system would “support the broadest device family ever”.
In a surprise move, the company also unveiled a new headset, Hololens, that will work with Windows 10 and allow people to interact with 3D holograms, including holographic Skype calls. “Holograms can become part of our everyday life,” said Microsoft’s Alex Kipman. The move comes shortly after Google scrapped the development phase of Google Glass, its internet-enabled headset project.
The decision to offer Windows 10 for free is a major shift for Microsoft, which used to make the majority of its money from selling its operating system. The first version, Windows 1, was launched by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in November 1985.
Nadella set out a vision of the company offering services rather than boxes of software. “We are going to have services everywhere. We are not bolting on apps, we are seamlessly harmonizing experiences,” said Nadella. ”We are going to have our services and their endpoints everywhere. But we believe Windows is home for the very best of Microsoft experiences.”
“We want to make Windows 10 the most loved release of Windows.”
Windows 10 will work across PCs, mobile, tablets and the company’s Xbox gaming console. The new system will also feature Windows Start menu, which was controversially dropped in Windows 8.
The company previewed the new operating system to business customers last year and announced it would skip Windows 9 for Windows 10 in order to signal a break with the past. Myerson said that 1.7 million people had already downloaded the developer preview and provided the company with over 800,000 pieces of feedback. “We’re listening,” said Myerson, describing the new Windows as “a service”.
The company also revealed a new web browser for Windows 10, codenamed Spartan, which looks set to replace Internet Explorer. Spartan, which will work across all Windows 10-enabled devices, will incorporate Cortana, Microsoft’s voice-activated digital assistant, and allow people to take notes on top of web pages on suitable devices.