Windows 10: One Operating System to Rule PCs, Phones, Tablets

By Sean Hollister on at

Microsoft just announced the newest version of Windows. It's called Windows 10. It will finally span all of Microsoft Windows powered device, from desktops and laptops all the way through to tablets and phones.

Windows 10: One Operating System To Rule PCs, Phones, Tablets

We're learning about the new operating system right now at a San Francisco event, and Microsoft revealed the name first, so expect us to fill in details in real-time over the hour to come.

First up: Microsoft says it's aiming at the enterprise first, not regular PC users. The company's calling it its most managable operating system ever, which is probably not a phrase that makes you drool! "I'm not going to spend much time on fanciful end-user features," said Microsoft's Joe Belfiore as he fired up a demo.

Windows 10: One Operating System To Rule PCs, Phones, Tablets

But here's one feature you might care about. Sure enough, the Start Menu is back in full force. The jarring Windows 8 Start Screen which obscured everything on your desktop is totally obsolete, because you can add all the same automatically refreshing Live Tiles to this new Start Menu.

In fact, you can customise it however you want: shrink it down to be short and stout, or pull it up to be tall and lanky. No problem.

Windows 10: One Operating System To Rule PCs, Phones, Tablets

Windows 10: One Operating System To Rule PCs, Phones, Tablets

You know what else? Forget about having to deal with icky Windows Store apps that take up your entire screen. Windows is all about windows, and you can run those apps in a window just like anything else.

Windows 10: One Operating System To Rule PCs, Phones, Tablets

Mix and match "new" apps and "legacy" apps across multiple windows and even multiple desktops if you like, and snap them into place with a new feature called Snap Assist:

Windows 10: One Operating System To Rule PCs, Phones, Tablets

Snap Assist can grab windows from your other desktops, in case you need to mix and match tasks.

For power users, Belfiore even showed that you can now copy and paste in the old-school Windows Command Prompt using standard keyboard shortcuts.

That doesn't mean that touch is getting deemphasized, though: Belfiore says touch is the direction that Microsoft sees computers trending towards, and sure enough you can still swipe in from the right side of the screen to pull up the Charms Bar.

In fact, Microsoft wants Windows 10 to be able to intelligently detect when you switch a 2-in-1 device (like the Microsoft Surface) between tablet and laptop modes. Belfiore showed off a demo called "Continuum" where the Windows 10 user interface would shift between two different views when you dock or undock it from a keyboard, and adding a new Back button to help you navigate when the touchscreen is your only option. Take a peek at that below.

Windows 10: One Operating System To Rule PCs, Phones, Tablets

"Yesterday they were driving maybe a first-generation Prius... and we got them a Tesla," is the vibe of the new OS, says Belfiore. It's an advanced experience, he says, but it's still just like driving a car.

Microsoft says it will launch Windows 10 in 2015, and won't talk about the consumer features of the new operating system (or presumably, the smartphone version) until early next year. You'll need to consult our Windows rumour roundup for more potential info.

We're in the Q&A phase of the event now, and hoping that Belfiore and Myerson drop some more info. One nugget so far: on smartphones, Windows 10 won't have a desktop mode. Thank the heavens.

Microsoft also says that it won't necessarily require new hardware: Belfiore says the intent is to make Windows 10 available as an update for "the vast majority of devices," though when and how is still a mystery.