Microsoft Makes Five Massive Windows 10 Changes

Windows 10 is changing, dramatically. That was the big takeaway from Build 2016, Microsoft’s annual developer conference this week. And it all begins with a surprising name change…

‘Windows 10 Anniversary Update’ is the somewhat convoluted name Microsoft has now bestowed upon ‘Redstone’, the biggest Windows 10 upgrade to date. It will land this summer on all Windows 10 systems, including phones, tablets and even the Xbox One and (as with all Windows 10 updates) it will be free and mandatory.

Here are the headline features:

  1. Major Touch Improvements

Touch support is one of Windows 10’s big selling points and this will improve markedly with the arrival of Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Intelligence is the key theme here with Ink able to recognise user writing to predict required services, calendar entries, reminders and more. Windows Ink will also be more aware of its environment with a demo showing how lines drawn on a map automatically adjust when the map is flipped into 3D.

Windows 10 will get major upgrades with the 'Anniversary Update'. Image credit: Microsoft

Windows 10 will get major upgrades with the ‘Anniversary Update’. Image credit: Microsoft

In addition there will be a new Windows Ink Action Center panel, upgraded Office integration (including proofreading improvements), support for virtual rulers and more.

 

  1. Voice Control Overhaul

Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant, was one of Windows 10’s tentpole features at launch and with the Anniversary update it will become even more deeply integrated into the operating system. Cortana will appear on the lockscreen for quick actions and be added to core apps like Skype.

Cortana will also get functionality upgrades with Microsoft stressing it wants more natural integration. An example given was automatically adding an appointment to Calendar after reading an email, though it could go a lot further in future with Microsoft pointing out it could make automatic hotel and flight reservations based on email or IM conversations. Exciting, but also a little dangerous.

This summer Cortana will be able to do a lot more and even pre-empt user requests. Image credit: Microsoft

This summer Cortana will be able to do a lot more and even pre-empt user requests. Image credit: Microsoft

  1. Microsoft Edge Comes Of Age

Microsoft Edge was released too quickly. As Microsoft was desperate to crowbar it into Windows 10 the company’s long term Internet Explorer replacement still required a lot of work. Now that’s here.

With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update Edge will gain extensions (including support for Chrome extensions), Windows Hello Support for biometric (facial and fingerprint) logins for websites, pinned tabs (finally) and a lot of under the hood changes such as new APIs and web notifications.

Microsoft Edge will soon support extensions and even biometric security. Image credit: Microsoft

Microsoft Edge will soon support extensions and even biometric security. Image credit: Microsoft

One important misnomer to clear up though is Edge will not be getting native adblocking. An erroneous report on ZDNet misinterpreted a Microsoft presentation slide to make this allegation and it was widely reported. The story is still up, but Microsoft has thoroughly dismissed it saying that while Adblocking will be supported by extensions – just like any other browser – there are no plans for adblocking to be built in.

  1. Linux Comes To Windows 10

Yes, hell has officially frozen over since with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update Microsoft is embracing Linux – natively.

More specifically Windows 10 will natively integrate ‘Linux Bash’ which Microsoft is calling ‘Windows Subsystem for Linux’. There’s no VM here, it is a genuine Ubuntu image on top of Windows with downloadable binaries (using ‘apt-get’) and should be particularly great for developers who regularly use both platforms.

Windows 10 running Linux Bash. Image credit: Microsoft

Windows 10 running Linux Bash. Image credit: Microsoft

  1. Massive Universal Windows Platform Expansion

While app stores have flourished on Apple and Google’s platforms, Microsoft has struggled and the Windows 10 Anniversary Update wants to change this – radically.

For starters the upgraded Windows 10 will start bringing all desktop software into the store as well as tying it in with an upcoming tool called the ‘Desktop App Converter’ which will allow developers to turn regular desktop programs into UWP applications. This was demoed with major games like Age of Empires II HD and The Witcher 3. Microsoft also said it plans to bring all Xbox One games to Windows 10 using this method, though that will obviously take more time.

On top of this Microsoft announced some big name additions to the UWP collection with the Bank of America, Starbucks, Uber, Vine and WWE all aboard suggesting traction is finally being found.

Promising Future Ahead

Beyond the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Microsoft made a number of other exciting promises at Build. Perhaps most interesting of which are its ongoing work with Bots (smart artificial helpers it will look to feed into core apps like Skype) and support for Android notifications in Windows 10.

The former is potentially huge (even if their fallibility was recently displayed in the high profile struggles of the company’s Tay Twitter bot) while the latter would see Microsoft again step further away from its own mobile OS to harness the potentially massive audience of Android users with Apple Continuity-style integration.

Early Availability

Microsoft confirmed Windows Insiders (aka beta testers) will have the Windows 10 Anniversary Update drip fed to them several months before the formal launch. Meanwhile the ‘summer’ timeframe gives Microsoft a fairly wide period for the main release.

I remain no fan of Microsoft’s aggressive attempts to force Windows 10 upon all Windows 7 and Windows 8 users, but the updates planned for Windows 10 are exciting. Consequently, if resistance really will prove futile, at least this is an operating system showing a huge amount of ambition…

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