What to expect at this week’s Windows 10 event

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Microsoft will this week unveil the consumer edition of Windows 10, the latest in its flagship series of operating systems.

The presentation on Wednesday promises to be a significant moment in forecasting what 2015 holds for the software vendor, as well as the career of chief executive Satya Nadella, who has headed up Microsoft since February of last year.

So what can we expect to see during the event?

Windows 10 screen

1. The Start Menu further reformed

Since Microsoft’s decision to switch to a tile-oriented menu in Windows 8, the firm has been pilloried, with the company quickly backtracking with the release of Window 8.1.

This time Microsoft is taking no chances, and the Start Menu has taken pride of place in technical demos and screenshots, with greater customisation than its Windows 7 iteration. Expect more focus on this as the firm seeks to make amends for its mistake.

2. Equal support for keyboard and touchscreen

The tiles menu was intended as a way Microsoft could gain a head-start on its rivals into the burgeoning market for tablets and phones, which must be navigated by touch screen.

That is still the plan this time, but keyboard functionality will be given equal footing, with the results branded as Microsoft Continuum. Given the likely focus on integration between devices (see below), Microsoft will surely draw attention to this.

3. Windows 10 for mobile or tablet

Microsoft bought Nokia’s smartphone and mobile departments in April of last year for £4.5bn, signalling a strong interest in the potential of devices, which are increasingly used by both consumers and business as a supplement or even replacement to desktop.

In this vein the firm is expected to showcase Windows 10 for mobile, replacing Windows 8.1 and Windows RT as the operating system on tablets and smartphones.

4. Integration, integration, integration

All of the above is part of a bigger plan to convince consumers that they should be running a Windows desktop at home, talking on a Windows phone while commuting and playing with a Windows tablet at home.

Microsoft will want to demonstrate the benefits of this marriage to potential customers, and will likely have allocated a segment of their presentation to showing how smoothly this will work. Or not work, as the case may be.

5. Xbox integrated into Windows

Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft’s gaming division Xbox, will attend the event on Wednesday, and is looking forward to show off "the great work we’re doing".

What that means in real terms is more mysterious, though Spencer claims Windows 10 is the best operating system the firm has ever created for gamers on PCs. This follows the abandonment of Games for Windows, a platform for digital rights management that attracted the ire of some gamers.

6. Personal assistant Cortana unleashed

Thus far the personal assistant Cortana, named after a character from the video game franchise Halo, has only appeared on Windows phones, competing with Apple’s Siri on iPhone.

Earlier builds of Windows 10 have indicated Microsoft intends to fully incorporate Cortana into the latest operating system, providing another means by which users can navigate the desktop.

7. Minor cosmetic improvements

Though much is known about the general look of Windows 10, one can expect developers to have polished it since the beta was released last year.

Expect the system to be a lot smoother in the demo that Microsoft will show off, and do not be surprised if some neat visual touches have been added.

8. Even more functions and tweaks

The build for business showed a couple of nice tweaks around resizing and customising the desktop experience, including a nice snapping feature for spreading windows across the screen.

These features can alter the feel of an operating system considerably, and will be needed to convince Windows 7 and 8 users that switching is worth it.

9. Pricing models may change dramatically

Forking out large sums for an operating system is increasingly an alien concept, especially since so much other software is now available freely online as part of open source projects.

Whilst it would be unlikely that Microsoft will release their flagship product for free, much less show off the source code, it is not inconceivable that a stripped back version be offered for free, or even delivered to businesses as part of subscriptions for other products.

10. Office for Windows 10

It is hard to make productivity tools interesting, especially given they have largely remained the same over the past decade.

Still, many consumers still rely on their desktops for mundane tasks, and Microsoft will want to reaffirm its share of the market. How far it will deviate from previous iterations is unclear, but it may well tie into the firm’s cloud-based Office 365, as well as possible mobile editions.

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