Microsoft has unveiled the first details of its next operating system (OS) – Windows 10.
The new OS’ name is a surprise, bearing in mind it represents a jump from the last version – Windows 8.
The software will run on a wide range of devices, from phones and tablets to PCs and Xbox games consoles, with applications sold from a single store.
Windows 10 also marks the return of the Start Menu, which had been removed from Windows 8.
In addition to offering a list of the user’s favorite applications, the menu also brings up resizable tiles – similar to those featured in Windows 8’s touch-centric interface on PCs and tablets.
These provide a quick view of notifications from relevant applications, such as details of new emails, Facebook messages and weather forecast updates.
Microsoft said the facility was intended to make the software seem familiar to both users of Windows 8 and Windows 7.
The behavior of the OS will depend on the type of device with which it is being used. Unlike its predecessor, users will not need to switch between Desktop Mode and the touch-focused alternative.
However, they can still spread a number of “live tiles” across the screens of two-in-one laptop-tablet hybrids to make them easier to use with both a mouse and finger presses.
Windows 8 had been criticized for being too different to the previous version, which deterred some organizations from introducing it.
It initially lacked a Start button altogether, and when one was introduced it only switched to the touch-centric tiled interface or – if a long mouse press was used – provided access to the system’s control panel and other functions.
Businesses typically wait about a year after a new operating system’s release before offering it to workers to give IT staff a chance to get to grips with the new technologies involved.
It has been nearly two years since Windows 8 first went on sale and adoption is still low.
Across desktop PCs as a whole, only 13.4% currently run Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, according to research firm NetMarketshare.
By contrast, it says 51.2% are powered by Windows 7 and 23.9% by Windows XP, a version that is no longer supported by Microsoft.
Microsoft will offer a “technical preview” of Windows 10 to early adopters later this week, which will run on laptops and desktops.
The company said it would provide details about the introduction of “universal apps” – individual programs that tailor their functionality to different types of devices – at its Build conference in April, and would aim to release the completed OS before the end of 2015.
There was no mention of offering Microsoft’s voice-controlled digital assistant Cortana to PCs, or when Windows 10 would supersede the Windows Phone OS.
Microsoft’s smartphone code is designed for ARM-based processors, unlike the main Windows 8 and Xbox operating systems that are built for x86 chips – including those made by Intel and AMD.
While Microsoft confirmed that Windows 10 would be released for both types of chip architecture, it did not disclose whether there would be a staggered release.
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