Every year, Microsoft does this thing called Build. It’s a wonderful nerd party where crowds erupt into applause over new debugging tools and coding software. It’s kind of the best.
It’s also where—if you have the mental fortitude to withstand 90 minutes concerning Azure cloud containers—you might learn a thing or two about Microsoft’s software future. Build 2015 was no different, as Microsoft continued its sultry peepshow of Windows 10.
Before jumping into all the new coolness, there was one big huge annoying glaring omission from today’s developer-focused festivities—a release date. Last week chip manufacturer AMD let slip during an earnings call that Windows 10 was coming at the end of July, but Microsoft didn’t confirm or deny. So the mystery continues.
But Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore did answer a few Qs about Windows 10 and the browser formerly known as Spartan. Here’s everything new about Windows 10 from Build 2015.
So this little feature was actually leaked a few days back, but we got to see it in action on the Build 2015 stage. The return of the Start Menu also comes with some great design as Microsoft has added a svelte Aero Glass transparency (a popular Windows 7 feature) and animated live tiles. With some cleaned up design and a smart suggestion feature for new apps, it’s basically Start Menu 2.0. It looks fantastic. Want to try it? You can download a preview build now.
The new Windows Spotlight is an opt-in feature that lives right on your lockscreen and pushes different wallpapers and streams of information to your desktop throughout the day. Like many of Windows 10’s services, you can also train this new lockscreen to know what you like and don’t like. See a picture that’s particularly awesome? Click on the “like what you see” menu in the top right, voice your opinion, and the app will continue working to provide info and aesthetics you actually like.
Also, Spotlight now serves as a slow-going tutorial of sorts. Belfiore demoed how Windows knows what services you’re using on the operating system, and if you’ve neglected Cortana for a couple weeks, the lockscreen will tell you all about the voice assistant and how to use it. Think of it as a less invasive and hopefully useful Clippy.
If you’ve always wanted to be a Windows power user, Windows Spotlight can help.
This probably isn’t breaking news for those hungrily following Windows 10 news, but Cortana on the desktop just keeps getting better and better. The big voice assistant upgrade at this year’s Build was showing off how Cortana can execute commands using third party apps. For instance, Belfiore bellowed “Start a chat with Terry Myerson on Viber” and Cortana popped up the requested chat window. But he can even go a bit further by saying something like “Hey, Cortana. Tell Terry Myerson I’m running really late using Viber,” and Cortana will create the message, stripping out the commands, and ask if the message looks OK to send. Say yes or no, and you’re done.
Keyboards are so 2014.
So this was kind of a letdown, since I’m very much “Pro Spartan,” the codename Microsoft was using for many months for its new browser. But the Windows’ Internet Explorer replacement will be named Microsoft Edge. Belfiore mentions it invokes how the browser lives on the “edge” of technology and some such or the other, but what’s in a name really?
What’s actually important is that the Edge will allow extensions built for Firefox and Chrome with only slight coding modifications needed. Hopefully those same extensions won’t make Edge a bloated nightmare like some browsers which will remain nameless.
Long story short—Windows 10 looks better than ever. But well-practiced presentations is one thing, and real world use is another, so it’s still inconclusive if Windows 10 is the saving grace Microsoft desperately needs. Either way, we still can’t wait to see Microsoft’s new future.
Here’s all our Build 2015 coverage in one place.
Contact the author at email@example.com.