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Everything you need to know about Windows 10

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As a Mac user (I went Mac and never went back around the tail end of 2006), I honestly had very little interest in Microsoft's Windows 10 event, which took place yesterday (January 21), and I wasn't the only one. The announcement alone left people confused (why skip Windows 9 altogether?), and with the colossal clusterfuck that was Windows 8 still fresh in many users minds (and on many users computers), the idea of a similarly unwieldy operating system left even the dedicated Microsoft fanboys rolling their eyes and making indifferent “Next” gestures.

Windows 10 is a free update for Windows 7 and 8 users. For a year at least

So Microsoft really had to pull it out of the bag with this one to bring the public back onboard with what was once the greatest operating system in the world. Did they achieve this at yesterday's event? No, not really, but they did at least do and say enough to make an old (well not THAT old) cynic like me sit up and pay attention, and that in itself means the event is surely worthy of further investigation? Here I'll be highlighting most of the key announcements from the event. They're not all barnstormers, but there is at least evidence to suggest Microsoft have actually been listening to their user-base for once.

For the first time, Windows 10 will be a consistent operating system for all things Microsoft

IT'S FREE – Yes Windows 10 is a free update. For a year at least. All users running Windows 7 or 8.1 on their PCs, notebooks and smart devices will be offered Windows 10 as a free update, which will last for 12 months. What happens after that has yet to be determined of course. Windows 12 perhaps?

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Just Press Start – Yes, the old fashioned start menu is back with a vengeance. Not much else to say about that really, other than about bloody time!

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1.7 Million Beta Testers – Microsoft has supposedly already signed up over 1.7 million beta users, who have been participating via the company's Insider program. Considering there are currently over 1 billion Windows users worldwide this is actually quite a small number, but it's enough to at least gauge whether or not there are any serious flaws at work.

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Cortana – Named for the AI helper in the Halo franchise, Cortana is (to all intents and purposes) a Siri clone. It has already been a success for the Window's phone operating system, and is being brought to Windows 10 largely unchanged. Her role is essentially to act as a digital, personal assistant, and user reports thus far have been surprisingly positive.

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Microsoft has supposedly already signed up over 1.7 million Windows 10 beta users

Project Spartan – Continuing with the Halo theme (in fairness it is the company's flagship franchise), the new Project Spartan web browser finally does away with the antiquated Internet Explorer moniker in favour of a name befitting a browser built from the ground up for speed and simplicity. Internet Explorer will still be an option, but why have hamburger when you can have steak? We got little solid information on Spartan at the event, but much was made of its integration with Cortana, as one would expect.

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Device Sync and Stream – For the first time, Windows 10 will be a consistent operating system for all things Microsoft (save for the Xbox of course), which means that integration between phones, tablets and computers will be more stable and easier to use than ever before. On a similar note, all mobile Windows 10 users will get a free suite of Microsoft Office apps, meaning Microsoft will no longer have to lag behind their competitors when it comes to sharing documents between devices. When it comes to the Xbox One, Microsoft also say they will be building a cross-service social network that will allow gamers to share their achievements on services such as Facebook and Steam. Xbox One games will also be able to stream to Windows 10, with the service working in a similar manner to PS4 remote play.

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The HoloLens – This new snazzy piece of headgear has been designed to support Windows Holographic, which is an augmented reality program that allows users to transport virtual objects into the real world. The technology works by planting the image in the user's HoloLens glasses and overlaying it on top of whatever surface they happen to be looking at. Many smartphones and the Nintendo 3DS have both already used this feature to a certain degree, but it appears Microsoft wish to bring AR into the mainstream. Of course, as interesting as the concept behind the HoloLens is, you're probably going to look like a plonker using them.

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OneDrive – Finally, Microsoft made a rather big deal about their OneDrive cloud storage solution. In essence it works a lot like Apple's iCloud (syncing entertainment and documents between devices), only lets hope it's a little less susceptible to leakage.

For the first time, Windows 10 will be a consistent operating system for all things Microsoft

Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK. He hasn't been convinced by Windows 10, but will at least give it a gander when it's launched later this year.

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