The wait is finally over. On July 29, 2015, Windows 10 was released in 190 markets, and a FREE upgrade is available in the first year if you have Windows 7 or Windows 8 (Consumer and Pro). If you don’t, the consumer version is priced at $119. Windows 10 Pro is $199, with an upgrade from Consumer to Pro costing $99.
After Windows 8’s lukewarm reception in 2012, the big question is: Has Microsoft got it right with its Windows 10 operating system (OS)?
Windows 8 was a radical departure from previous versions, but the company’s efforts to create an all-in-one OS for all devices alienated many users. The familiar Windows desktop and Start button were replaced by a completely redesigned default screen with touch-friendly “tiles,” arguably making it more suited to tablets than to conventional laptops and PCs.
With Windows 10, Microsoft appears to have listened to its users and has also introduced a number of new features. The company claims the result is so good it’s worthy of the jump from version 8 to 10—there is no Windows 9.
So what are the new features? Here are our top five.
1. A more intelligent interface
Windows 10 detects what type of device it’s running on and automatically adjusts the interface accordingly. For PC and laptop users, that means the traditional Windows desktop and Start menu is back, albeit with a modern design. For tablet users, the interface remains like that in Windows 8. Windows 10’s dual interface even works for hybrid devices, such as Lenovo’s new Yoga 3, which can be used in laptop, tablet, stand, and tent configurations.
The tiles are still available on PCs as well as tablets, providing quick access to handy items such as the new “universal apps” that run on all Windows 10 devices.
2. A voice-controlled digital assistant
Mobile devices have had the likes of Siri and Google Now for some years, but Microsoft has brought its new voice-controlled digital assistant, Cortana, to the desktop with Windows 10.
This can be a productivity boon, enabling users to tell the computer to search for files or send an email while working on a Word document. Windows’ multi-tasking capabilities have been further improved with a new task view that allows users to simultaneously view all open apps.
3. A new web browser
Windows 10 also includes a new web browser, which was code-named “Project Spartan” and is now called Microsoft Edge. It includes a note-taking feature, PDF support, and the ability to save and read pages later, even when offline. It also supports Cortana, enabling users to give voice commands for tasks such as opening a web page.
Internet Explorer is also included with the new OS, but Microsoft is clearly readying us for life without the older browser.
4. Virtual 3D environments
Perhaps the biggest surprise revealed at Microsoft’s most recent Windows 10 briefing was a feature called Windows Holographic. This feature enables developers to create virtual 3D environments via a companion headset called HoloLens.
Games are the most obvious use for Holographic, but Microsoft also cited other applications at the briefing, such as a virtual tradesman to help with home repairs. NASA says it is developing software for use with Holographic that will enable its scientists to explore a virtual Martian landscape.
5. A free upgrade
Windows 10 boasts plenty of other new features. But perhaps best of all is a free upgrade for those with Windows 7 or 8. Microsoft appears to be banking on increased demand for new PCs and other Windows devices boosting its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) business.
So will Windows 10 be looked upon as a success?
Only time will tell, but most of those who have been using the new OS are impressed. Or as analyst Rob Enderle said: “This is what Windows 8 should have been.”