Microsoft Unveils Windows 10 OS Features and New Headset

During a press event yesterday, Microsoft made a series of announcements regarding new features for its coming Windows 10 operating system including improvements to built-in apps for Windows Phone that involve mail, messaging, photos, maps and more. According to the company, Windows 10 also intends to enhance and integrate Xbox, PC and mobile gaming. Additionally, Microsoft introduced its HoloLens headset that will allow users to interact with holographic images for playing video games and building 3D models.

“Our industry’s progress is punctuated by moments of category creation,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief exec. “Windows and holographic computing is one such moment.”

Both Windows 10 and Microsoft HoloLens are expected to be released later this year.

“HoloLens represents a deviation from the virtual reality headsets on which others in the technology industry, including Facebook, Samsung and Sony, have focused,” reports The New York Times. “The headset is part of the emerging category augmented reality, in which virtual 3D objects appear to be inserted into the real world.”

Microsoft_HoloLens

Microsoft’s headset is distinct from VR headsets in that it is see-through, so those who are wearing it can actually continue to see their surrounding physical environment. The wireless, self-contained device is completely independent, meaning it does not need to connect to a computer or smartphone.

Microsoft plans to offer its new Windows 10 operating system for free to existing customers, as part of its ultimate goal to quickly upgrade users and attract more software developers.

“The company is under pressure to attract software developers, especially makers of popular consumer applications, who have largely drifted away from Microsoft’s orbit and toward mobile technologies made by Apple and Google,” notes NYT. “With its decision to stop charging for upgrades, Microsoft is also emulating Apple, which has been effective at getting users of its Macintosh computers to keep their systems updated with new operating systems.”

In regards to the impact of the new operating system on gaming, Microsoft explained that Xbox One games can be streamed anywhere in your house on Windows 10 computers and tablets.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “This mirrors some of the streaming functionality Sony has worked into its PlayStation 4 and Vita handheld, or how the Nintendo Wii U can move a game from the TV to the tablet controller.”

“Microsoft is taking some functionality from its Xbox Live network and putting it in Windows 10, giving users a single view of their gaming universes,” WSJ explains. “Gamers will be able to access contacts, send messages and invite friends to play games. They’ll also have the ability to record and share clips of gameplay, including the option to go back and capture the last 30 seconds — features already available and popular on Xbox One.”

Microsoft also revealed the Surface Hub, which is essentially an 84-inch, 4K, all-in-one PC/smart display outfitted with Skype for Business and Windows 10-enabled large screen apps — in addition to Wi-Fi, NFC, sensors, speakers, mics and cameras.

Surface_Hub_Microsoft

“While technically it’s a regular Windows machine, it’s fair to say that this is very much a business/collaboration tool,” suggests Engadget. “The most elaborate intelligent whiteboard you can imagine! No doubt, this is fruit from Microsoft’s purchase of Perceptive Pixel, and of course, Redmond wants this to be the center of the modern workplace.”

Related:
How Xbox Could Help Microsoft and Windows 10, The New York Times, 1/20/15
This is Windows 10 for Phones, The Verge, 1/21/15
Project HoloLens: Our Exclusive Hands-On With Microsoft’s Holographic Goggles, Wired, 1/21/15
Microsoft Reveals Windows Holographic, an Augmented Reality User Interface for the World, TechCrunch, 1/21/15