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Microsoft is done releasing Windows 10 previews until at least January, but details about the new operating system continue to leak.
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Last month, shortly after releasing the third iteration of its Windows 10 Technical Preview, Microsoft officials announced that users shouldn't expect any more updates, aside from bug fixes, until 2015. Additional details about the OS have continued to emerge via a series of leaks and rumors, including more information about the consumer version. So far, the company has focused most of its Windows 10 announcements on the desktop UI and various enterprise features.
The new information touches on a range of subjects, including how well Microsoft is managing its new rapid-update model for Windows, upcoming desktop UI refinements, app compatibility notes for developers, and when Windows 10 will appear on smartphones. The variety speaks to the huge audience Microsoft is trying to satisfy: mobile users who've so far preferred Android devices and iPhones; longtime desktop users annoyed by Windows 8's missing Start button; IT admins who need to manage the exploding diversity of devices; and so on. How is Microsoft juggling these challenges? Here are five recent Windows 10 developments.
1. An unofficial Windows 10 Build has leaked. The latest official Windows 10 Preview release is Build 9879, which debuted last month in a buggy version for Microsoft's "fast" ring of Preview users, and then a few weeks later as a more stable release for the "slow" ring.
Since then, a newer, unofficial release, called Build 9888, has appeared on file-sharing sites. Build 9888 isn't that different from Build 9879 -- not surprising because it's an iteration not meant for public release -- but it does introduce some interesting new features.
For instance, it includes new animations that make windows seem to zoom into or out of view when minimized or maximized. Smaller tweaks include half-completed organizational changes to the PC settings interface, and the activation of a feature that allows users to manage battery use.
More significant for mobile users, Build 9888 adds the ability to download maps for offline use. This feature probably won't interest most desktop users, but for on-the-go tablet owners who don't have LTE plans, downloadable maps could be useful.
Build 9888 also marks the appearance of a new NT version number, which represents the edition of base code underneath the OS. Windows Vista was the last major number revision at version 6, for example, with Windows 7 using version 6.1, Windows 8 using 6.2, and so forth. Official Preview builds have also been based on version 6, but the leaked build jumps to version 10. The shift is an indication of Microsoft's attempts to unify its code base across different devices, though the company has already advised developers they might need to update their code. That said, because of the way Windows now handles apps, the leap to version 10 is unlikely to break apps the way Windows Vista broke some apps when NT version 6 was introduced.
2. The consumer version of Windows 10 could be revealed in January. Microsoft execs have promised to reveal the consumer-oriented version of Windows 10, which will run on smartphones and tablets, sometime early next year. They've been tightlipped on other details, however, such as what month the consumer version might appear and what kind of devices it will support.
This month, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner offered the slightest of updates, stating at a conference that company execs will discuss the "end-user consumer experience in early spring"; provide more information for developers by early summer; and by "late summer and early fall," release the final versions. Although mostly a retread of execs' past comments, Turner, by referencing separate releases in the summer and fall, reinforced that the desktop and mobile versions of Windows 10 could debut several months apart.
Early Windows 10 Preview builds have focused on mouse-and-keyboard features such as virtual desktops, but a touch-focused preview is on the way.
However, several reports, all citing unnamed Microsoft insiders, claim Microsoft will reveal Windows 10 for smartphones and tablets at an event in late January. It's possible Microsoft will reveal the mobile OS in
Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio
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