Microsoft Announces Windows 10

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This morning at an event in San Francisco, Microsoft announced the next version of its Windows operating system: Windows 10.

The name is definitely not in line with expectations, but also comes on the heels of rumor talk that it could pick up another title. Happily, the last 943 people to cover the operating system got the name wrong. I am among them.

Starting tomorrow, Microsoft will launch a Windows Insider Program that will give users who are comfortable with running very early beta software access to Windows 10. This first preview will be available for laptops and desktops. A build for servers will follow later. Microsoft says it is opening up this beta process to get more feedback from more users early on, but also noted that this will be a learning experience for the company and that some experiments users will get in new builds may not make it into the final version.

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The company went on to detail that its new operating system will have a tailored user experience between different screen sizes — that’s to say that if you are on a smaller device, you will see a different sort of user interface. The code will run across all device categories: “One product family. One platform. One store.”

Microsoft is currently riffing on the following: Enterprise value, device management, the ability to customize the store to the device you are on, and a way to protect data. Or, to put it more precisely, there will be the ability of the enterprise to manage their devices, and “customize” their application store, and so forth.

Put more bluntly, the company is going for the enterprise crown.

Tech-Preview_Start-menu-500x281As expected, the company is bringing back a few features of Windows 7, too, including a redesigned start menu that combines the basic Windows 7 menu with the (resizable) tiles of the Windows 8 start screen. Windows 8 Metro apps can now also open in a windowed mode on the desktop, so you aren’t taking into the full-screen mode by default and you can use a “modern” Windows 8 side by side with a standard Windows desktop app.Tech-Preview_Three-program-snap-and-suggestions-500x281

Windows 10 will also allow users to work with multiple desktops. Thanks to Microsoft’s new “Snap Assist” UI, the company is making it easier for these power users who need these multiple desktops to grab apps from multiple desktops and move them around.

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And yes – if you really want love your keyboard, you can always drop back down into the command line, too, which has also been improved quite a bit.

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While Microsoft focused mostly on the regular mouse and keyboard combo for interacting with the operating system, the company stressed that it is not giving up on touch. Windows 10 will still have a Windows 8 like Start Screen for users on touch-enabled machines, for example.

Some of the gestures will change a bit in Windows 10 (swiping in from the left now gets you a task view, for example), but the overall feature set seems to be very similar to that in Windows 8 and even the Windows 8 Charms bar is still available.

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One thing Microsoft did not show (at least so far), is any other consumer features in Windows 10. What the company did talk about a bit, however, is that Windows 10 for the phone will look and work almost exactly like the slightly pared down modern UI on Windows 10. One thing Microsoft clearly learned from the experience with Windows 8 is that if it wants to build a single operating system and user interface for every device, it can’t just optimize for edge cases. Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore, for example, noted that while it was an obvious choice to combine the interfaces for tablets and phones, “the real rub comes in the middle.” This time around, he said, he feels “pretty positive about the outcome we are going to get.”

More as it comes, TechCrunch is updating this post.