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Microsoft Announces the Long-Awaited ... Windows 10?

Windows 9/Threshold is here! Except, according to CNET, it'll actually be called Windows 10.

Weird naming conventions are the only surprises here, since we've been stalking leaks via German websites for some time now, but here's the short version of Microsoft's big announcement today: a new version of Windows, smart enough to sense whether you have a keyboard and mouse, is on the way. This is big news for everyone who hated the tablet-centric Windows 8 -- which is nearly everyone, if market share is any indication.

Public betas of the operating system are set to drop as soon as tomorrow, while those of you hoping to buy a PC with Win10 pre-installed may have to wait a little longer.

Continuum: Smart Laptop/Tablet Mode Switching

This is the big one for all Windows 7 holdouts: the return of a keyboard- and mouse-friendly Windows. But Microsoft isn't abandoning touch altogether: It's creating a smart-sensing OS that will prompt you to switch to tablet mode if you have a touchscreen and no keyboard, and vice-versa. Here's the demo of "continuum" from today's presentation in San Francisco:

The naming is a bit confusing. Apple announced "Continuity" just a couple of months ago, which is where your Mac OS X laptop or desktop senses and connects to nearby iPads, iPhones, and iPods, allowing you to transfer files, share a data connection, or continue working on a task while on the go. This smart-sensing tablet/desktop mode switching is called "Continuum," reports The Verge, and it's a naming convention that is a bit too close for my taste.

To review:

  • Mac OS X -- Continuity -- tablets/smartphones play nice with Mac computer.
  • Windows 10 -- Continuum -- computers play nice with touchscreen or keyboard/mouse.

One Operating System for All Devices

"Windows 10 will run on the broadest amount of devices. A tailored experience for each device," Microsoft's executive VP of operating systems, Terry Myerson said. "There will be one way to write a universal application, one store, one way for apps to be discovered purchased and updated across all of these devices."

This is the "one operating system" talk that we've written about -- MS wants a common code core between Xbox, PCs of all shapes and sizes, and mobile devices so that developers don't have to rewrite their programs three times. If this works, it may be Microsoft's way back in to the smartphone game, where their biggest deficit is the app gap. It'll also mean that consumers need to buy an app once -- from the Windows store -- and it'll work on everything made by Microsoft.

The Question on Everyone's Minds: Why 10?

  • Windows 10: because seven ate nine.
  • Windows 9 was so good, according to Microsoft, that it necessitated skipping to 10.
  • Windows 8/8.1 was so bad that Microsoft really wanted to distance itself from those mistakes.

When? Preview Version Release Is Tomorrow

Much like Apple finally went for a free public beta with the latest version of OS X (allowing me to geek out for free), Microsoft introduced its Windows Insider program, which will let me geek out on the latest Windows operating system in advance of the official release.

Microsoft says that the preview will be released tomorrow (October 1), with the retail version set for release late next year. The rumors also persist that next year's version will be free, though officials from Microsoft declined to address those rumors during today's presentation.

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