Windows 10 is taking over the world, inexorably and unstoppably, slowly but surely making its way onto every half-decent PC and laptop and tablet from Windows 7 onwards. At IFA 2015, Microsoft took the opportunity to introduce new Windows 10 devices, including some fascinating new tablets, and promised even more innovations to come.
Windows 10: The Software
Mobility is a huge thing for Microsoft — it basically wants you to have Windows, or access to Windows, or access to a variant of Windows, wherever you are and on whatever device you're using. It wants to do that by being mobile-first, prioritising portable devices, and being cloud-first, sharing your data over multiple devices through the internet and letting you access it simultaneously.
Microsoft says there'll be 509 million new devices sold with Windows or Window Phone in the next year, there are 1.5 billion existing Windows users, 600 million devices over four years old — and it's these guys that Microsoft is targeting with the new laptops, tablets and other Windows 10-powered devices that it's showing off today and introducing now and in the future.
Windows 10's massive hook is the fact that every facet of the operating system is upgradeable and updateable — it's the last operating system you'll ever install, essentially, with even significant changes to the software being delivered digitally and at any time. Things like Cortana and Windows Hello and improvements in encryption tech can be added into the OS ad hoc, so it can change Windows 10 as new devices are released.
75 million devices already run Windows 10 out in the wild, and within that number there are 90,000 unique models of OEM laptops and tablets and desktops around the 192 countries that the software is available in. These numbers are very impressive, rivalling that iOS and OS X upgrade nirvana that Apple currently enjoys, and it's only going to get better for Microsoft from here on out.
Microsoft also loves to push Cortana as one of those things that will get you using Windows 10 — she's "the world's most useful digital assistant". Super-personal suggestions, based on integration with your mail and notifications and other Windows software. Cortana didn't run so perfectly in Microsoft's keynote demo of the feature, but it's clear that she'll only grow and mature as Windows 10 itself develops.
Windows Hello is "biometric two-factor authentication" — that's a fancy way of saying it's really fancy face recognition, built into the lock screen of Windows 10. It's one of those features loaded with potential, and Microsoft used the opportunity to show off Hello being used to make payments through the Windows Store. As long as your tablet or laptop has a half-decent front facing camera — and most of them do, these days — it should be extremely useful in the future.
Windows 10: The Hardware
A bunch of new hardware has been introduced by Microsoft, but it's not the generic laptops and tablets that you might expect to see Windows 10 on. Instead, it's diversifying its attention into education and embedded and business devices. The Acer Aspire One Cloudbook is an extremely affordable device for students, has double mics for better Cortana and better Skype chat, but it's ridiculously cheap at US$169. The Lenovo ideaPad 110S is a 14-inch Atom laptop with a 12-hour battery — enough for a full school day — starting at US$229.
Business notebooks are Microsoft's bread and butter, the Dell Latitude 11 5000 Series 2-in-1 is a thin-and-light with Windows Hello built in, brand new today. There's a new Intel vPro-powered HP Elitebook Folio, starting at US$1249, with a bunch of ports. Lenovo's ThinkPad Yoga 460 is one of the company's thinnest 2-in-1 tent/stand/tablet/laptops, with a biometric fingerprint sensor (also a Window Hello feature) and a waterproof lift-and-lock keyboard, starting at US$999.
Windows 10 branding is going to appear on more and more IoT devices, like video poker machines, ATMs, gas pumps, and medical devices. It's really weird to think of Windows running on your cash machine, but it makes sense. New stupidly rugged Panasonic tablets and Toughbooks will be launched with Windows 10 onboard, too. Microsoft also demoed a Toshiba data-logger — full of sensors like a barometer or GPS or G-sensor, with 6 months of battery life — that's running an embedded, IoT version of Windows 10.
All-in-ones — the desktop, tower-less Windows PCs like Dell's Inspiron 24 and the new Asus Zen AIO — are experiencing significant growth for Microsoft and its OEMs, and it's these kind of central home or office hub devices, not exactly portable but with potentially multiple users, that Windows 10 really needs to start appearing on out of the box. 2-in-1s are going to go bonkers, too — Microsoft is projecting nearly 100 per cent growth in the next year.
Of course, generic bread-and-butter notebooks aren't going unnoticed by Microsoft, since these are the devices that the company wants to get out to the masses and seed Windows 10 into more homes and businesses. A new HP Pavilion, a new Asus ROG G752 gaming notebook (a 17-inch gaming monster starting at US$1399), and the slick 12-inch Toshiba Radius 12 (starting at US$899) with a dedicated button for Cortana and a Windows Hello-compatible camera built in, were all demoed at Microsoft's keynote at IFA in Berlin.
There's also a fancy new Toshiba Windows 10 2-in-1 that was only teased, not named — a super-thin tablet with a removable laptopesque keyboard and included digitiser pen, basically a Surface Pro on steroids. We'll know more about it in the weeks to come; it looked very nifty.