Microsoft is planning a big push for Windows 10 and will be giving away the new operating system to Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8 users in the first year of release.
"With Windows 10, we think of the operating system as 'Windows as a service'," said Terry Myerson, Microsoft's VP of operating systems. "In next few years, you could think of Windows as one of the largest internet services on the planet. The question of 'what version are you running' will cease to make sense."
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The upgrade will only be free in the first 12 months after release and will last for the "supported lifetime of the device." Microsoft said the new OS will run on PCs, tablets, phones, and a new device to be announced later today.
The result for developers will be a single platform to sell apps on. "Developers are always thinking of the next million sales. Now we can open them to the next billion," Myerson said.
This will involve "Universal Apps," Redmond's much-hyped concept of software that works equally well on the phone, tablet, and PC. The Office applications will be available as Universal Apps, and developers will be encouraged to do the same with their own code.
The idea is to have an operating system that can run on any device, so that when you put one device down you can pick up another Windows device that you are signed in on and carry on where you left off.
Control options will also be expanded. Myerson said users should be able to use "ink, voice, gestures, and gaze" – or a keyboard and mouse, presumably. Myerson said you should be able to print with a flick of the finger, and switch Skype calls to a new device with a gesture.
Cortana will be built into the operating system. The online digital assistant now has seven language options, as well as a "Yoda impersonation mode." The latter is still in beta, and sounds odd, but somewhat cute.
Besides answering questions, the Cortana agent can also search through your hard drive for data. The demo version could search for "photos taken in December," for example. It could also control the computer's media player and take dictation for emails and send them.
Security is also going to be a big feature of the new OS. Myerson claimed that Windows 10's new security features would have stopped a couple of the high-profile corporate hacking cases over the last year – although he didn't name names.
Since the September announcement of the Windows 10 Preview, 1.7 million people have signed up as beta testers and installed the OS on over three million devices, Myerson said, adding that over the next three to five months, more features will be added and refined.
We'll have more details as they come in. It seems the livestream is up and down like the Assyrian Empire, but we're here in Redmond, so keep an eye on El Reg for more details. ®