270 million. That’s how many devices are now running Windows 10 already, according to Microsoft, at least. Considering the OS was launched just eight months ago, that might indeed be a world record, thanks to Microsoft rather aggressive, almost contentious, push. Unlike other Windows versions, however, Windows 10 isn’t meant to be a completely finished product with minor “service pack” updates down the road. Instead, the “Windows as a Service” entails continuous updates, some of them quite major, during its lifetime. The Anniversary Update slated for summer this year is one such update and it will indeed be quite a big one.
Windows Hello, Microsoft’s take on the biometric security systems, isn’t exactly new, but so far its use case has been very limited. In fact, it is mostly only used to authenticate your login to the Windows 10 device itself and nothing more. With the Anniversary Update, Microsoft will be expanding that scope to apps and websites, at least when using Microsoft Edge, that also require authentication. It would, to some extent, put it on par with Touch ID. Microsoft’s current implementation, however, mostly revolves around face recognition and extremely few fingerprint scanners. It definitely needs to expand supported hardware if it ever wants Hello to really deliver security and convenience in a bundle.
Announced at BUILD 2016 is the new Microsoft Ink platform that puts styluses and scribbling at the forefront. In a nutshell, Ink will let you write on your Windows 10 device, tablet or PC with a stylus, and Windows will interpret your handwriting and send the data to Cortana if needed. For example, you can simply write a reminder to yourself and Windows 10 will automatically add it to your Cortana reminders. Of course, Ink could also be used for making more than just notes, like doodling, brainstorming, and anything else you can normally do with pen and paper.
Speaking of Cortana, the Anniversary Update will also be boosting the personal assistant’s intelligence as well as her presence. Microsoft has announced the new Cortana Intelligence Suite that will help developers utilize her stats more effectively. Cortana will also become more proactive, offering to buy you lunch or reserve you transportation when you need it the most. And Cortana will also be found in more places, like your Windows 10 lockscreen. You will soon also be able to complete notification-based tasks, like replying to messages, on your PC even when you received those on your Android or Windows phone.
Finally, the summer update will also put an emphasis on gaming, one of the more controversial topics surrounding Windows 10. On the Xbox, this means the long-delayed arrival of Cortana on the console, as well as universal windows apps. By extension, this means the unification of Microsoft’s digital stores into one single Windows Store, even for the Xbox. On Windows PCs, the gaming focus means improvements to the features available to developers when using the Universal Windows Platform or UWP, including support for multiple GPUs and turning off V-Sync. Microsoft may still have a long way to go before it placates the concerns and criticisms of developers like Epic’s Tim Sweeney.
Windows fans will definitely have a lot to look forward to in the coming months and Microsoft seems to be pretty good at keeping its word regarding continuous and regular updates. That said, it still has to sufficiently address major concerns not just from game developers but more importantly from the Windows Phone crowd before we can really mark the entire Windows 10 rollout as a success.
Head on over to our Microsoft Hub to see the rest of our BUILD 2016 coverage.