Life Tech Windows 10: need to know
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Windows 10: need to know

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“A variety of minor updates, but lacks any major feature additions.”

That’s how technology website Digital Trends has described Microsoft’s Windows 10, slated for launch mid-year.

But at least the price is right. There are reports the operating system will be distributed free – even to pirates – in a bid to encourage 1.3 billion Chinese users to upgrade.

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A semi-transparent start menu, multiple desktops and the ability to drag apps across them are reported new features.

The bulky install weight – a talking point of other Windows releases – will be minimised by 6.6 gigabytes, potentially decreasing startup time.

The OS’s digital assistant Cortana will be made available in China, the UK and Germany, according to Digital Trends, which described the new OS version as “a variety of minor updates, but lacks any major feature additions”.

A January 22 post to Techradar outlined changes to the user interface.

The new user interface will have minor changes to consolidate features with tablets – called continuum, the removal of a keyboard on some devices triggers all apps to go full-screen.

Other visual changes to the OS include thinner margins to windows, a tablet style notifications bar that can be modified which would replace the charms bar.

The control panel will be migrated into a new settings area that aims to unjumble the mess.

The new OS will include a combined login system that uses biometric recognition – iris, fingerprint and face – that opens the OS and can be set up to access e-commerce, email or other websites that need a password.

A post on Windows’ blog said the system provisionally named Passport aimed “to support replacing passwords with a growing set of financial, consumer, and other security services”.

The user’s login will be tied to the user’s device at a hardware level “so the only way a hacker can use my identity is to actually steal the device”, Dustin Ingalls from the Windows security team said.

When using the passport, hackers must both have access to the device and a user’s biometric info, he said.

Touchpad gestures will also get an update, Digital Trends reports. New swiping gestures are to be added, such as a three-fingered swipe from the top of the touchpad to the bottom will minimise all windows to show the desktop, for instance.

The OS is also being released free as a stripped down version for tiny devices used by tinkerers such as the Raspberry Pi – a computer on a circuit board, not much larger than a credit card.

The software giant is making connections with Chinese tech companies like social media company Tencent and Qihu 360, a computer security firm. Hardware makers Lenovo and Xiaomi are also on board.

Xiaomi is reported to have teamed up with Microsoft to develop an “experimental” method to install Windows 10 on an Android phone.

“This is an experimental program entirely led by Microsoft, and we are happy that Mi fans with Mi 4 devices in China will be able to participate and provide feedback,” reported Gizmodo.

The companies will offer Windows upgrades through their customer base, potentially adding about 1.3 billion users, including those who hadn’t paid for the software.

This move is aimed at bringing pirate users of Windows 7 and 8.1 up to date, Reuters reports.

Components won’t be stretched by the new OS which has minimum hardware requirements similar to previous versions.

But Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT users will be left behind by the upgrade program, according to Powerpoint slides shown on Venturebeat.

Upgrades are due to be completed within six weeks from its release.

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