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The highlights of Microsoft’s Windows 10 event

As you are doubtless aware, Microsoft showed off Windows 10 yesterday in a major event – and here are the highlights Redmond brought forth.

For starters, one major plus point is that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for its first year of availability, for consumers upgrading from Windows 7 or Windows 8. That’s a really big boon, and it follows Apple’s lead in making Mavericks a free upgrade.

Microsoft also noted that it would bring new features to Windows 10 “when they’re ready, not waiting for the next major release”, in other words, delivering “Windows as a Service”. And probably setting the longer-term stage for a shift to a subscription model, a la Office…

Another big point was, as expected, that Windows 10 will appear not just on desktop PCs, but tablets and phones to give a much more seamless cross-device experience. It won’t be the same OS, of course, but “Windows 10 for phones” (as the mobile version is being referred to) coming alongside desktop Windows 10 will see Microsoft pushing out universal apps for its major pieces of software like Office. Apps will be scaled down to work well with smaller displays, and touch control, with some genuinely slick looking results from what we’ve seen at this early stage.

You’ll be able to work seamlessly on documents on whichever device you’re on, and notifications will come across all devices, too (and be cleared on all your devices, when you clear them on one).

Cortana was obviously a big revelation, as well, taking her place on the desktop as expected, allowing PC users to benefit from voice control. This will mean you can dictate emails and the like, but more importantly, perform searches with ease (you can just ask to see all the photos you took last month, for example). The virtual assistant will also do the tricks it performs on Windows Phone, for example giving you the weather forecast and warning if you’ll need a brolly.

Spartan is the new browser for Windows 10, and will be hooked up with Cortana, with the latter able to chip in with intelligent context-driven suggestions depending on what you’re searching for. For example, if you’re searching for where to eat dinner and looking at a restaurant, the digital assistant will offer up directions in case you need them.

We weren’t sure whether the voice assistant would be at home on a desktop PC, but from what we saw yesterday, Cortana will be worth having on a computer.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Microsoft is listening to users – and indeed wants to be seen to be listening – as the company keeps banging on about the amount of feedback it has received from the Windows Insider program. As of now, Microsoft says it has received 800,000 pieces of feedback, from 1.7 million users.

The message is: we’re listening to you, Windows 10 is going to be good as a result, and it’s going to be free.

This way, Microsoft hopes it can’t fail. And indeed the company can’t afford to fail after the disaster of Windows 8.