Microsoft execs took to the stage today in the company's home town Seattle, Washington State, to give a report on the progress of its upcoming Windows 10 operating system.
Much is at stake for Microsoft with Windows 10. CEO Satya Nadella said the new operating system is at the centre of the company's future in an increasingly cloud-dominated world with users opting for mobile devices for their computing needs.
While the company's vice president of operating systems Terry Myerson claimed that the Windows experience is familar for a vast 1.5 billion people, the current Windows 8 and 8.1 incarnations of the operating system have not been well met thanks to a radically different dual-mode touch and desktop user interface.
Users have stayed on the older Windows 7 instead of upgrading, and Microsoft will need to win them back with Windows 10.
Nadella admitted that the company had an uphill struggle in reviving the popularity of Windows.
"We want to move from people needing Windows to choosing Windows and loving Windows," Nadella said.
He pointed to users being able to tailor the new operating system to better fit their needs and preferences, across different device categories.
New shot at Windows Everywhere
A key strategy underpinning Windows 10 is integration between mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, and personal computers.
Microsoft vice president and head of operating system design Joe Belfiore showed off a new sample of the company's Universal Apps framework, which allows developers to code program that will run mobile devices and PCs without changes.
The company's productivity suite, Office, is currently being written as a Universal App. Belfiore demonstrated early versions of Office components such as PowerPoint, Word, Excel and Outlook, which will be included on Windows 10 for smartphones.
Cortana, Microsoft's cloud-powered personal assistant, will also feature prominently in Windows 10 across all devices. Belfiore said Cortana will also be integrated into the new Project Spartan web browser that will replace Internet Explorer in Windows 10.
Microsoft has otherwise taken several leaves out of Apple's OS X development book, and built in continuity and handover of tasks between devices including a new combined activity and notification centre.
Outside the operating system itself, Microsoft will continue to integrate the Xbox gaming platform and network with Windows 10, allowing players with mobile devices to compete with those using PCs.
One unique innovation presented by Kinect designer and general manager Alex Kipman was the Microsoft HoloLens holographic headset, which the company said is aimed at both enterprise users and consumers.
HoloLens features a computer, high-end graphics and is able to present users with three-dimensional imagery that can be manipulated with gestures, in a similar manner to the Kinect controller.
Using the HoloStudio application, users can among other things, design and create three-dimensional objects. These can be 3D printed, and Kipman demonstrated a working model of a quad-copter drone as an example.
HoloLens will also be made to work with Microsoft's Skype voice and video conferencing program for augmented reality collaboration.
The holographic headset will be available "in the same timeframe as Windows 10", Kipman promised.
Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8.1 users, for the first year it is available, Myerson said.
No new version or build of Windows 10 was released to coincide with the event. Instead, Microsoft intends to make available a new build, the first for several months, next week on windows.com.
Users wanting to trial Windows 10 for smartphones will have to wait until February for the first build of Microsoft's new operating system.