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Microsoft Unveils HoloLens, Surface Hub for Windows 10

Besides making Windows 10 a free upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users, Microsoft is also adding some compelling new features to sweeten the pot.

At a press event on Wednesday held at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus, company officials described the upcoming operating system as the start of its shift toward "Windows as a service," wherein it will provide continuous upgrades.

"When it comes to Windows as a service, it's a pretty profound change," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the event. "For customers, they're going to get a continuous stream of innovation. Not only a continuous stream of innovation but also the assurance their Windows devices are secure and trusted. For developers, it creates the broadest opportunity to target. For our partners, hardware and silicon partners, they can coincident with our software innovation, drive hardware innovation. We want people to love Windows on a daily basis."

Also announced at Wednesday's event is the "Spartan" Web browser for Windows 10, which was previously in the rumor stage. Spartan has a rendering engine that's better suited for modern Web applications, according to Terry Myerson, Microsoft's executive vice president of operating systems.

Microsoft will also offer Cortana, the digital assistant released for Windows Phone last year, on Windows 10 PCs and tablets.

Officials also demonstrated Microsoft's vision of universal apps -- such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook -- that, while optimized for different form factors, behave consistently across them. Universal apps are designed to let a user stop working on one device and quickly pick up where he or she left off on another. An Xbox app on Windows that will allow Xbox users to run games on PCs or Windows tablets was also announced.

The Microsoft HoloLens (top) and the Surface Hub. (Source: Microsoft.)

Microsoft also took the wraps off HoloLens, its new augmented-reality technology. HoloLens, which resembles a Google Glass device, has a built-in CPU and GPU and built-in sensors. Microsoft described it as the world's first holographic computer. Its APIs are designed to work with the new Windows 10 environment.

More hardware is in the works from third parties and Microsoft. The event showcased the new Surface Hub, a Windows 10-based, 84-inch Ultra-HD display. The Surface Hub features built-in Skype for Business, sensors, cameras and the ability to mark up content with any phone or device. Microsoft will also offer a 55-inch version and indicated that other Surface hardware is in the works.

A new Windows 10 technical preview will be released next week, Microsoft said, with a Windows 10 build for phones scheduled for release in early February. Many of the new features demonstrated Wednesday will work their way into builds of the technical preview over the next three to five months, said Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president in the operating system group.

Microsoft also plans to reveal more features for enterprises in March, according to a company official. The commercial release of Windows 10 is expected in the fall of 2015.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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