Microsoft Corp on Wednesday took the wraps off a new version of Windows — and a new wearable 3D gadget it calls the HoloLens.
The company showed the new headset, which lets users view and interact with 3D images, at an event where it also revealed new features coming to the company’s flagship operating software.
Executives said Windows 10 is designed to embrace the way people use computers today — offering a familiar experience as they switch back and forth from PCs to tablets, smartphones and other gadgets, such as gaming consoles or even holographic projectors.
While it is designed to let apps work in similar fashion on all those devices, Windows 10 will also come with a new Web browser that will be closely integrated with Cortana, the company’s voice-activated answer to Siri.
In a break from past practice, Microsoft also announced that Windows 10 is scheduled to be released later this year as a free upgrade for anyone owning a computer or gadget that is currently running Windows 8.1 or 7, the two previous versions of the software.
Hoping to win back a larger audience, Microsoft said Windows 10 will provide a familiar experience to users across devices, and a common platform for software developers to create apps that work on all of them.
“Windows 10 is built for a world in which there are going to be more devices on the planet than people,” Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella told reporters and industry analysts at company headquarters.
He said Microsoft wants to “enable that seamless cross-over, across devices as you move around at home and at work.’”
Rivals, including Apple Inc and Google Inc, have also been working toward that goal, by making apps that, for example, save files or photos created on a PC and let the user retrieve them on a smartphone. However, analysts say new features in Windows 10 could give Microsoft an edge.
For example, Microsoft executives showed new versions of the company’s Word app, its Outlook e-mail service and a photo-storage app that look and act similarly on different screen sizes. They also promise to synchronize files so that changes made on one device would appear when the app is opened on another gadget.
Windows 10 will be used in Microsoft’s Xbox gaming systems as well. Microsoft gaming executive Phil Spencer also said that programmers might eventually use Windows 10 to create other apps for TVs tied to an Xbox console.
As for the company’s new hologram device, executives did not say when it would be available for sale. However, they talked about using it for games as well as more serious purposes, such as helping a surgeon visualize a new operating technique, or showing someone how to perform plumbing repairs.
“Until now, we’ve immersed ourselves in the world of technology, but what if we could take technology and immerse it in our world?” Microsoft executive Alex Kipman said while introducing HoloLens.
Kipman said he invited virtual reality innovators, including Facebook-owned Oculus VR, to explore adapting different applications for the goggles.
“Holograms can become part of our everyday life,” he said.
Nadella said the hologram device would be priced to appeal to both consumers and businesses, and there will not be a Windows 9. Microsoft has skipped ahead in naming the next version, from Windows 8 to Windows 10, as though to put more distance between them.
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