At their long, developer-focused Build conference this morning, Microsoft announced a plethora of new things regarding Windows 10 and its new identity as a service-based company. Windows 10 is the company’s new attempt at recapturing the interest of longtime Windows 7 users, after a fairly limited turnout for Windows 8.
In case you haven’t heard, yes—Microsoft skipped “Windows 9” and went straight to Windows 10. The good news is that the OS looks to be a pretty balanced and powerful system that takes the best of Windows 7 and Windows 8 and finds a happy medium in between the two. There were a number of surprising things Microsoft announced, including mostly notably how cross-platform the company is hoping to be.
So here it is: our list of the five awesome things Microsoft announced this morning.
1. StaffPen, an App for Notating Music
Okay so this one doesn’t actually relate to Windows 10 much at all—it’s just a really cool app that was made specifically for the Surface and its stylus support. Considering the options for notational software are so limited that many composers still use good ‘ol pen and paper, it’s great to see an app as functional and accurate finally coming out.
Not only can you write directly into StaffPen, it can also accurately translate written notation into digital form. This is Microsoft finally showing why a stylus can actually set the Surface apart from its counterparts.
2. Office as a Platform
One of the biggest pieces of news from Build 2015 was the announcement that Office is now a full-fledged platform. That means we’ll be seeing all sorts of “add-ins”, as Microsoft calls them, that flesh out the software and let third-party developers integrate their apps directly into things like Outlook and Word.
At one point, they scheduled an appointment with Uber right in Outlook. One thing is clear: Microsoft is finally seeing itself as a service business now. It might be a little late, but it’s good to see them finally stepping into this identity as a company.
3. Android and iOS Apps in Windows 10
Microsoft’s big message in its app strategy was that it was going full cross-platform. Essentially, Microsoft has made it very easy for developers to bring Android and iOS apps to the Microsoft Store without having to completely re-work them for Windows. In an interview with The Verge, Terry Myerson from Microsoft mentioned that the SDK kits will be leveraged in the same way that Amazon has done it with Android apps.
We still don’t know how quickly developers will jump onboard for something like this, but it’s a promising way forward for Windows’ plagued third-place app store in Windows 10.
4. Microsoft Edge
Microsoft finally gave its Project Spartan a proper name and it’s Microsoft Edge. This new browser takes the place of the old browser Internet Explorer, which somehow became not much more than the butt of a big internet joke. Outside of the name, there isn’t a lot new about Edge to talk about: it’s clean, minimalist, and fast—all the things you want in a modern web browser.
The most interesting thing about Edge is that it supports code from Chrome and Firefox extensions in the same way that Windows 10 now supports code from Android and iOS. We don’t know all the details, but it seems to be another part of Microsoft’s plan find its identity as a cross-platform service company.
5. Continuum Can Turn Smartphones into PCs
This one is just crazy. We already knew about Continuum, Microsoft’s name for making the transition between PCs and tablets a bit more fluid. But today, Microsoft docked a smartphone and we watched it turn into a full-fledged PC. The idea is that when you plug your smartphone into something like a large monitor or Bluetooth keyboard, it can function pretty much like a Windows 10 PC, with the guts of the smartphone powering everything.
This will, of course, require new Windows Phone devices, but it’s one step closer to bridging the wide gap between traditional computing and mobile devices and really quite impressive if it works as seamlessly as in the simulation this morning.