SAN FRANCISCO—Windows 10 was the focus of Microsoft’s day one keynote at its annual Build developer conference. Today, the company announced an update that will ship this summer, the “Anniversary Update”.
The company led by talking about Windows 10 adoption. After its first eight months on the market, there are now 270 million Windows 10 users. This is tremendously fast for a new Windows version, with Microsoft claiming Windows 10 adoption has surpassed Windows 7 adoption by 145 percent.
Still, Microsoft has a long way to go to reach its goal of 1 billion Windows users within two years of launch. Windows 10 will remain a free update for users of Windows 7 and 8 for another 4 months, after which everyone who works on those operating systems will have to pay in principle. We can well imagine Microsoft extending the promotion one way or another, but the company has not yet announced any plans to do so.
The Windows 10 Anniversary Update will be the second major update (the first being last year’s November Update) for Windows 10 “as a service”. True to Microsoft’s vision of having one Windows operating system that will be available for PC, tablet, phone, HoloLens, and Internet of Things devices, this update should be available for all of those platforms… and one more: the Xbox One.
The Anniversary Update on Xbox One allows apps built for the Universal Windows Platform, the core set of sandboxed and modernized APIs that span the gamut of Windows variants, to run on the Xbox One. All apps use the same Windows Store, and any developer can use their console as a development kit to test living room software. This update also enables Cortana on the Xbox One; she was included in some beta versions of the major dashboard update that shipped last year, but didn’t make the grade before shipping. This summer she should.
UWP games have come under scrutiny lately, with complaints about mandatory v-sync, issues supporting multiple video cards, and Epic’s Tim Sweeney worried about Microsoft creating a closed platform. While many of Sweeney’s doubts seem unfounded, Microsoft is nevertheless making changes to make UWP better for a wider range of games, and the anniversary update will allow games to disable v-sync and better support multiple GPUs. As a result, support for end-user changes remains the main remaining technical bottleneck, although Microsoft is certainly aware of the demand.
To further increase the number of apps in the store, Microsoft announced at last year’s Build Project Centennial a way to finalize and package existing Win32 and .NET applications and ship them through the store. Since that announcement, the company has remained strangely quiet about this. It appears that apps packaged this way offer the clean install and uninstall that regular Store apps offer, but without the full sandboxing and restrictions of UWPs, using technology similar to the App-V app virtualization that Microsoft already offers to business customers. Centennial is also finally going public, with Microsoft today shipping a conversion tool that allows developers to package their existing Win32 and .NET apps for Store distribution.
The Windows Store itself is getting a new section to promote apps that offer Cortana integration. In the Anniversary Update, Cortana gets smarter about proactively taking action on your behalf, like offering to buy you lunch or sending emails you’ve promised to send (let’s hope she doesn’t go after her misbehaving millennial cousin). Third-party applications will also be able to provide their own deeper Cortana integrations, allowing their apps to act on the inferences Cortana has made.
Similarly, Windows Hello’s biometric authentication system is being expanded to enable biometric authentication for websites.
Finally, and most surprisingly, the Anniversary Update supports using the popular bash shell on Windows. But not just any bash shell port. A true Linux program, with all the other command-line tools people expect on a Linux shell. There’s still a lot Microsoft isn’t saying about this (or at least not yet), but we felt it was a big enough deal that it needed its own post.
Frame image by Justin McGregor