A screenshot of a prototype version of Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system

Microsoft announces Windows 10 operating system

Microsoft has announced the latest version of its Windows operating system, called Windows 10, at an event in San Francisco.

The technology giant had been expected to announce an update to its flagship Windows software after the previous upgrade, Windows 8, which saw a major overhaul of the interface and functionality, received mixed reviews within the user community.

Microsoft says the new operating system will run on the "broadest types of devices ever" and sees the company's various app stores merged into one platform, called the One Store, which will cover all of the company's smartphones, tablets and desktop computers.

The company also says its new version of Windows will be "familiar" and compatible with existing management systems in use around the world and would be their “most comprehensive platform ever”.

"There's about one and a half billion people using Windows today. Devices outnumber people. Windows is at a threshold and now it's time for a new Windows. Our new Windows must be built from the ground up for a mobile first, cloud first world," said Windows chief Terry Myerson.

"We're delivering one application platform. One store, one way for applications to be discovered, purchased and updated across all of these devices."

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore said that the company was going "back to basics" with Windows 10 and confirmed that the famous Start menu, which was removed from Windows 8, would be returning.

"We're looking to find the balance, so that all the Windows 7 users get a familiar experience on the devices they already have," he said. "It gives the familiarity of Windows 7 with some of the elements of Windows 8."

The new Start Menu has the traditional list layout of previous versions of the interface, combined with the tile set-up that Microsoft introduced in Windows 8, with tiles able to be personalised and re-sized.

Belfiore also confirmed that Windows 10 would be compatible with both traditional and touch-based devices such as tablets through a new task view with buttons scaled up so that they're more friendly to users on touchscreen devices.

Users on hybrid devices such as the Surface Pro tablet will be able to jump between and keyboard and touchscreen modes, with Microsoft demonstrating how the interface will change as you do.

Industry experts have said they see the upgrade as being the first steps towards righting the unpopular changes made in Windows 8 and reengaging developers put off by the previous platform.

"Windows 10 is the product of a difficult Windows 8 launch and a process of refinement based on vocal user feedback. Microsoft will hope that this marks a fresh start that will convince developers, enterprise and consumers of its One Windows strategy", said Geoff Blaber of technology analysts CCS Insights.

"With Windows 10 Microsoft has re-evaluated its approach to software releases by adopting a web mentality that dovetails with the Cloud first, mobile first vision under Satya Nadella. This open, collaborative approach is critical if Microsoft is to overcome the wave of negative sentiment that has plagued Windows 8 since launch.

"The unveiling of Windows 10 is notable for its emphasis on enterprise," Blaber continued. "This dialling up of corporate versus consumer functionality is much needed not least because enterprise replacements are driving PC market growth. Developers are the lifeblood of any platform so it is critical that Microsoft's 'One Windows' mantra delivers on the promise and re-energises developer engagement."

Myerson also announced the launch of the Windows Insider Program tomorrow, which will allow Microsoft fans and users to get early versions of the new software and become part of the development team by testing Windows 10 and suggesting improvements. "We're inviting our enthusiastic fans to evaluate it with us. We know they're a vocal bunch," he said.

Windows 10 was confirmed to launch "later in the year in 2015".

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