Microsoft had a huge media event on Wednesday and made several exciting announcements that really showed how much the company has changed under new CEO Satya Nadella. Below we’ve listed the five most important things that Microsoft announced on Wednesday, starting with an announcement that just about every current Windows user will cheer.
- Windows 10 will be free for Windows 8 and Windows 7 users. This is something that would have been hard to imagine happening five years ago. Microsoft really wants people to use its latest software, so it’s taken a page from Apple and Google and is letting its users upgrade their hardware to Windows 10 for free. Windows 7 users only have a year to take advantage of this before they’ll have to pay to upgrade, however, but this should be more than enough time for most people.
- So long, Internet Explorer — meet Project Spartan. Microsoft’s web browser is in significant need of a makeover and the company looks like it’s going to deliver with Project Spartan, a new browser build that will add key new features including the ability to mark webpages as you’d mark pages with a pen, the ability to save webpages so you can bring them up later even if you don’t have an Internet connection, and the integration of personal voice assistant Cortana.
- The Xbox app for Windows PCs. Gamers of all stripes are going to love this. Microsoft is creating an Xbox app for Windows PCs that will let both PC gamers and console gamers play the same games with one another online. What makes this particularly cool is that every Xbox exclusive will be available to play through the Xbox app on PCs, so it looks like the lines between PC and console gaming are blurring more than ever.
- The Surface Hub. Who needs an Apple television set? Okay, so this gigantic 84-inch 4K touchscreen computer isn’t quite an “iTV” competitor and it’s not even a consumer product. Instead, it’s an enterprise-centric device that’s intended to drive collaboration in the workplace. A Wall Street Journal reporter called it “the world’s nerdiest whiteboard” and that’s a pretty accurate description, as the Surface Hub will let you both display your PowerPoint presentations and collaborate over Skype all on the same massive display.
- The craziest Microsoft product yet — Microsoft HoloLens. On the same week that the first generation of Google Glass rode off into the sunset, Microsoft unveiled its own virtual reality headset. The HoloLens has been developed to “blend your digital life with your physical life” by letting you create and project your own holograms onto a display that’s right in front of your face. In a way, this is more augmented reality than a straight-up Star Trek-style Holodeck simulator but it’s very cool nonetheless.