Microsoft announced Windows 10 Anniversary Edition today at the Build 2016 developer conference, giving developers and users a look at upcoming changes to Windows. The update will include more Windows Hello features, push the Windows Store front and center with a tool for converting traditional Win32 apps, and offer all sorts of new features for Windows Ink: Microsoft’s stylus support.
This free update is coming this summer, but will be available to Windows Insider subscribers soon.
The keynote began with a quick burn on Apple.
“On behalf of the entire Windows team, we’re happy to welcome all of these customers to Windows 10,” said Terry Myerson, Microsoft VP of the Windows and Devices group. “Whether they have a new PC, a five-year old PC, or a brand new Mac, welcome, join us, on Windows 10.”
Myerson was clearly making a reference to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who recently said it was “sad” that so many people are still using 5-year-old PCs. But the keynote quickly pivoted to talk about new features in Windows 10, notably about changes to the Windows Store.
Ever since Windows 8 there have been two kinds of Windows apps: the traditional Win32 applications most of us spend our days using, and the apps that have been referred to as “Metro,” “Modern,” “Windows 10 Store,” and “Universal” apps at one point or another. These Universal apps are offered in the Windows Store, and take advantages of APIs that other applications don’t have access to, doing things like interfacing with Cortana and showing updates in the Start Menu via their icons.
But Microsoft is announcing that Win32 applications can now be submitted to the Windows Store, thanks to a new technology that will convert them into Universal apps. Such developers will also have access to the Windows 10 APIs.
“Every innovation … is only as powerful as the ecosystem that rallies around it,” said Kevin Gallo, Director of Windows Developer Platform at Microsoft. The company is hoping these changes will bring more developers to the Windows Store ecosystem.
The most visually interesting updates related to Windows Ink, Microsoft’s stylus for touchscreen devices. A showy presentation by Bryan Roper demonstrated the upcoming new feature, and managed to do the impossible: make sticky notes interesting.
“We want to combine the naturalness and the speed of a piece of paper with the power of the PC,” said Roper.
During the presentation Roper wrote, by hand, “Call mom tomorrow” in a sticky note. Windows 10 recognized the word “tomorrow” and instantly highlighted that in blue, then added a reminder to Cortana to “call mom” with a deadline of “tomorrow.” Other features included markings on a mountain map staying in place on when the topography was rotated.
A particularly cool feature that editors will love: markup done with Ink becomes actionable in Word. For example: if you cross out text, Word will delete it.
“I’m going to re-visit some childhood trauma here with teachers marking red on my paper,” joked Roper, before crossing out a bunch of text. It disappeared with a smooth animation.
There’s also Ink integration with PowerPoint, allowing you to use a ruler to draw straight lines and other design elements.
The virtual ruler was everywhere: a new app called Sketchpad that offers all sorts of Ink integration, including that and other tools for drawing free-hand in a precise way.
“The tech is not getting in the way, it’s enabling, and that’s the goal,” said Roper.
Another new feature: third party apps will be able to take advantage of Windows Hello, meaning transactions can be confirmed using biometrics. Support for this feature is also being added to Windows Edge, and websites can implement support for the feature. USAA is also going to support the feature.
But developers who want to confirm identity within their Windows apps will also have access to the fingerprint scanner and other biometrics features supported by numerous PCs.
It’s going to be interesting to see how these and other developments turn out, and we’ll be watching closely. Stay tuned.