During Microsoft’s BUILD 2016 conference, the company announced that Windows 10 will receive a new, free update this summer called Anniversary Update. This “upgrade” will be rolled out to PCs, tablets, smartphones, the Xbox One console, Microsoft HoloLens, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. It will make its debut on August 2, just days after Windows 10 celebrates its first birthday and after Microsoft pulls the plug on its free Windows 10 upgrade program.
So what’s in this Anniversary Update? If you missed the conference and the related news, we’ve rounded up what Microsoft officially announced thus far, which spans Cortana, Microsoft Edge, the Windows Store, and more. Some of the update’s ingredients weren’t announced during the initial keynote, so we’ll briefly touch base on the features found in the Windows 10 Anniversary SDK as well.
Previous rumors suggested that Microsoft would make Windows 10 more friendly to pen users with touch screens, and the company is delivering just that with additional support for Windows Ink. While this feature is already provided in first-party apps like Microsoft Edge, Office, and Maps, developers will be able to inject this tool within their app solutions by adding as little as two lines of code. Thus, end-users will have the ability to jot notes directly onto the screen, scribble a little doodle to share with friends, and more by using a supported digital pen stylus for Windows 10.
“Now, using a Windows 10 device, graphic designers can be more creative, musicians can write digital music, lawyers can edit documents with the power of the pen, and students can do mathematical equations and learn by writing – all with Windows Ink,” the company said in June.
Windows Ink will offer cool tools like an eraser, pen tips, and a virtual ruler, the latter of which allows users to draw straight lines right on the screen. In Maps, you can draw a line directly onto the screen and the app will determine the actual distance. It will also convert that line into an actual path that will stay glued to the landscape when the terrain is viewed in 3D. Windows Ink can even delete whole paragraphs of text in Word and straighten crooked text highlighting. Adobe Illustrator CC will include support for this expanded feature.
Microsoft’s built-in personal assistant for Windows 10 will receive a big upgrade in the intelligence department. Cortana will provide suggestions throughout the day based on your actions and stored information, such as suggesting to order lunch at noon. Cortana will also be made available on the lock screen so that users can seek out information and ask questions without having to unlock the PC or device. For example, during the BUILD 2016 keynote, Cortana was asked about the amount of time it would take to reach Sausalito, which was immediately answered right on the lock screen.
Cortana will also work better across all devices. According to Microsoft, users will be able to complete certain notification-based tasks on the PC that originated on a Windows or Android phone. Cortana will also have the ability to track where users have been and provide relevant information at any time based on that location or event.
However, Microsoft has stated that the SMS-friendly “Messaging Everywhere” feature for Windows desktop and mobile devices will not be part of the Anniversary update. Instead, the company plans to roll out a similar feature in Skype at an unspecified later date.
That said, Cortana will have the ability to locate your car parked at the airport, and even provide your frequent flier information in the process. Reminders can include images too so that users can remember what that cool restaurant looked like or the name of a personal favorite barbeque sauce thanks to a snapshot of the bottle’s label.
“Developers now have full access to Cortana’s proactive intelligence through proactive actions, allowing your apps to perform tasks based on user context by linking existing actions in your deep-link enabled apps and websites,” Microsoft initially said during the conference.
Cortana will also be added to Skype, located in the upper-right-hand corner of the app. In a demonstration during BUILD 2016, Cortana private messaged the demo presenter to find out if it was okay to provide her address to a third-party supplier who was trying to ship a batch of cupcakes. This user was also capable of reserving a block of space for a trip on the Calendar app thanks to Cortana support within Skype. Afterwards, the virtual assistant suggested a visit to a friend while traveling to Dublin based on previous Skype chats.
The Windows Hello service is already built into Windows 10, allowing users to log into the platform with a their face, retina, or fingerprint, throwing out the need for a pesky password or PIN number. This is especially handy in enterprise environments where data is sensitive and passwords aren’t the best security to utilize. With the Windows 10 Anniversary Edition update, that security measure extends out to Windows 10 apps and supporting websites loaded up in the Windows Edge browser.
If you haven’t set up Windows Hello already, simply go into Settings, Accounts, and Sign-in Options to get started. Here you’ll see options for using your face or your iris if a supporting camera is installed, or your fingerprint if a biometric reader is installed. Once the Anniversary Update upgrade rolls out, that information should be applied to supporting apps and websites immediately.
In addition to Windows Hello, Anniversary Update will also make changes to Windows Defender, the free anti-malware service built into Windows 10. The update will provide new summaries and notifications when scans are complete and threats were discovered. There will also be a new option to schedule a quick scan of the Windows 10 device whenever the user chooses to keep the system in check and bug free.
On the enterprise front, Anniversary Update will add the Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection service for detecting, investigating, and responding to malicious attacks on networks. Windows Information Protection will be added in the update too, a service that will separate personal data from business data no matter where the Windows 10 device goes.
With Anniversary Update, Xbox One console owners will see Cortana finally crashing the gaming scene, helping players find new games, offer tips and tricks, start a party, check up on friends, and more. According to Microsoft, Xbox One owners will be able to simply say “Hey Cortana, Xbox On” to simply activate the console.
The update will also bring a unified Windows Store across all devices, allowing Xbox One owners to download and install apps based on the Unified Windows Platform (UWP). This unified storefront will also support game bundles, season passes, and more game-related specials.
That said, Microsoft will introduce the Xbox Play Anywhere program. That means if customers purchase a qualified game on the Xbox One console, a version for Windows 10 will be unlocked as well for no additional cost. Better still, progress, saves, and achievements will be carried over, allowing the player to resume their game on the console or Windows 10 machine. Microsoft Studios will support this feature and offer compatible games in the unified Windows Store for Xbox One and Windows 10.
As a preview to the Anniversary Update, in Microsoft enabled SLI and CrossFire support for UWP-based games, as well as the ability to turn off V-sync, in May. These are two of the most requested features since mainstream PC games began hitting the Windows Store. Rise of the Tomb Raider and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition are two examples of games that could benefit from multi-GPU support.
The company is also offering a preview of Dev Mode for the Xbox One, which officially launches with Anniversary Update. This lets any Xbox One console to become a developer kit. Game creators merely download the app from the store and register the console. The controller automatically works in developing apps thanks to the UWP platform.
The launch of Anniversary Update will be complemented by the new Xbox One S console this summer, which will come packed with the update. The starting price will be $300, and the company plans to offer a 2TB model for a limited time only this August for a starting price of $400.
Finally, Anniversary Update will bring a few features at the request of customers, such as the ability to play background music no matter what the Xbox One owner is doing. The update will also enable users to choose any supported language no matter where they are geographically located.
Extensions are coming to Windows 10’s fresh new browser, and will be offered within the Windows Store once Anniversary Update goes live. Microsoft Translator, Reddit Enhancement Suite, and Mouse Gestures are already supported in preview builds offered in the Insider Program, but the likes of AdBlock, AdBlock Plus, Amazon (Assistant), Evernote, LastPass, and Pinterest (Pin It Button) are also slated to provide extensions.
According to Microsoft, Edge will offer even more power-saving improvements than before. The browser will consume less memory and require fewer CPU cycles, meaning your Windows 10 device will have more available resources for the content customers want to consume. The browser even lasts three hours longer than Google Chrome in recent tests conducted by Microsoft, which caused an online war of words between the company and Opera Software.
Anniversary Update will enhance Microsoft Edge with a new accessibility architecture that supports modern web standards. Page content and structure is exposed “more cleanly,” the company said in June, with pages seen in high contrast mode visually improved. The form entry process when using screen readers and keyboard navigation was also improved with Anniversary Update.
Better Support For The Classroom
In a blog posted at the end of June, the company revealed that Anniversary Update will make the deployment of Windows 10 devices even easier in schools, and won’t require dedicated IT support. For instance, teachers will have access to a special app that will allow them to set up a “Shared Cart of Devices” for the classroom.
There’s also a “Take a Test” app that will lock down the Windows 10 device during an online test, preventing the copy/paste feature and the ability to access files. Additionally, Anniversary Update will provide an updated Windows Imaging and Configuration Designer tool for schools with dedicated IT support. This tool will enable IT to set up a number of shared Windows 10 devices in just a few minutes.
Finally, Anniversary Update will make classrooms more productive thanks to quick log-in times. According to Microsoft, the initial log-in will take a mere 26 seconds whereas subsequent log-ins will take on six seconds, allowing students to switch accounts on a Windows 10 device even faster. Devices slated to launch this fall with Anniversary Update already installed will have a starting price of $180.
What Else Is Expected
During the conference, Microsoft released the Windows 10 Anniversary software development kit, or SDK. There were a number of elements Microsoft didn’t officially reveal in the initial keynote, such as running apps in the background without the need for two separate processes. Developers will also be allowed to build an ecosystem based on their apps (aka app extensions), similar to the way Microsoft Edge will offer its browser extensions.
The Action Center will move to the cloud, allowing apps to engage users on all of their devices. As an example, the user can dismiss a notification on their phone and it will also be dismissed on the PC as well. Developers will even see new tools for the Windows Store and Dev Center, and new ways for connecting to devices, communicating with them, and managing multiple apps and devices.
That’s All, Folks… For Now
That’s basically everything we know about the Windows 10 Anniversary Update so far. Until it’s released this summer, there will undoubtedly be more leaks and rumors surrounding what will be included in the update that was not revealed in the BUILD 2016 keynote. We’ve already seen slides regarding special cards exchanged between Cortana and the Action Center, as well as other details Insiders have thrown at the Internet.
That said, stay tuned for more details regarding Anniversary Update as they are released over the next several months.