The recent Microsoft conference seems to be bringing about a step forward for the company that in recent days has appeared to be struggling for ideas.

The catastrophe that was Windows 8, and the failure of the Xbox One to match up to the sales figures of the PS4, have left many people wondering if Microsoft is the future for PC users and technology in general. But the conference, as proudly stated by Microsoft, is the “next chapter” for the software giant.

The centre piece of the whole show, of course, is the new Windows 10 (which makes one concerned about Microsoft’s ability to count) which to everyone’s excitement, or at least mine, is free to all users of their recent operating systems, excluding XP and older. The updated OS will also bring about the return of the much missed start bar, but will also give the option to expand to a full screen, leaving the preference open to those who enjoyed it in Windows 8.

Microsoft have also said that the general usability of Windows 10 is going to be condensed by cleaning up the cluttered control panel and the general user interface. One of the things that infuriated me so much about Windows 8 was the insistence by Microsoft to keep the UI almost exactly the same no matter whether you are using a tablet, laptop or desktop but now with their new Continuum feature your experience will differ and be optimised depending on weather you are using a touch screen or a traditional mouse and keyboard PC just like it should have been with Windows 8.

However I am struggling to get excited about the integrated use of Cortana into PCs. I just get the feeling that voice control has been tried, tested and failed. First Apple’s attempt to make Siri a thing that people actually take seriously (rather than just saying rude phrases to it and  anticipating a humorous response) and then Microsoft’s own Kinect which was improved, but still left much to be wanted. Cortana has been improved to allow voice commands that will suit a PC such as “search the one drive” or “show me photos from December” and will be integrated right into the start bar for easier access but I await to see if it proves to be effective.

One feature I am interested to see however is the new Microsoft web browser, Spartan, which will replace the defunct Internet Explorer which has  been somewhat behind modern browsers for a while. It boasts a new light-weight look, a note taking system which will allow annotation across the page and a fantastic looking reading mode which will strip the whole page of useless information such as adds and sidebar rubbish that clutters the site. Spartan will also have integrated Cortana support which actually might provide some use, such as if you were on a restaurant web page Cortana would immediately be able to give you directions to get to it.

Gamers are also in luck as Microsoft announced at the conference that Xbox is going to become  seamlessly connected with your Windows 10 PC. All Xbox live games will be able to be streamed on a PC and by pressing ‘Windows key + G’ you can take a screen shots/video and share it with the Xbox Live community.

The PC, it turns out, is not going to be Microsoft’s only new focus for gaming as they unveiled a crazy new piece of hardware called the ‘Windows HoloLens’ which is an exciting new virtual platform that claims to provide a crazy new level of technology in the virtual reality world. The demonstration video showed a user playing Minecraft, a new and very expensive acquisition by Microsoft. The player was able to visualise and manipulate the Minecraft world right on his table. Another video showed a women Skyping a colleague on a floating monitor while walking through an office. Of course this is all conceptual at the moment but some people actually had the chance to try out the very early prototypes and their feedback was overwhelmingly positive. It will of course be the most powerful piece of holographic technology the world has ever seen boasting both a high end CPU , GPU and a new chip called a Holographic Processing Unit or HPU. I wouldn’t expect this tech to become available to the general public for a while and when it does be prepared for a hefty price point.

This seems to be a very drastic and exciting move for Microsoft who recently seemed to have become slightly mundane and disconnected from their consumers. This conference however has put them back on the map, not just in terms of OS’s but also on the forefront of pioneering technologies  and they have shown themselves to be once again a  fierce rival to Apple who are seriously lacking in terms of exciting new developments.

Daniel Watson

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The Badger

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