While Microsoft is making it easier than ever for customers to upgrade existing PCs to Windows 10, the software giant’s hardware partners are also racing to deliver new Windows 10 PCs to the market. Here’s what you can expect from these new Windows 10 PCs.
More of the same mostly. A few innovations.
It’s kind of a dance, really. Each new Windows version supports new types of hardware, and PCs that are designed around a new Windows version will often include hardware features that are unique to that version. The goal is to entice people to buy a new PC, of course. And this benefits both the PC makers (obviously) and Microsoft, since the primary way people acquire Windows is with a new PC. Thus the partnership system.
Windows 8 was a unique challenge for the industry because it was so different from previous Windows versions and sported what Microsoft called a “touch-first” user experience. So there were some hits and some misses, and now, three years later, I think we’ve finally settled into a comfortable rhythm with traditional PC designs, traditional PC designs with touch screens, 2-in-1 PCs and a handful of straight tablets.
We’ll see all of that continue with Windows 10, of course. And if these types of PCs—which I think together will represent most PC types sold in the next year or so—meet your needs, there’s no real reason to wait. PCs are mature products, and with the exception of that weird Windows 8 side trip, not much has or will changed.
But there are of course new hardware features that will be unique to Windows 10, or what Microsoft calls “the vast opportunities that Windows 10 creates for partners to grow their businesses.” And we’re seeing the first fruits of these efforts at Computex this week in Taipei. And to be honest, most are just evolutions of advances we saw first in previous Windows versions.
Windows Hello. This is the big one, I think, and that it’s not all that big speaks volumes to the sea change that was Windows 8 comparatively. Windows Hello can use specialized hardware—new cameras or new or existing fingerprint scanners—to “recognize” you automatically so you don’t have to manually type a password or PIN to sign-in to a Windows 10 PC. This is a nicety at best, yes.
Continuum. 2-in-1 PCs have been around since Windows 8, as noted, and let you turn a tablet into a full PC, or turn a detachable laptop into a tablet. With Windows 10, these devices can use the Continuum technology to automatically adapt the Windows user experience between the normal windowed desktop display and a new Tablet Mode, where everything runs full-screen. Continuum support for existing devices requires the PC maker to support it, but all new Windows 10 PCs will work automatically.
Games. Microsoft’s DirectX 12 technology will only be supported by Windows 10, so if you want the best graphics performance in PC games, you need Windows 10 and, of course, compatible hardware.
Miniaturization. This isn’t so much a Windows 10 feature per se but by happy coincidence we’re starting to see interesting miniature PC hardware designs—Intel’s Compute Stick, the Quanta Compute Plug (below), and various Raspberry Pi 2-like boards—that can run Windows, opening up this OS to use usage scenarios.
And that’s about it. There will be the usual gadget-of-the-day nonsense around particular PC and device designs, but it’s fair to say that all the hard work was done over the past three years and that this year’s new devices can simply add refinement—thinner designs, bezel-less displays, more battery life, whatever—over what came before. And that’s all well and good, but not earth-shattering.