Microsoft delivered a new build of the Windows 10 Technical Preview late last month, following an event at which the firm disclosed more upcoming features, such as Cortana support and the Continuum technology to optimise the user interface for tablet or keyboard modes.
The new version - identified as build 9926 - shows the progress Microsoft is making as it moves closer to a full release of the new operating system. This is slated for later this year, and some rumours now indicate that Windows 10 may hit its release to manufacturing date as early as June.
However, some features are still missing for those outside the US, including the Cortana personal assistant. In our tests, Windows simply displayed the message: 'Cortana is not available in your market' (see above).
What is apparent is a number of user interface tweaks and enhancements since the first Technical Preview was released last year.
The overall effect of these is to make Windows 10 look sleek and polished, and offer an experience much closer to that of older versions of Windows, without throwing out too much of the touch-oriented enhancements added in Windows 8 and 8.1.
The reinstated Start menu (see above) was present in the first Technical Preview but has now gained the option to expand to full-screen using a button at the top right. This principally provides more space for the Metro-style or Windows Store apps rather than anything else, but is welcome nonetheless.
There's also a new look Settings app (above), which delivers the Settings screen from Windows 8 in a format that somewhat resembles the old Control Panel in older versions of Windows, in yet another attempt to make existing Windows users feel more at home.
Also new is a beta of a new-look Windows Store app (see above), which introduces an updated visual design which will be common across PCs, tablets, phones and the web. However, Microsoft warned that apps purchased from the Windows Store Beta (represented by a grey tile) work only on devices with the January Technical Preview.
The Continuum feature, which dynamically adapts Windows for a desktop or touch-optimised tablet experience, is also implemented in this release. This is intended for two-in-one devices, where a keyboard can be attached or removed at any time, but users can also manually activate it using the Notifications panel accessible by swiping in from the right of the screen.
Overall, our impressions of Windows 10 from this updated Technical Preview are encouraging, and we could easily imagine using this as our everyday compute platform in place of Windows 7, something that we would not have sanctioned with Windows 8.
We look forward with interest to further developments from Microsoft.
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