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<strong>Microsoft's next OS is Windows 10, will ship later in 2015</strong>
Instead of announcing the next version of its iconic operating system in front of a massive crowd of thousands, Microsoft chose an intimate venue with 50 or so reporters to launch the new Windows, which it's calling Windows 10. The company looks at the new number (yes, it skipped a number) as an indication of the direction it's taking with the OS; Microsoft says it'll be "the most comprehensive platform ever," featuring a full range of products that'll be placed under the Windows 10 umbrella as part of "one tailored experience." Microsoft's Joe Belfiore showed off an early beta version of the new Windows on stage, which looks very much like the leaked screenshots we saw not too long ago; Belfiore says that they wanted to bring the familiarity of Windows 7 and combine it with the functionality of Windows 8.
The new Windows will look very familiar if you're used to either of the the last two versions, though Win8 users will notice that the Modern UI is nowhere to be seen at first. Instead, the series of Live Tiles can be found in the Start Menu off to the right side, with the usual Win7-style set of pinned and frequent apps on the left side, along with web and app search underneath. It also comes with a refreshed taskbar that comes with a new "task view," which essentially lays out all of your running apps. You can also tile up to four apps on the same screen. Additionally, Windows 10 also gets a nice improvement to the command prompt: Now you can use keyboard shortcuts, as well as copy and paste.
The Charms Bar is still there, though it may not look exactly the same when the final build comes out -- Microsoft says that the UI is still not final and it expects to change it between now and then -- and there are plenty of touch elements and gestures carried over from Windows 8.
With Windows 10, Microsoft also plans to adjust the user interface depending on the mode you're using it in; for instance, it'll look different if you're using it for touch versus if a mouse and keyboard are detected. The Modern UI shows up as a "large Start Menu" in addition to a back button on the taskbar when you're in touch mode, whereas you'll get the traditional desktop look and feel if you're using a keyboard and mouse.
The team only showed a few bits of Windows 10 today, but they'll continue to add more pieces to the puzzle over the course of the next year as Microsoft prepares for a late 2015 launch. For instance, we'll see more of the system at the company's Build conference next Spring. That said, Microsoft will be launching an Insider Program tomorrow, which is designed to give the initial Win10 experience to folks who have a deeper knowledge of the OS. Belfiore insists that the new Windows will give full functionality for everyone from beginners and novices to advanced users once it launches, however.
Windows XP = Good
Windows Vista = Bad
Windows 7 = Good
Windows 8 = Bad
Windows 9 = Good (gets skipped)
Windows 10 = OOPS!