Microsoft is to make its next big launch of Windows free in a bid to beef up competition with Apple.
Windows 10 will add new voice-controlled features and will reinstall the ‘Start’ menu, banished under the last unpopular version of Windows 8.
The new operating system, which is expected to be released later this year, will also be used for Nokia and Windows phones and will allow people to join in Xbox games from their PC.
However, the free offer only stands for the first year of Windows 10’s availability. It is expected to be released to the public later this year.
New ‘universal apps’ for Windows 10 will work across Windows PCs and phones. These will include a new version of Outlook email, Powerpoint and Excel.
And Microsoft announced a new “web browsing experience” called Spartan, which will allow collaboration on web pages.
The software giant also announced a new hologram headset to rival virtual reality goggles such as Google’s ill-fated Glass. The headset, called HoloLens, projects imagery onto what the wearer sees, opening up the possibility of creating games and communications services in a new platform.
The headset is based on augmented reality technology and has been in development at the Microsoft for five years.
However, Microsoft has a chequered history when it comes to the most recent editions of its PC operating system.
It has not said why it skipped the number ‘9’ -- jumping straight from windows 8 to Windows 10 -- with some analysts concluding that it wanted to make a clean break from its unpopular Windows 8 operating system.
The latest figures from Dublin-based global research firm Statcounter show that Windows 7 continues to dominate global computer systems and is used on over half the world’s PCs and just under half of Irish computers. Windows 8, by contrast, is used on less than one in five PCs worldwide and about one in four Irish computers.
In Ireland, around one in 15 computers still uses Windows XP, the condemned operating system that Microsoft no longer protects from major viruses.
However, even unpopular editions of its operating systems achieve huge sales because, with the exception of Apple Mac computers, there is no mainstream alternative. Even with all of Apple’s success, Windows PCs make up more than 85pc of the world’s computers. Businesses, which make up a large proportion of PC sales, simply take whatever new Microsoft version comes on the machine.
And the PC market has recently arrested its sharp declines, with growth recorded in European countries.
Ironically, the unpopularity of Windows 8 could help Microsoft in its Windows 10 sales. As of this year, the company will no longer offer a Windows 7 alternative on new PCs. That means that the only option for PC buyers will be Windows 8 or Windows 10.
Is there a less exciting product than Internet Explorer? Microsoft’s web browser is almost 20 years old and used by hundreds of millions, battle-scarred from rows with Europe, Firefox and latterly Chrome – but who has ever said IE is fun?