Microsoft offers glimpse into Windows 10 free upgrade


Windows 10 launch is still about a month away. But Microsoft executive Yusuf Mehdi announced today in a blog post that the next major iteration of the company’s operating system—dubbed the Windows 10 Anniversary Update—will become available on August 2.

Microsoft is encouraging folks to request it in advance.

Indeed, ahead of July 29, the one-year anniversary launch date, anyone running Windows 10 on a PC today can request the upgrade for free, after which it will cost is $119. Either way, you’ll still have to wait until August 2 to get it.

Mehdi says that more than 350 million devices are currently running Windows 10 worldwide, with customer satisfaction levels higher than any previous version of Windows. Engagement has also been at an all-time high–since launch, Windows 10 has been used more than 135 billion hours.

Here’s some of what Microsoft is promising in the update:

*Better security. According to Microsoft, there are 250 million online threats posed on any given day. While Microsoft will tell you that Windows 10 is already the most secure version of Windows ever, the company is beefing up security in the new update just the same. One way is through Windows Hello, which (with proper hardware) will enable you to use biometrics measures such as facial recognition in lieu of passwords to authenticate your identify. You’ll be able to use Windows Hello with companion devices to unlock your PC as well. According to Mehdi’s post, more than 90% of people have abandoned web sites instead of locating a forgotten password because security hasn’t been easy enough to use.

Microsoft also says it has improved Windows Defender, its anti-malware software.

And the company has bolstered tools for enterprise security, with current cyberattacks costing organizations $12 million per incident on average. The claim for a new security feature for enterprises called Windows Defender Advanced Protection is more comprehensive threat intelligence and advanced detection.

A separate feature, Windows Information Protection, aims to plug data leaks by letting businesses segregate personal and organizational data.

*Advanced Inking features. Though you’ll need hardware that supports the use of a digital stylus, the Anniversary edition of Windows is said to improve the experience of writing with such a digital instrument. The so-called Windows Ink workspace is a canvas for everything ink-related. Digital ink features include, sticky notes, a whiteboard doodling area, and a quick link to the the Windows Store for ink-powered apps, including several from third party developers.

*A smarter Cortana. Microsoft’s vocal digital assistant Cortana is now available, at least for certain tasks, on the lock screen. Cortana can handle questions, play music and or set a reminder without you having to separately log into your computer. And Microsoft says Cortana can retain such information as your frequent flier number, or where you parked at the airport.

*A more power efficient Edge browser. Microsoft claims that Edge will sap less power. You’ll also be able to personalize the browser with “extensions” such as Pinterst’s “Pin It Button” and Amazon Assistant. These and others will be available in the Windows Store.

*Goodies for gamers. According to Microsoft, 9 billion hours have been devoted to gameplay on Windows 10 devices. With the Anniversary update, and the Xbox Play Anywhere program, you can buy a game one time and then freely play it on your Windows 10 PC and Xbox One, sharing saved games and achievements across the devices. On Xbox One, you’ll be able to summon Cortana help you find new games, see what pals are doing, and turn on your console with a “Hey Cortana, Xbox On” command. Meantime as part of a promotion that starts today and runs through August 14, students can save $300 when they purchase an Xbox One and Microsoft Surface at Microsoft Stores.

*Education. Microsoft says more than 90% of schools in the US use shared devices and nearly half of all teachers serve as their own tech support in the classroom. A new “Set up School PCs” app for Windows 10 aims to simply the process for educators.