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Windows 10 Best New Features: Free Upgrade, Start Menu, Cortana, Project Spartan, Universal Apps, and More

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Microsoft took the wraps off the final version of its upcoming Windows 10 operating system (OS) at a media event on Jan. 21.

Expected to be pushed out later this year, Windows 10 packs in a slew of nifty new features that hold plenty of promise. We take a look at some of the best new features Microsoft has in store.

1. Free Upgrade

That's correct! Windows 10 will be available as a free upgrade for Windows Phone 8.1, Windows 7, and Windows 8.1 license holders for the first year.

However, what Microsoft intends to do -- whether to keep it free or charge a fee -- once the initial year lapses is not clear at this juncture.

2. Start Menu

Windows 10 sees the return of the Start Menu, which is bigger and will be available in full screen and is not limited like Windows 8.1. The graphics also see some improvement and while half the Start Menu is similar to what it was like in Windows 7, the Live Tiles are an addition.

3. Cortana

Get ready to meet Cortana, the digital assistant from Microsoft who is set to rival Google Now and Siri. While Cortana was available for Windows Phone users then, Windows tablet and PC users will now get to tete-a-tete with the virtual assistant.

Cortana will be placed on the desktop next to the Star button and can be summoned by saying: "Hey Cortana." Moreover, users will have the option to edit stuff that the assistant knows about a user so that it can improve the service.

4. Project Spartan

The new Internet browser from Microsoft is light-weight and packs in an easy-to-use UI. The browser will be available for the mobile devices as well as desktop versions of Windows 10. Project Spartan is also said to have built-in note creation and sharing abilities and is also Cortana-enabled. It will also have a reading mode.

Whether Project Spartan will replace Internet Explorer is not clear yet. Some reports suggest that it will likely be renamed Internet Explorer 12.

5. Universal Apps

Windows 10 also brings "universal apps" for tablet, smartphone, Xbox and desktop users. Basically, the OS is Microsoft's attempt to make all apps seamless on any of the mentioned media -- be they mobile screens or 8-inch plus displays. Developers will need only to create a single app, which will work seamlessly on a multitude of gadgets running the Windows 10 OS. The screen optimization will not be an issue as they will adapt to the screen size.

6. Continuum

This new feature will basically enable touchscreen device users to automatically swap smoothly to the Windows 10 tablet or desktop mode, depending on the device being used and more importantly how you're using it. To illustrate, if you attach the keyboard to your Surface, then it will run the PC mode, whereas removing the accessory will prompt the tablet mode into action.

7. Xbox Games on PC

Windows 10 users have another treat in store: the ability to play Xbox games on their desktop. The Xbox app will come with Windows 10 and imbibe a feature that enables gamers to record 30 seconds of gameplay. This game clip can be sent via Xbox Live so other users can see it too.

The OS also brings the cross-play feature, which basically enables a gamer to play with a companion who is using Xbox One even as the gamer uses a Windows 10 compliant desktop.

While Microsoft showed off the consumer experience version on Wednesday, it did not reveal the exact date for the release of Windows 10. However, the OS is expected to arrive later this year.

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