If you're following along with the development of Windows 10, you know that the current Windows Technical Preview builds are geared towards businesses and tech enthusiasts. But in early 2015, Microsoft will release a Consumer Preview for Windows 10, and those builds will provide a better look at many new end user features. This week, the first Consumer Preview builds allegedly leaked online, so here's a quick peek.
These leaks come via China, which isn't all that unusual, but they come from a site called IT Home, which is. The information here is culled from two articles on that site (this one and then this one). And since this source is unknown, you should take this information as rumor, not fact. But it appears legit.
Here's what we've found out.
Build number. You probably know that Windows 7 doesn't identify itself as version 7.0 internally, and that Windows 8.1 likewise isn't really version 8.1; those two releases are versions 6.1 and 6.3, respectively. Until this leaked build, Windows 10 identified itself as version 6.4. But according to IT Home, Microsoft will indeed bump the version number up to 10.0 for some reason. Which is odd, since internally, this product is really Windows 8.2. And since that version number is tied to application compatibility.
Adaptive UI. Microsoft wants to use the same Windows 10 on phones, tablets of all sizes, and PCs, and to make that work, the product will need to adapt on the fly. Part of that work includes the Continuum feature that Microsoft showed off in prototype form back in October, but there's more to it than that. And the Consumer Preview should be the first version that works equally well across a variety of devices; with the Windows Technical Preview, Windows 10 is only optimized for traditional PCs.
Internet Explorer 12. While current Windows 10 builds do of course provide versions of IE 12—and even a new web rendering engine if you're lucky, as not everyone is getting it yet—we won't see the new IE 12 user experience that Microsoft previously announced until the Consumer Preview.
Cortana. There are traces of Cortana all over the Windows Technical Preview, but this one was so obviously telegraphed by Microsoft that we don't even need that evidence to know that the personal digital assistant technology is coming to Windows 10. In the Consumer Preview most likely, though IT Home seems to think that it won't happen until Build 2015 (April).
Desktop improvements. We're going to see more in the way of icon redesigns, obviously, since that's only partially realized in the Technical Preview. But the big desktop news for the Consumer Preview, according to IT Home, is the addition of "magnetic stickers," which are basically modern app live tiles on the desktop. So instead of a dumb shortcut, like we see today, these tiles will look and work much the desktop gadgets from Windows past.
Is any of this real? A lot of this reads like conjecture and/or is patently obvious. But the big deal with the Consumer Preview, of course, is that the user experience will really start coming together, and across device types. The Windows Technical Preview was more about Microsoft (re)embracing the PC. Next time, Windows 10 will spread its wings a bit further. Certainly, I'm looking forward to that.