Microsoft has already scheduled an event for January 21 to illustrate the second chapter of Windows 10 development, dedicated to end-users. Meanwhile, the software maker continues its hard work on the next Windows OS, once again a preliminary version of Windows 10 hits on P2P networks.
It is build 9901 – compiled on December 2nd, 2014 – and gives a glimpse of some interesting consumer-focused features.
The build 9901 integrates Cortana that debuted on Windows Phone 8.1 during Build 2014 conference. This wouldn’t come as much of a surprise – it has already made its appearance early this month – and shows preliminary user interface with rough edges. It looks similar to the version found on Windows Phone 8.1 and works with notes, reminders, and interests.
In this build, the Cortana is enabled by default and sits next to the Start button as a search box. User can type directly or can activate voice commands by clicking mic button within the search box. The search box takes a lot of space on the Taskbar, so users can also turn it in to the search button – like public preview builds – or vice versa.
In addition, you can also talk to your digital personal assistant by saying “Hey Cortana.”
PC Settings aka Settings replaces Control Panel
PC Settings now starts to replace the traditional Control Panel as Windows Update displays the UI is obsolete. A message reads, “This UI is depreciated. To get updates, go to Settings -> Update and recovery -> Windows Update” Even though the shortcut of Control Panel is also removed from Charms bar.
Other than that, the modern control panel app is also gets updated and now opens up with a new startup page showing settings’ categories and lets you search settings – like Google Chrome. So it is arguably the complete elimination of old control panel in the final release of Windows 10.
Updated Windows Store and New Xbox app
Windows 10 will be the first multi-platform OS, compatible with all devices (PC, notebook, tablet, smartphone, Xbox and IoT devices). And all Microsoft started with the universal apps for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1, but there’re still two separate store apps. Now, in build 9901, a new version of Windows Store has uncovered – still in beta – which comes with notable changes compared to the old one.
First, in addition to apps and games, there are also some new sections such as music, movies and TV series, and apps for Windows phones. This means that there will no longer two separate stores and all apps and digital content will be severed from a singleton app.
The beta of Windows Store still has categories such as new apps, best free apps, popular apps etc., but the layout is vertical now. The current layout (horizontal in Windows 8.1) is optimized for touch and uncomfortable with a mouse and keyboard sort-of.
Moreover, a new Xbox app appears in the leaked build. The app still has irregular empty sections and seems to inherit some features from Games app of Windows Phone like Xbox Live profile, activity feed, scores and achievements, and chat with friends.
In addition to aforementioned apps, the Redmond developers have finally updated Photos, Maps, Alarm, Calculator, Remind Me and added Contact Support and Get Started to the default apps squad.
OneDrive integration as a core part of the OS
In addition to app data, start menu layout, bookmarks and passwords, and other OS settings, OneDrive has now integrated into Update and Recovery section as a cloud storage backup of your computer.
FYI, aforementioned things are already synced with Microsoft account in Windows, but new settings offer more control over what data is to be synced through platforms. You can opt in or out OneDrive as a backup location in PC Settings.
A deeper integration of OneDrive is also an exclusive feature of new build 9901 and absent in previous preview builds of Windows 10.
Remarkably, Microsoft already offers unlimited storage space on OneDrive for Office 365 users to store files and documents. And by incorporating OneDrive as main backup system, it is plausible that Microsoft may offer a greater amount of storage space online for Windows 10 users likewise the strategy of CEO Satya Nadella towards the expansion of cloud services.
Improved UI and new icons
Apart from all above features, Microsoft hasn’t replaced all old icons with new ones yet, but the work is in progress as a few more new icons appear in the 9901. Taskbar has finally lost its aero glass transparency and now looks a like Windows Phone 8.1’s navigation bar. However, Microsoft has kept doors open if users want it back, according to Gabriel Aul, the veteran of Windows Insider program.
Additionally, the title bar and caption buttons of modern apps also get some treatment. While title bar matches with the color of window borders and taskbar, the hamburger menu takes the place of the context menu although the context menu is still accessible by right clicking on the title bar.
These were some eye candy features, which would be the part of January 20 event, at which Microsoft will be pushing yet another preview build of Windows 10 to Windows Insiders. For now, if you have grabbed the leaked code of build 9901, the company has warned that one will not be getting the future updates on the build 9901; however you can still try out the public build 9879 that is last pre-release version of Windows 10 of the year, available to download.