Remember, Windows 10 is the last numbered version of Windows; going forward updates will be smaller and more frequent. Over 270 million people are regularly using Windows 10, Windows head Terry Myerson announced during yesterday's keynote. But even the Anniversary Update lacks any truly brand-new blockbuster features; rather it turbo-charges existing features like the AI digital assistant Cortana.
Much of what's coming for Windows is primarily of concern to developers: For example, new tools will allow them to easily port their programs for previous Windows versions to modern Windows 10 Store apps. And the OS will support the Linux Bash shell, allowing even more applications to run. I should note that the Windows 10 Anniversary update doesn't pertain only to PCs, but also to phones, tablets, Xbox, Internet-of-things devices, and HoloLens. Here's what's on tap.
1. A More Powerful Cortana
Not only does Cortana become more proactive, suggesting more things such as where to have lunch if you're in an unfamiliar city (since you've told her your cuisine preferences), but she'll appear in more places on the system, such as the lock screen and within Skype as a bot conversation.
Cortana on the lock screen is a tricky topic for privacy, but Microsoft reps say you'll have to specifically allow her, for example, to show info from your calendar appointments.
One intriguing new Cortana capability that wasn't discussed much at the conference was system control through Cortana. "Hey Cortana, shut down the PC!" doesn't work now, but a video shown at Build suggests it will in the Anniversary Update. One wonders if that also means Cortana will be able to change system settings, like "Turn off Wi-Fi" or "Check for Updates."
Cortana now taps into more third-party apps for answers and actions. If you've used her, you know she can easily get Yelp and TripAdvisor info, but the company has launched a new "Better with Cortana" section in the Windows app store, and says nearly 1,000 apps now integrate with Cortana. So go ahead, say, "Cortana, get me an Uber car!"
2. More Ink
Owners of Surface tablets also get a pen or stylus (which magnetically hugs the side of some models), and Microsoft hopes that it can take people's habit of writing with pens and pencils to more Windows devices. Not only will the Anniversary update including a new sticky notes feature, but it will also get new editing gestures such as striking out text or applying highlighter. Third-party software developers will also be able to easily add inking capabilities to their apps.
3. More Hello
4. More Gaming
Unsurprisingly, most of the gaming news from this year's Build concerns the Xbox One. But the PC also got a few in-demand capabilities, such as support for multiple GPUs and the ability to turn off VSync and enable GSync and FreeSync instead (PC gamers know these graphics modes). The new Desktop App Converter will enable game developers to put out Universal Windows App versions of their work, including support for modding.
Maybe the biggest announcement regarding games at Build 2016 was Dev Mode for Xbox One, which lets developers easily turn any Xbox One into a development kit. That means more folks will be able to create more games. Sure, that last item is about Xbox rather than PC gaming, but remember, Xbox will eventually be just another Windows 10 device running Universal Windows apps.