Microsoft's Build 2016 developer conference kicked off today in San Francisco with the announcement that Windows 10 has reached 270 million installs. That apparently makes Windows 10's adoption rate the fastest of any Windows version to date. The company also says its operating system will be receiving its next large update, called the Anniversary Update, this summer.
Microsoft is making a host of improvements in this update. The biggest changes will be coming to the Windows Store, which is being fully integrated across the company's Windows and Xbox platforms. Phil Spencer was on hand to announce that all of Microsoft's forthcoming games will be coming to both Windows 10 and the Xbox. To drive the point home, he showcased Forza Motorsport 6: Apex running in its full PC-version glory. That DirectX 12 title is just one game that showcases what Spencer described as the fastest-adopted DirectX release the company has ever made.
Spencer says the company will let UWP apps disable vsync and use FreeSync or G-Sync in the Anniversary Update. Spencer also promises more improvements for PC gamers in the future, including multi-GPU support, mods, and display overlays, although no timeframe was given for these changes.
Project Centennial—a Win32-to-UWP converter—was showcased using Age of Empires II HD and The Witcher 3. Microsoft says the apps generated by Centennial's Desktop App Converter are "modern desktop apps" that can be sold in the Windows store. They have all the benefits of natively developed UWP apps, like the overlay and recording features from the Xbox Gaming app, along with improved security and, according to Spencer, improved performance.
In a surprising announcement, Microsoft showed off a new, as-yet-unnamed Windows subsystem that allows native Linux binaries to run on Windows with native filesystem support. Kevin Gallo, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows, demonstrated popular unix shell bash running natively on Windows 10. From there, he also showed off a Ubuntu Linux binary of it-does-everything editor emacs. Gallo also says the Anniversary Update will include a Windows kernel module that allows access to the Linux kernel API.
The company showcased further improvements to usability, as well. Windows Hello now integrates with the Edge browser, which allows websites and web apps to make use of biometrics and physical two-factor authentication using the FIDO standard. Windows Ink—Microsoft's API for cross-application screen drawing and advanced pen input—is getting a major facelift in the Anniversary update with a new feature called the Ink Workspace. This utility allows for quick access to pen-compatible apps installed on the system, and it also includes lower-level features like software ruler support and deep pen integration with UWP apps. Cortana integration with pen input is coming, as well. When Microsoft's executive demo lead, Bryan Roper, jotted "call mom tomorrow" on a virtual sticky note, Cortana popped up to note that it had automatically made a reminder.
Speaking of everyone's favorite virtual assistant, Cortana will get deeper integration with more than just Windows soon. Outlook will soon allow Cortana to create appointments and read your e-mails to you. Microsoft hopes people will feel comfortable using vague voice commands like "Send Chuck the PowerPoint that I worked on last night," and it's currently running an invite-based preview for developers to experiment with deep Cortana integration.
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