The next build of Windows 10 is now available for download. While anyone can download it, you will need to be part of the Windows Insider program (free signup) to install it. This is basically an agreement that you’ll supply anonymous statistics to help Microsoft learn more about how real users use the new OS.
This build is the one shown off on Thursday morning, and gives us our first look at Continuum. For those of us who use Windows 10 on a 2-in-1 device (Surface Pro 3), moving between tablet and PC mode is now made simple. When in tablet mode, full screen apps, are actually full-screen again, instead of having a weird application title bar. The new build also brings Cortana to the desktop for the first time. We knew this was coming thanks to the leaked 9901 build, but it was very early in that leaked build. Now Cortana is much more developed and useful.
The charms bar is killed off in this release, replaced by a side panel that provides far more useful information. Application notifications are no longer weird popup from the system tray, but now integrated into a refined UI accessible by your right hand when holding the device. The functions found the charms bar are now available at the bottom of this new notification draw. Thankfully this also includes the Settings option, and Microsoft have also introduced the ability to customise what’s displayed there.
There’s no new Spartan browser in this release, but from the Jan 21 event (US time). The new browser will arrive in the coming months. At the event we seen Windows 10 running on Windows Phone and the Xbox, they are not available today. Windows Insiders will get Windows 10 on the phone in February and it will come for the Xbox later this year. Speaking of Xbox, the new new Xbox app is included in this build. While the app delivers updates for your Xbox Live friends (Xbox 360 or Xbox One) some of the features like remote play isn’t yet available.
As always, the advice is to not install this on production hardware, it is a preview build after all, but judging from the stability of previous official releases of Windows 10, stability will be solid.
After installing the build on 2 machines and spending a few hours with the latest bits, we now know much more about what’s changed. There are certainly things we have to wait for, but there’s plenty new to play with.