Microsoft’s Windows 10 Creators Update will start rolling out on April 11 — including a 3D version of Microsoft Paint, performance optimizations for gamers, support for augmented reality headsets, new browser tools, a Windows e-book store, security and reliability improvements, and other features.
The company announced the timing of the rollout this morning, along with a sneak peek of some of the new Windows 10 features.
Microsoft says Windows 10 Creators Update will be available for free to the more than 400 million computers and devices currently running Windows 10. The update will roll out automatically in stages, depending on the specs of users’ machines, starting with newer devices. More technically oriented Windows 10 users will also be able to seek out and install the Windows 10 Creators Update manually.
The update reflects Microsoft’s efforts to ensure a place for Windows as the Android and iOS mobile operating systems dominate smartphones and tablets, rivals such as Google Chrome OS make headway in key markets, and new virtual and augmented reality devices redefine the computing landscape.
Windows still represents more than 90 percent of the global desktop PC market, according to Net Market Share data, but more than half of that usage comes from the nearly 8-year-old Windows 7 operating system. Microsoft initially offered Windows 10 for free to Windows 7 and 8.1 users, resulting in a surge of upgrades, but that free offer ended last year. About 25 percent of desktop machines are running Windows 10, according to the data.
GeekWire has been using the Windows 10 Creators Update on a test machine. These are a few of the new features that stand out from our experience and recent demos from members of the Windows team in Redmond.
Performance optimizations for gamers: Microsoft is adding a new Windows 10 “Game Mode” that gives designated games preference in tapping into system resources, aiming to eliminate lackluster games performance. In addition, the company is further integrating its Beam video-game streaming technology into Windows 10, including native support for Beam in Microsoft Edge.
Microsoft Edge browser: New features include the ability to quickly “set aside” a series of tabs for easily reopening them as a group later. Microsoft says it has also made a series of performance and security improvements in Edge, which has replaced Internet Explorer as the default browser in Windows 10.
New options for managing Windows updates: The company is adding a series of new options to give users more control over when their machines apply future updates and reboot, including the ability to schedule a time for a pending update. In addition, Microsoft will let users designate up to 18 hours as “active hours” when reboots shouldn’t be applied, up from 12 hours previously.
Windows Hello: Microsoft has optimized the performance of its Windows Hello sign-in technology, which uses iris, facial and fingerprint recognition to eliminate the need to use a password or PIN. Windows Hello seems to recognize users much more quickly in our experience. In addition, Microsoft says Windows Hello can be paired with an iPhone, Android or Windows Phone to activate a remote lock feature when users are away from their Windows PCs.
Books in Windows Store: Microsoft is getting into the e-book business with this addition to the Windows Store. Books will be available as PDF or EPUB files, and Microsoft says hundreds of thousands of titles will be available at launch. Microsoft Edge will be the default reading app for books, and Microsoft says books purchased through the Windows Store will only be available to read on devices running Windows 10 Creators Update.
Additional pen support: Windows 10 Creators update supports the annotation of photos and video using pen input, including neat tricks such as the ability to draw on a map and see how long a hike or drive will be.
Paint 3D: Time will tell if this becomes more than a novelty, but Microsoft is releasing this new version of its classic drawing program with support for creating 3D objects and sharing them with a community called “Remix.” In addition, the Movies & TV app in Windows 10 now supports 360-degree video.
Reducing blue light: Other new features include a “night light” setting that reduces the blue light emitted by the computer screen, supporting better sleep after working late. This feature is available on many smartphones and the latest versions of Apple’s Mac operating system.
Microsoft is also announcing today that its Surface Book with Performance Base notebook computer will be released in additional international markets in April: Austria, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In addition, its Surface Studio desktop computer will be released in Australia, Canada and New Zealand in April, as well.