What to expect on Windows 10 front at Microsoft's new devices launch

While Microsoft's new Lumia phones, Surface tablets and updated fitness Band are all expected to be unveiled on October 6, Windows 10 is the real star of tomorrow's show.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

While rumors (and near-facts) continue to fly a day ahead of Microsoft's Windows 10 devices launch about what Microsoft's newest hardware will look like, I'm more interested in the software side of the big reveal.

We Microsoft watchers believe Microsoft will take the wraps off two new premium Lumia phones; a new Surface tablet or two; the second-generation Microsoft Band; and some related peripherals, like the Microsoft Display Dock at the October 6 New York City event. We'll likely also see and hear more about Xbox One, which gets the Windows 10 core in November, and maybe even a tidbit or two about the HoloLens augmented-reality glasses, which have Windows 10 at their heart.

Microsoft will be live-streaming the launch, starting at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT on October 6 here.

There's a reason Microsoft is unveiling all of these devices simultaneously. It's meant to give strength to the company's years-old contention that One Windows is better than many Windows.

One Windows doesn't really mean a single version of Windows 10 will run on all these different pieces of hardware, but the different variants will share (ultimately) a common Windows core, a common Windows Store, an increasingly common set of development tools, and many shared user interface elements.

On Surface PCs and tablets and Lumia phones, Microsoft is working toward delivering "Threshold 2," the updated version of Windows 10 that the company is expected to release in early November, according to the latest tips.

Threshold 2 will include a number of Windows 10 elements that were missing from the OS when it began rolling out in late July, including features like enterprise-data-protection support; a Windows Store for business users for their own apps; and the new Skype messaging and video apps.

I haven't heard whether Microsoft's alternative to Apple Pay, codenamed "OnePay," will make it into Threshold 2 or not. Earlier this year, the goal was to debut that technology this fall, but given it has yet to appear in any new Insider test builds, I'm doubtful. I also don't know whether Google and/or other third-party developers who've been reticent to back the Windows 8 platform will be on stage, as some believe, giving their blessing to Windows 10. (Patent troubles do seem to be making for some interesting new deal opportunities, however.)

Xbox One is a bit further behind in getting some of the shared Windows 10 elements. The Windows Store and Cortana integration may come to Xbox One users in preview form this year, but they won't be available in final form until 2016. I'd expect HoloLens is even further behind in getting more than just the Windows 10 core, even though Microsoft is holding code camps to get developers ready to write apps for the coming glasses.

Microsoft's "one big happy Windows 10 family" message expands beyond the operating system itself. The second-generation Microsoft fitness band isn't expected to run Windows 10 on the device, sources have said; it will still run dedicated firmware that doesn't have its roots in Windows 10. But the Band 2.0 will connect to many of the same back-end services to which other Windows 10 devices can, such as Microsoft Health, Azure Machine Learning, Application Insights, Event Hubs and more. And it will work with Microsoft's new mobile devices, as well as non-Microsoft ones.

Microsoft has three "platforms" these days: Windows, Office and Azure. CEO Satya Nadella's Microsoft is becoming increasingly agnostic about which of these platforms developers and users are backing, as long as they are backing at least one. The Windows/"more personal computing" bucket is the primary focus of tomorrow's Windows 10 devices reveal.

The handful of new devices Microsoft reveals at its October 6 event will be at the core of Microsoft's more focused mobility push. But Microsoft's new Lumia phones, Surface tablets, updated fitness Band, refreshed Xbox One console and coming HoloLens glasses ultimately are all meant to show off why Microsoft is betting on a single version of its operating system -- rather than multiple operating systems like Apple and Google -- to attract more customers and developers, moving forward.

Update: The rest of this month, Microsoft will be backing other PC makers' Windows 10 device reveals. Here's the schedule, which includes new Windows 10 hardware from HP (October 7); Dell (October 8); ASUS (October 9); Acer (October 12); Toshiba (October 13) and Lenovo (October 19).

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