Microsoft has just finished talking about its plans for Windows 10, and boy do they have some crazy – but pretty cool – ideas. Here are the best bits.

It’s free

Yes, really. If you’re using Windows 7 or 8.1, you’ll be able to upgrade to Windows 10 FOR FREE for the first year of its availability, and get access to free support for the lifetime of the OS. That’s even better than Windows 8’s crazy-low R125 upgrade offer of 2012.

Cortana comes to Windows 10

Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant who was lifted straight from the Halo universe and thrust into Windows Phone, is coming to Windows 10. You can talk to her like you talk to real people, and she will draw on the collective knowledge of Bing to answer your questions. I wonder how she’ll handle non-American accents, though. Microsoft says they want to give you new ways to interact with your PC, and a talking, responsive, intelligent assistant is a pretty good way to go about that.

Better Office

Office Acceleration
Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore shows off just how slick and smooth Office for mobile will be.

Office will look and work very similarly on phones and tablets as it does on Windows 10 PCs, and even use hardware acceleration for smoother graphics. Hooray, if that sort of thing is important to you.

The Xbox App

Xbox Win10 App
See all of your Xbox and PC game activity in one place.

The Xbox app will ship with every Windows 10 PC, giving you access to your friends list, your activity feed, and even let you talk to friends while they play. To access it, just press the Windows Key and G, and the overlay pops up. It works with all games, too, not just those specifically designed for Windows 10.

DVR for Windows

DVR
DVR footage can be captured and uploaded.

Recording and uploading gaming footage is built into Windows 10, just like the Xbox One’s DVR (Digital Video Recorder) feature. You will be able to record and upload the last 30 seconds of your gameplay footage on any PC game and save it to OneDrive (or whatever Cloud storage app you like).

Cross-platform play

Cross Platform Play 2

You’ll be able to play games across platforms, provided they’ve been released for both Windows 10 and Xbox One. The capability was demonstrated with a quick co-op session of Fable: Legends, which is out this year for both platforms, with Phil Spencer playing on a PC and someone else playing on an Xbox One.

Stream from Xbox One to Windows 10 devices

Xbox Game Streaming
Phil is playing Forza Horizon 2 on a Surface tablet, streamed from his Xbox One.

Windows 10 will enable you to stream Xbox One games to any Windows 10 PC or tablet in your home via your network.

DX12 FTW

DirectX12, which ships with Windows 10, will reduce the amount of power needed for game graphics by up to 50%. That sounds quite good, as it means better battery life on mobile devices when playing games.

New builds coming soon

New builds of the Windows 10 Preview will release in the coming week, and after the Superbowl, it will be made available for phones. That’s after Monday the 2nd of February, for all us non-Americans. Microsoft will also increase the number of languages supported by the Windows 10 Preview from 4 to 25.

Holograms made real

NASA using Win10 powered holgrams
If NASA digs it, it must be cool.

Arguably the most impressive unveil tonight was that of Windows Holographic, an augmented reality project that uses a wearable visor to inject holograms into the viewer’s field of view. It’s so cool, NASA has been using it to help simulate Mars environments and perform research they couldn’t otherwise do.

Holostudio

Holostudio

Holostudio is a creative studio that lets people create holograms of 3D objects while wearing Microsoft’s augmented reality visor, which can then be 3D printed. To show it off, Microsoft showed a live demo of a person wearing the visor, and we got to see what she saw from her point of view. She created a 3D quadrocopter, which we were shown afterwards, and it actually flew! Amazing.

Satya wraps up

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella closed the update session by telling the audience that he wants Windows 10 to become the most loved version of Windows, and that he would like people to go from needing Windows, to choosing Windows, to loving Windows.

Satya
It’s such a crazy idea, they might just pull it off.

From where I’m sitting, this is shaping up to be the most exciting release of Windows since Windows 7. More will be forthcoming from Microsoft during the upcoming Game Developer’s Conference happening in March, so stay tuned.

Become a Windows Insider

In the meantime, should you want to join the Windows Insider Program and download, use and provide feedback on an in-progress version of Windows 10, click here.

And lastly, if you’d like to watch the two-hour press conference yourself – it’s honestly quite riveting for the most part – you can do that on the official broadcast site, found here.

Me, I’m off to bed.