Update: Microsoft’s Technical Preview build, #9879, is the last release for 2014. Now, we play the waiting game until January 21, 2015. That ‘s the day when Redmond will let loose more details regarding Windows 10. Read more below!

With Windows 8 and now Windows 8.1, Microsoft tried – not entirely successfully – to make tablets part of a continuum that goes from number-crunching workstations and high-end gaming rigs through all-in-one touchscreen media systems and thin-and light notebooks down to slender touch tablets.

The general consensus is that it still has a long way to go to produce a unified OS. Recently, Microsoft publicly made the first steps to doing just that, with Windows 10. Skipping the Windows 9 name entirely, the Redmond, Wash. firm aims to step into the next generation of computing with the right foot forward.

You will soon be able to download Microsoft’s Windows 10 Technical Preview by venturing over to its Windows Insider Program website. You’ll need a Microsoft account to get it, and it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not the finished article so may be a bit rough around the edges.

While there is little information regarding the Windows 10 Road Map currently available following the event and the Technical Preview, this is what we know so far regarding the stymied release of Windows 10:

  • The event on September 30 announced the release of the Technical Preview of Windows 10 for laptops and desktops, often referred to as WTP, DP (Developer Preview) or CTP (community technology previews). This is just over three years after Microsoft unveiled the first public beta build of Windows 8, known as Windows Developer Preview).
  • Microsoft released its Windows Insider Program on October 1st, designed to keep early adopters up to date with the latest preview builds of Windows 10.
  • Starting with Technical Preview for laptops and desktops, the preview build will extend to servers short after.
  • As of October 7, the preview build is available to Windows 7 users as well.
  • Consumer preview builds will not be available until early next year, according to Microsoft’s Terry Myerson.
  • The Technical Preview will end sharply on April 15 of next year, which conveniently leaves right off at…
  • Microsoft’s Build 2015 conference next April, at which the company will talk more about Universal Apps and likely issue a Windows 10 release date.
  • Finally, the company promises that Windows 10 will ship to consumers and enterprise “later in the year” in 2015, Myerson said.
  • We’ll learn more about that on January 21, when Microsoft holds an event on its Redmond campus detailing even more about Windows 10, especially for consumers.

A million testers in and…

Microsoft announced on October 13 that over 1 million folks are currently testing out the Windows 10 Technical Preview. So far, the testers have been “a vocal bunch,” according to Redmond’s Joe Belfiore. As of this writing, we expect the numbers to be even larger at this point.

The Operating Systems lead shared that a cautious 36% of users installed the OS on virtual machine with the simply installing it right on top of their existing Windows PCs. Fortune favors the bold?

As of this writing, we’re up to Build #9879. When Build #9860 was launched, Microsoft release additional demographic details, breaking down the percentages of systems used to test out the OS. Naturally, desktop users made up the lion’s share of 41% of users, followed by laptops’ 32% and 22% on virtual machine. (Only 2% of the install base were tablet users.)

But what might this mean? Either users are growing more comfortable with Windows 10 as an operating system already, or that the new OS is enjoying more buzz, therefore the surge of the casual early adopters installing on top of their existing OS.

Unfortunately, we still know nothing about exactly when the final version of Windows 10 will release, save for “later in the year” in 2015. Luckily, Microsoft teased plenty of details on what the next version of Windows will be like when it lands next year. Here are the highlights.

How much will it cost?

One thing Microsoft has been absolutely mum about regarding it’s new baby is how much Windows 10 will cost. While the firm has yet to say anything concrete, we now know a bit more about how Microsoft is thinking – or rather, rethinking – how it will generate dollars from this go ’round.

“We’ve got to monetize it differently,” Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner said at the Credit Suisse Technology Conference in early December, according to Wind8apps.com.

“And there are services involved,” he continued. “There are additional opportunities for us to bring additional services to the product and do it in a creative way. And through the course of the summer and spring we’ll be announcing what that business model looks like.”

Cortana warping over to Windows 10?

That’s right, Windows 10 will see the spread of Cortana, Microsoft’s Siri and Google Now competitor, into all versions of the new OS, including desktops, laptops and tablets. WinBeta recently posted an overview of a leaked version of Cortana on Windows 10, voice and all.

But when will this arrive in the public Technical Preview? We’ll just have to wait until January to find that out, now won’t we.

Oh, and how could we forget that Windows 10 is slated to hit every current Lumia device? Imagine if Cortana were able to store your usage data across every Windows 10 device you own? Talk about continuity.

Microsoft playing to the pirates

It was found in Build #9860 that Microsoft introduced support for the MKV video container to Windows 10. This also just so happens to be one of the most popular ways to distribute pirated media online. (Of course, we’re sure this wasn’t the point.) While often referred to as a codec, MKV is actually merely a format that contains content rendered using other codecs, often H.264.

So, what does this mean for plucky new OS? MKV is just one of several file formats that will be supported by Windows 10 from day one. Others include FLAC and HEVC, so expect Windows 10 to be fully prepared for our 4Kvideo and lossless audio future.

Phoning in features

In issuing the latest Technical Preview build, Microsoft released a fresh feature to Windows 10, but on that’s not new to Windows Phone:notifications. Known as the Action Center on Windows Phone 8.1, Notifications on Windows 10 operate in much the same way.

Featured as a button on the task bar, Notifications collects alert data from plenty of sources. “You’ll see notifications from the system and apps – from new emails and invites to IMs, Facebook posts and more – all in one place, so you don’t miss a thing,” Microsoft Director of Windows Program Management Gabe Aul wrote in a blog post.

Speaking of new features, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore teased new trackpad gestures that will soon come to Windows 10 during his TechEd Europe keynote in October 2014. Much similar to the gestures that Mac users are used to, the new OS will soon respond to three-finger swipes in three directions.

Swiping downward with three fingers will return you to the desktop from within any app, while an upward gesture will summon the new task view. Swiping with three fingers either to the left or right will switch between open apps. Users will also be able to resize snapped windows with a unique three-finger gesture.

Shooting for security

Running the world’s most ubiquitous OS, Microsoft has always taken security quite seriously, often releasing patches daily to its various versions of Windows. Now, the company looks to take its security measures for Windows 10, with two-factor authentication (2FA) coming standard on enterprise versions of the OS.

Microsoft also intends to protect user identities by storing user access tokens in a secure container that runs on top of Hyper-V technology, isolated from the rest of the OS. Windows 10 will also offer a data loss prevention solution that will allow users to separate their corporate personae from their non-work ones.

… and for your data?

Less than a month out, and already Windows 10 has been pegged forcollecting user data. While this is a beta preview, and as such should be collecting feedback data, claims from a number of news outlets point to more even more sensitive information.

The Technical Preview reportedly has the capability to track and log keystrokes, capture voice data and more. This may be cause for caution, but keep in mind that almost all, if not all, modern operating systems track and log some level of usage data. Though, it’s almost always anonymized.

Windows 10 release date

It’s still all about unity

Windows 10 will be “one application platform” for all the devices that run Windows, according to Microsoft Windows head Terry Myerson, with one store to rule them all. (So to speak.)

While on stage at the event, Microsoft showed images of the new operating system running on everything from desktop PCs to smartphones. In fact, Myerson confirmed that Windows 10 will be the driving OS behind its smartphone platform as well.

Myerson was mum on the naming conventions (e.g. whether Windows 10 on phones would be known as Windows Phone 10, et. al). But what matters is this: Windows 10 will be behind every device that Microsoft has a hand in, save most likely for the Xbox One.

Windows 10 release date, news and features

Yes, even the Internet of Things

Based on CEO Satya Nadella’s recent comments during Gartner’s Symposium ITxpo, Windows 10 is almost certainly being developed with the Internet of Things in mind.

“Windows 10 is a very important step for us.” Nadella said on stage. “It’s the first step in a new generation of Windows as opposed to just another release after Windows 8. General purpose computing is going to run on 200 plus billion sensors. We’ve architected Windows where it can run on everything.”

Microsoft still cares about enterprise

In fact, the crux of the September 30th event was to speak to enterprise users and get it in front of them first. “Windows 10 is a very novel approach of separating corporate and personal data across all devices,” Myerson said on stage. “Windows 10 is going to be our greatest enterprise platform, ever.”

Microsoft didn’t exactly please its enterprise audience with Windows 8.1 – adoption has been awfully slow. (And now will likely halt with this new version on the horizon.)

To that end, Microsoft’s Windows Phone guru Joe Belfiore even noted that the company is “looking to find the balance, so that all the Windows 7 users get a familiar experience on the devices they already have.”

Windows 10 release date, news and features

The Start menu: bigger, better, stronger

The return of the Start menu that Microsoft teased during its Build 2014 conference earlier this year was shown off in full force at its Sept. 30th event. Replete with a merging of the traditional Windows 7-style interface and Windows 8 Live Tiles, the new Start menu is designed to please both camps: touch and mouse users.

“They don’t have to learn any new way to drive,” Belfiore said, referring to Windows 7 business users. That said, customization will also be featured throughout, first with the ability to resizing the Start menu itself along with the Live Tiles within.

The Start menu features empowered search capabilities as well, able to crawl your entire machine, not to mention web results. (Through Bing and not Google, we’d imagine.)

Windows 10 release date, news and features

Snap windows (and desktops) in all sorts of new ways

Snap to it, will ya?

The traditional Windows 7 Snap View works in Windows 10’s desktop mode with classic and universal apps, enhanced by a new “Snap Assist” interface. Snap Assist works in tandem with Task View, a new feature that allows users to create multiple desktop environments within a single instance of Windows 10.

You can now grab apps from different desktops and group them together using the Snap Assist UI, all of which is mouse or touch controlled. These features seem more designed for face-level multi-taskers, or people that rely more on visual computing. Of course, this comes in addition to enhanced keyboard shortcuts for power users.

Keeping in touch

Microsoft is keen on maintaining the ground it achieved in touch-based computing through Windows 8 while reintroducing the intuitive desktop interface of Windows 7. To that end, many of the new multitasking features will be optimized for touch devices as well, like Task View. But it doesn’t stop there.

The Redmond firm teased a hybrid interface mode for 2-in-1 laptops and other hybrid devices. Containing elements of both the current Windows 8.1 Start screen and the desktop improvements, this new touch-focused start screen will switch based on the input used.

Think of a home screen that allows for both touch input, with large icons and response to gestures or swipes, and more traditional mouse or touchpad interaction, with smaller buttons and list-like interfaces. Belfiore called the approach “continuum” on stage, and the philosophy makes sense at least on paper.

Click on through for a detailed look at the rumors and leaks leading up to the recent Windows 10 announcement. On the third page, we projected what Windows 9 – err – Windows 10 would be like, or at least what we had hoped. Read on to see how much we got right.