Microsoft Unveils New Windows, Mixed-Reality Features -- Update

By Jay Greene Features Dow Jones Newswires

Microsoft Corp. on Thursday announced plans for the next update to its Windows 10 operating system, a version that will include technology to bridge applications across devices -- even those running Apple Inc.'s iOS and Alphabet Inc.'s Android.

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The Fall Creators Update of the operating system will include "Pick Up Where You Left Off," a self-described feature that will allow users to finished editing a document, for example, on an iPhone that they started on a Windows PC.

The feature requires Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant app, to run on each device. Apple offers a similar feature, called Handoff, though it works only on devices running operating systems from that company.

Microsoft unveiled the new Windows offerings during day two of Build, its annual conference for developers who create applications and services that run on top of Microsoft's technologies.

The software giant also debuted the Windows Mixed Reality motion controller, a device that gamers and others can use as they play in virtual worlds.

The gadget doesn't require hardware, known as markers, installed on the walls around the user to sense movement. Instead, the controller tracks movement using sensors in the device and in a headset paired with it.

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Acer Inc. plans to sell a headset and motion controller bundle for $399 this holiday season, Microsoft said. Other manufacturers will offer the new device, too. Microsoft said developers in North America who want to build mixed-reality applications can preorder an Acer headset for $299 or one from HP Inc. for $329 starting today, with delivery scheduled for this summer.

The new Windows update, which Microsoft said will be available later this year, will more deeply embed Microsoft's web-based file storage OneDrive into the OS. Windows will include OneDrive Files on Demand, a feature the company said will give users the ability to access documents from the service without having to download them, even when they aren't connected to the web, through clever technology that caches versions.

The company declined to say if those new Windows capabilities would be available to other web-based storage services from companies such as Box Inc. "We're not discussing that," said Windows Developer corporate Vice President Kevin Gallo.

The update is part of Microsoft's plan to refresh the operating system roughly every six months. Microsoft announced plans for the current version of Windows, the Creators Update, last fall, and began rolling it out to customers last month.

On Wednesday, Microsoft disclosed there are now 500 million devices running Windows 10. Thursday, the company said more than 300 million people use the nearly two-year-old operating system every day, and do so for more than 3.5 hours a day on average.

Last week, Microsoft unveiled a streamlined Windows variant, called Windows 10 S, aimed primarily at the education market. Windows 10 S only permits users to run apps obtained through Microsoft's online Windows Store, which the company says makes the devices more secure and easier to manage.

The Windows Store, though, has lacked some popular apps, and Microsoft is racing to include them.

At Build on Thursday, Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group, said Apple's iTunes will come to the Windows Store by the end of the year. Last week, Microsoft announced plans to add Spotify.

Microsoft also said the store would include new apps from Autodesk and SAP, which could appeal to corporate customers.

The store, though, still lacks the Chrome browser from Alphabet's Google, for example. Windows 10 S users still need to browse the web with Microsoft's Edge.

Write to Jay Greene at Jay.Greene@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 11, 2017 13:38 ET (17:38 GMT)