Windows remains the most popular end-user operating system in the United States; according to the Federal Digital Analytics Program, 46.2 percent of users who visited federal government websites in the last 90 days did so on a Windows OS. But Windows is well behind the pack when it comes to mobile browsing, with data from Statistica showing the OS with only a fraction of the users Android and iOS devices enjoy. Microsoft-watchers have watched Windows Mobile flicker feebly, then die, in real time.
For the majority of users, their mobile devices–on which they’reincreasingly reliant (one in ten adults is a smartphone-only user) –aren’t on the same operating system as their desktop devices. The soon-to-be-released Fall Creators Update for Windows 10 tries to make that reality more workable, or even desirable, with updates that aim to make movement between a Windows desktop OS and any number of mobile OS options more seamless than ever before.
As someone who carries both a Windows phone and an iOS phone in order to do everything he needs to for his business in a mobile environment, improved integration between Microsoft and other devices and operating systems is welcome, says Todd Pekats, VP of Microsoft Services for PCM and a Windows Insider. Insiders got access to the Fall Creators Update on August 31.
“In reality, it’s the way I need to work. And I think every mobile professional goes through some level of heroics because there’s no perfect device,” Pekats says. “Wherever possible I try to create a continuous and consistent experience, and most of that is using Microsoft tools and Microsoft components.”
Microsoft had mobile users in mind for its Fall Creators Update.
Here is a look at the new features expected in the Fall Creators Update, which will start rolling out to users on October 17, and throughout 2017. Understanding these features will be key to leveraging them across your devices, for home and work, and unlocking their potential to increase productivity and improve your workflow.
Need-to-Know Number One: Cortana integration with Alexa
Some of Cortana-specific features initially expected for the Fall Creators Update will be delayed (more on that below), but the integration of Cortana across multiple devices and OS has wider implications beyond the features already announced, Pekats says.
We’re getting closer to a time when Cortana could, for example, look at your calendar, look at things that you set in your notepad, and be able to correlate and provide you with insight and advice because it’s now tied into your core applications, Pekats says.
It may not be ready for the October 17 update rollout, but the Alexa-Cortana partnership has been promised by the end of the year.
“That certainly is a substantial improvement in how we use our mobile devices, because now our mobile devices are starting to provide intelligence,” Pekats says. “That integration into your personal productivity has substantial gains.”
One of those coming integrations is with Alexa, Amazon’s popular digital assistant used via devices like the Amazon Echo. Microsoft has announced [https://blogs.microsoft.com/blog/2017/08/30/hey-cortana-open-alexa-microsoft-amazons-first-kind-collaboration/] a collaboration with Amazon that will allow users to access Alexa via Cortana on Windows 10 PCs, and to access Cortana via Alexa-enabled devices.
“The promise of integration between Cortana and Alexa has profound implications,” Pekats says. Personal productivity is your professional productivity, and Alexa is your personal productivity, he says. “The marriage between the two allows you to take your professional life and seamlessly integrated some of those features into your personal life.”
The Alexa-Cortana integration doesn’t yet have a set launch date, so it may not be ready in time for the Fall Creators Update. But Microsoft has said it will launch within 2017.
Need-to-Know Number Two: Windows Inking for Mobile Users
Updates to Windows Inking in the Fall Creators Update will please Surface tablet fans who like to use a stylus. On September 1, Microsoft announced some details of the Inking updates expected to be included in the Fall Creators Build.
Microsoft has added new functionality with PDFs, including artificial intelligence, in its Windows Inking updates.
As demonstrated during Microsoft’s IFA keynote in Berlin in early September, users can ink directly onto a PDF with a stylus and save it within the document, and AI can even help turn boxes into a table or make a sketched square perfect. A new Find My Pen feature also lets users know where they were when they last used their stylus, which is not as handy as a pen that will beep when you summon it but still useful.
Need-to-Know Number Three: Accessibility Update
This has received less attention than other updates, but planned accessibility updates included in the Fall Creators Update will provide new device usability for people with ALS by allowing them to control their devices–including tablets–with their eye muscle movements. Inspired by a challenge from former NFL player Steve Gleason, who has ALS, the feature began as the winning hack at Microsoft’s One Week Hackathon in 2014.
Accessibility upgrades in the Fall Creators Update allow users to control a virtual keyboard by moving their eye muscles.
Updates like these aren’t only valuable for people with ALS. Accessibility features for mobile devices like tablets will be increasingly important for digitally savvy Boomers and seniors as they age and their dexterity or vision fades.
Need-to-Know Number Four: Story Remix
With Windows Movie Maker going into the great beyond, an update was sure to show up eventually. It looks like October is that time, thanks to the inclusion of Story Remix in the Fall Creators Update. The multi-platform app works in the cloud and allows users to pull images and videos from any of your devices, which will surely be good news for those who work on Windows laptops or desktops but capture photos and videos on Android or iOS devices.
Need-to-Know Number Five: Emoji Upgrades
It might seem minor, but another expected feature of the Fall Creators Update is better functionality for emojis so users can easily find emojis in any Windows 10 app via WIN+. This also includes support for Emoji 5.0. It’s among other smaller updates to the browsing experience that integrate a pen or touch screen, including the ability to scroll webpages with a pen and updates to the Touch Keyboard.
What These Additions Mean for Using Devices
These changes reflect the different ways people like to use their multiple devices, Pekats says, whether they’re on Windows devices or others that use Microsoft apps. He runs his company’s Microsoft practice and sees the many different ways people use Microsoft apps on the devices they carry around with them, or whether or not they integrate features like a pen.
“‘At the end of the day I think a lot of us are tied to the iOS infrastructure because applications are what makes us productive, not devices,” Pekats says. Improving integration between Microsoft apps and Android or iOS, or bringing popular features like ease of emoji use from other operating systems to Microsoft’s apps and devices, makes these devices work better for users.
Here’s What Didn’t Make It Into the Creators Update
Some of the anticipated features for the Creators Update didn’t make it into the fall release. For example, in May it was announced that Microsoft Graph–which lets developers get data from its productivity apps–would get new integration with third-party applications and devices. But that will have to wait until 2018, as it wasn’t in Microsoft’s announcement.
And Cortana was expected to have new integration with mobile devices–for example, if you log out on one device you will be asked if you want to pick up where you left off when you log in on another device. That feature has been delayed until a future Windows 10 update. Another expected feature of the Cortana update, the ability to copy and paste between connected devices on a mobile clipboard that would work on Windows apps across different iOS, will also have to wait until 2018.
“That’s one of the risks we have in being one of the developers or in the early previews,” Pekats says. “Not everything that is communicated as being included are not actually part of the final product.”