The unconventional evolution of Windows 10 continues with the upcoming release of the Anniversary Update, version 1607. It’s not just a service pack. Microsoft wants you to think of Windows 10 as a service, where new features arrive as they’re ready, and where regular updates are themselves a feature.
On July 29, Windows 10 celebrates the first anniversary of its release. Four days later, on August 2, a new upgrade will begin rolling out to the 350 million or so devices already running Windows 10. The Anniversary Update is, technically, version 1607, and it is far more than a service pack. In this post and the accompanying gallery, I offer a preview of what you can expect from this major update, based on near-final preview releases.
1. Upgrading — A bigger change is the way that Windows 10 version 1607 handles those monthly cumulative updates. This release still offers no way to defer those updates automatically (short of using Windows Update for Business Group Policy settings), but you can at least define an Active Hours period of up to 12 hours per day during which you normally use the PC.
2. Control panel migration – Since the release of Windows 8 nearly four years ago, Microsoft has been methodically moving user controls from the old Control Panel to the new Settings app. With version 1607, that work takes a major step forward. Several major groups of options, including networking, have now moved almost entirely to the new Settings app, and the new iconography, replacing the generic gear icons used in previous versions, adds to the sense that this version of Settings is a major update.
3. Cortana — with the changes in version 1607 I find myself calling on her services more often, as a calculator, a translator, a bringer of sports scores and search results, and a package tracker. This is definitely not Siri, but it’s also not exactly Google Now. Microsoft has created something unique with Cortana. And if you don’t like the idea of an intelligent personal assistant sitting on the Start menu, you can just say no. Cortana is still an opt-in feature, one that can be completely disabled (so that it works as a search box only) and even hidden from the taskbar completely.
4. Edge Browser — The new default browser for Windows 10, Microsoft Edge has been playing catch-up ever since. The big news for version 1607, of course, is the arrival, at long last, of extensions. After a rocky start, the limited selection of preview releases seems to be working well. The LastPass password manager, which was the number-one request from many of my correspondents, does its job as expected, and the two Adblock extensions have the same strengths and weaknesses as on other platforms. In current builds, Edge has been fast and smooth. In fact, it appears that Microsoft’s goal with Edge is to make a browser that is essentially a clone of Google’s Chrome.
5. Windows Ink — Microsoft has been delivering support for digital pens and the ink datatype since the dawn of the Tablet PC in 2002. Those designs never took off. Version 1607 tries to reboot that feature with the introduction of the Windows Ink platform. With its Surface Pro and Surface Book lines, both equipped with pens as standard equipment, Microsoft remains firmly committed to the idea of the pen as a first-class input device. Whether that vision becomes a reality is still very much an open question