That was an intense couple of hours that Microsoft just wrapped up as they shared news about their progress on the much anticipated consumer updates to their developing Windows 10 operating system.

Plus, just for fun, they threw a couple of curveballs as well.

Leading off things for this keynote was Terry Myerson, head of Microsoft’s unified operating systems group, and he spent some time looking back at where Microsoft began with Windows 10 and where they are now.  He included updated stats about the Windows Insider Program as well – in fact – the Insiders got much love not only from Myerson but from Windows engineers in a video presentation.

Updated numbers for the Insiders program shows it has over 1.7 million participants who have provided over 800,000 pieces of feedback across 200,000 topics. A very vocal group no doubt and the video showed that the feedback was having a direct and meaningful impact on the development of Windows 10.

Here are the tidbits of news from Terry’s portion of the keynote:

  • Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for the first year after it is released for anyone on Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1.
  • Windows as a Service means it will always be up to date and those updates are free of charge for the life of your Windows 10 device.
  • During his closing remarks he did say the words flagship phone hardware and I am sure Windows Phone fans every sang out in joy!

Next up was Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s Corporate VP of the Operating Systems Group, and he demoed live code as well as showed of some video motion simulations of some upcoming features as well.

Key items from his time on stage:

  • Significantly revamped Action/Notification Center that is displayed on the right side of your screen by swiping in (and I assume a mouse action would do that as well although it was not demoed).  Although it was not close enough to see real detail on the live stream it is obviously an entire experience and ability to interact with app notifications.
  • In a very drawn out interactive conversation with Cortana on Windows Phone it was finally officially announced that Cortana is coming to the Windows desktop in Windows 10. This is something we have seen evidence of in the Windows 10 Technical Preview builds for a while however, it is good to have confirmation I guess.
  • Among Cortana’s features on the Windows 10 desktop include interacting with apps, searching locally on your device and on the Internet and offering man of the same interactions you have with her on Windows Phone 8.1.
  • As the live OS demos began we see that the latest builds of Windows 10 allow you to easily switch between the full Start Screen or the more traditional windows 7 style Start menu – with the same twist we have seen in early Windows 10 Technical Preview builds.  It was also mentioned, and AI know this is of concern to many, that the Start Screen is fully customizable based on the users preferences.
  • Continuum was shown off in live code compared to just the motion study we saw back in October.
  • Windows 10 on the phone has an overhauled settings apps that will be universal across all Windows 10 platforms.
  • Freshly installed apps will be featured at the top of the app listing to make them easier to find after initial installation.
  • You will be able to reply directly back to a text from within the Notification/Action Center.
  • IP based calling and messaging, such as Skype, will be fully integrated in the Messaging Center.
  • Outlook Mail and Calendar Apps were also shown off and will be the same experience across all platforms running Windows 10.
  • Office for Touch saw the light of day in a demo of Windows 10 on a Nokia Lumia 1520. Word, PowerPoint and Excel touch based office apps will be a standard part of any phone with Windows 10. The first public preview of these apps will be when Windows 10 preview comes to phones in February.
  • Very quickly we saw demos of a new Photo and Music apps that integrate with your images wherever they are and these demos showed the apps on desktop and mobile side by side – same user experience on each platform.
  • Music storage on OneDrive was also confirmed as coming in the next few months.
  • Another confirmation was the existence of Codename Spartan Browser which we saw some quick demos of but more will follow in a future build of Windows 10. He did demo that lice webpages can be used as points of collaboration and shared through multiple channels/programs such as OneNote.
  • During this demo it was also shown that Spartan will have a Reading Mode, Reading List integration and sharing options as you browse the web. Cortana will also be integrated into the browser in several ways.

Next up was Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division, and he was ready to talk gaming on Windows 10.

  • The universal Games App was shown off and this program will let you interact with your Xbox Live community in every way possible.
  • Using this Games App you will be able to use voice and text based chat across all Windows 10 platforms.
  • A Game DVR will be available for PC gaming on Windows 10.  I think this needs to ultimately have Cortana integration so you can say “Cortana, record that”.
  • Cross platform gaming between someone on a Windows 10 PC and an Xbox One was demoed – very slick coop gaming.
  • With Windows 10 you will be able to stream any Xbox One game to any Windows 10 device on your home network and even be able to shut down the console remotely when you are all done.

Spencer wrapped up his part of the event promising that the Xbox team would treat gaming on Windows 10 as passionately as they have on Xbox.

It was a constant message throughout all of the above portions of the keynote that these features would be coming in the next several months. The terms 3, 4, 5 months were also used.  The first new Windows 10 Technical Preview build was announced as coming out next week.  I am positive many Insiders walked away from this keynote that the new bits were not available immediately after the long holiday hiatus and lack of builds since November.

Anyway moving on we now had the surprise parts of the keynote.

Hiding in plain sight and being used throughout the earlier parts of the keynote was Microsoft newest hardware addition – the Surface Hub.

This 84 inch tablet hangs on your wall and includes full video, audio and white boarding capabilities as well as complete OneNote integration with it all made possible by Windows 10. You can read more about unlocking the power of the group at the Surface Hub site.

Next we had the portion of the keynote that I am convinced took everyone by complete and utter surprise.

HoloLens – the era of holographic computing.

Just go watch the video at the HoloLens site to get an idea of what this technology will allow to happen – my words would not do it justice.

As these two demos wrapped up Terry Myerson came out to introduce Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, who closed out the keynote.

Here are a couple of key thoughts I took away from his comments:

  • The mobility of the experience matters not the mobility of the device. Seamless across any device a person uses. Universal apps and Windows 10 will make this a reality.
  • Windows as a Service is a significant change for Microsoft. It was later confirmed by Mary Jo Foley on Twitter during the Q&A session that Windows as a Service does not mean a change to Microsoft’s business modal as it related to Windows.
  • Microsoft’s goal is for people to love Windows on a daily basis.
  • The goal with Windows 10 is to seamlessly harmonize experiences.We absolutely believe Windows is the place for the very best Microsoft experiences. This is good to hear as many Windows Phone users have seen Microsoft Services get better treatment on iOS and Android.

All told it seems the overall reaction to the news of today on Twitter and after a quick perusal of the tech press reporting is fairly positive – much like it was in October when the first public viewing of Windows 10 happened.

Later today I will post a collection of coverage from some of the popular tech sites to bring it in one place for your easy access.

So, let me know what you thought of all the news today and lets talk about where things are going for Windows 10 and Microsoft.