Microsoft announced today at its Build developer conference that it will call the next major update to Windows 10 the Fall Creators Update. It will introduce a new creative app that lets you edit photos, videos, and mixed reality content; new features meant to allow the Microsoft Graph to improve Android, iOS, and Windows devices; and other changes to Windows 10.
Windows 10 Creators Update, Revisited
The original Creators Update (no season) debuted in April to a market of 500 million Windows 10 devices, and Microsoft said today that 300 million people use those devices for at least 3.5 hours per day, on average. The update’s name implied that it was meant to help people make things with Windows 10, but the only signs of those intentions within the update were a Paint 3D app and Beam live-streaming for gamers looking for an alternative to Twitch or YouTube.
Instead, the Creators Update focused on a new privacy settings workflow (so long as you didn’t install the update before its official release) and a Game Mode feature meant to improve game performance. There were other changes--better high-DPI scaling, slight modifications to Windows 10’s user interface, etc.--but most of the Creators Update’s improvements were under the hood. Microsoft seems to be trying to avoid repeating that with the Fall Creators Update.
The Fall Creators Update’s big new feature is Windows Story Remix, a new photo and video editing app. Microsoft’s Terry Myerson, the executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group, described Windows Story Remix in a blog post:
Windows Story Remix automatically brings your memories, or even your friends’ photos and videos together to create stories with a soundtrack, theme, and cinematic transitions. You can also create mixed reality by adding 3D objects to your photos and videos to tell stories in a whole new way, or turn your photos and videos into your canvas, drawing on them with Windows Ink.
The app seems like the next evolution of Windows Movie Maker, the video editing app that disappeared when Microsoft introduced Windows 10. That fits the lack of a new Windows Movie Maker in the Creators Update. The company previously said on a support page that a new version of the app would be heading to Windows 10, but quietly removed the claim before the update debuted. Now Windows Story Remix promises to let people edit photos, put together videos, and even create mixed reality content from a single application.
Windows Story Remix will be available in the Windows Store when the Fall Creators Update is released this, um, Fall. Companion apps for iOS and Android will also be available, which makes it easier for people to capture and share videos that can then be edited in Windows Story Remix.
Windows, You Look Kinda Different
Microsoft also revealed a new Fluent Design System today. That’s the official name for a new design language that previously leaked as Project Neon, and it’s supposed to encourage developers to design their apps in a way that makes sense on a variety of platforms. What’s the point of having a Universal Windows Platform, after all, if the apps aren’t designed for every possible device on which they could run?
Myerson said in his blog post that Fluent Design “will deliver intuitive, harmonious, responsive and inclusive cross-device experiences and interactions.” The design seems much like Metro--the design Microsoft introduced with and then walked back after Windows 8--combined with Windows Vista’s love of transparent user interfaces. The focus here is on clean lines, bold colors, and, somewhat paradoxically, an emphasis on an app’s content instead of its interface. Microsoft’s hope is that this will help apps run on every device Windows does, from traditional PCs and tablets to Xbox consoles and other devices still.
Microsoft's Joe Belfiore showed off the Fluent Design System during today's keynote event. He said the system focuses on five aspects: light, depth, motion, material, and scale. Light helps people know what they should focus on in an app, depth shows the relations between various interface elements, motion helps emphasize certain things, material invites people to touch the app, and scale will help interfaces make the shift from 2D to 3D with Windows Mixed Reality.
You can already see some aspects of the Fluent Design System in recent Windows Insider preview builds. This is most evident in the Movies & TV app, and it’s likely to spread to other Microsoft apps in the future. But the company stressed in a briefing with reporters that the Fall Creators Update wouldn't be a sudden change to Windows 10’s interface--it’s going to be a gradual shift. Which is of course why Microsoft announced the design language at Build, where the app developers who have to implement the new design language might be persuaded to do so.
Meet The Microsoft Graph
Another core aspect of the Fall Creators Update: establishing the so-called Microsoft Graph, which is supposed to improve your experience with every device you own, so long as one of them is a Windows device. Have an iPhone, Galaxy Tab, and Windows 10 desktop? No problem. Or a Pixel, iPad, and Windows 10 laptop? You should be good to go. Microsoft has effectively embraced the fact that people use many different devices from varying manufacturers--and that Windows isn’t going to be a primary mobile platform in the future.
That’s where several new features come in. Here’s how Myerson described them in his post:
- Timeline: With Timeline in Windows 10, you can now jump back in time to find what you were working on. With a visual timeline that displays what you were doing when, you can easily hop back into files, apps and sites as if you never left.
- Pick Up Where You Left Off: With Cortana, you can pick up where you left off across Windows, iOS, and Android devices. Imagine logging off your PC and having the doc you were editing pop up on your phone. Cortana asks if you want to pick up where you left in your app, doc or website. It’s like having your PC and your phone finish each other’s sentences.
- Clipboard: Clipboard is a fast and easy way to copy and paste just about anything between connected devices, whether you’re on a Windows PC or your favorite mobile phone. Just hit copy on what you want to grab; your photo, map link, paragraph, even an animated gif; and it is ready to paste into whatever you want.
- OneDrive Files on Demand: Access all your files in the cloud without having to download them and use storage space on your device. You don’t have to change the way you work, because all your files – even online files – can be seen in File Explorer and accessed on-demand whenever they are needed.
Several of those features--Timeline, Pick Up Where You Left Off, and Clipboard--have been available in macOS for a while, in practice if not in name. The difference here (aside from the features heading to Windows 10) is that Apple only lets you take advantage of these features if you use its devices. You can make a Windows 10 desktop work with an iPhone or iPad, sure, but it’s a far more frustrating experience than it is on macOS. And things like Continuity and the Universal Clipboard only work if you play within Apple's ecosystem. Microsoft’s approach is far more open.
That doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The company has steadily increased its presence on other platforms over the years, whether it was by releasing the Office suite on iOS and Android or by expanding Cortana to those platforms, so the emphasis on this Microsoft Graph in the Fall Creators Update makes sense. Cortana's expansion is no coincidence, either. The AI helps Timeline figure out when someone is using a new device, for example, or when someone might want to do something on their phone after they walk away from their Windows PC. Cortana will be even more important with the Fall Creators Update.
This is less about pushing Windows, like it would’ve been a few years ago, and more about making Microsoft a consistent presence on every platform you use. Less “Microsoft of old” and more “Google and Facebook,” if you will.
Developers Are Creators Too
Finally, this being a developers conference, Microsoft announced updates that should make it easier to write software for everything from iOS to Windows Mixed Reality. These additions include .NET Standard 2.0 for UWP and XAML Standard; the addition of Ubuntu, SUSE Linux, and Fedora Linux to the Windows Store to enable easier installation via the Windows Subsystem for Linux; and the Xamarin Live Player, which will allow devs to create native iOS apps on Windows 10 devices.
That last bit is notable because iOS development previously required the use of XCode, which in was, in turn, restricted to macOS. Now devs will be able to write iOS software without purchasing a Mac. When asked how this works during the pre-briefing with reporters, Microsoft said that “we ran this by Apple and made sure we abide by the rules.” What that means for iOS development is unclear, but for Windows devs, it means one less device they have to buy.
Don't Call It A Delay
During the media pre-brief, Microsoft's Frank Shaw pushed back on the idea that the Fall Creators Update collects the features that didn't make it into the Creators Update. "It is a continuation of the Creators Update," he said. "It has no relation to feature slippage or anything like that. It just felt like the right name." Shaw also emphasized that Microsoft is approaching Windows as a service instead of as an operating system that it updates every couple of years. Much like other services, Windows can be updated in fits and starts, and the company's focus on creators will just happen to continue this Fall.
Microsoft said in April that it would update Windows 10 on a six-month schedule, with major releases landing in March and September. When asked about the Fall Creators Update's release date, however, it said that developing Windows as a service means it's hard to predict when exactly something will debut. The official estimate is that this update will arrive sometime this Fall--it would be kind of awkward if it didn't--but the company declined to share a release month, let alone a release date. This likely has to do with Windows' staggered rollout, too, as not everyone has received the Creators Update or will receive the Fall Creators Update at the same exact time.