Another week, another build for Fast ring members of the Windows Insider Program. This one's been given the oh-so-charming moniker of Windows 10 Preview Build 16251, and its standout feature is the ability to connect your phone and your PC to enable cross-device web browsing.
Microsoft said you can currently link your Android smartphone to your Windows 10 PC; the company plans to expand this support to iOS devices "very soon." Linking your phone and your PC is supposed to support Microsoft's goal of making Windows 10 the center of your digital life. Instead of trying to replace Android and iOS with a mobile version of Windows, the company is trying to let all three platforms work together in harmony.
This cross-device browsing doesn't appear to be a seamless experience. You have to link your phone via Windows 10's Settings app, then download a new Microsoft Apps utility to your smartphone, and then make sure everything's properly connected. But even once that's done, you can't expect pages from your phone's browser to automatically sync to your PC. Instead, you have to follow a few more steps for each page:
When you are at a website you want to view on your PC, simply invoke the native share experience on your phone and share the website to the “Continue on PC” option. You might need to click the “…” or more to add this test app to your share menu. Once invoked, it will first ask you to sign in with your Microsoft Account. It is important you use the same account you are using on your PC. Next it will ask you if you want to “Continue now” or “Continue later”. If you choose “Continue now”, the website will magically open on the linked PC. If you choose to “Continue later”, the website will show up under Action Center for you to get to later when you’re ready.
That seems like a lot of work for cross-device web browsing--especially when you consider the fact that Google Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox, and other browsers offer cloud sync without anywhere near as convoluted a setup process. (Apple can also sync pages in Safari via iCloud.) Microsoft has grander plans for cross-device functionality, as evidenced by the totally-not-delayed Timeline feature, but right now the offering is sparse.
Preview Build 16251 also includes some improvements to the Cortana digital assistant. Microsoft said you can now get web search results from Cortana without having to open a web browser, and you can also use voice commands to lock, sign out from, shut down, or turn off your PC. The company said these voice commands are currently restricted to English-speaking markets; we suspect they will expand in the future.
Besides those additions, this preview build improves input sources and the Microsoft Edge browser. Microsoft also said that you might see Game Mode, which is supposed to offer increased performance in full-screen games, activated by default in "some games." The company teased a new gaming-related feature as well:
TruePlay, formerly called Game Monitor, is a placeholder within the Windows UI. Your games cannot be affected at this time. We’ll have more to share soon.
Preview Build 16251 includes the usual bug fixes and known issues. Microsoft also released Windows 10 Preview Build 15235 for Mobile, and it's a bit meatier than other recent builds. That isn't to say the build will blow your mind--its standout feature is the ability to switch to portrait mode orientation in Continuum--but it's still a meatier release than its predecessors. Just don't hold out for something a little more tasty; we have a feeling Microsoft doesn't plan to bring a whole lot more to the Windows 10 for Mobile table. (Man, that was a lot of food-related metaphors...)