In the meantime, here’s what to expect from Windows 10.
Windows 10 desktop
Elsewhere, Microsoft has not yet shown off its new user interface for Windows 10. While some recently leaked builds have hinted at a dark theme that closely matches Windows Phone, we expect Microsoft to show off some of the UI it’s working towards. This will include refreshed icons throughout the desktop, optional dark and light themes, a tweaked taskbar that makes use of accent colors, and some improvements to the style of universal applications.
A SINGLE STORE AND CROSS-PLATFORM APPS
OneDrive will also feature heavily in Windows 10, and Microsoft is looking to extend its capabilities even further. The software maker may detail its plans to let app developers store settings and sync app data through OneDrive across PCs, phones, and tablets, allowing apps to always stay up-to-date across multiple platforms.
Microsoft will also further detail its "Continuum" interface for 2-in-1 laptops and convertible tablets. We got an early glimpse at a concept of Continuum in September, and the feature should allow laptops to be used easily with a keyboard and trackpad, while converting them or using touch will trigger a finger-friendly mode that adapts naturally. This mode will be particularly interesting for devices like the Surface Pro 3 or Lenovo’s Yoga laptops that can be used in multiple ways, including pen-based input.
Windows 10 mobile
In terms of features, Microsoft has largely kept its plans secret here. Windows Phone and Windows RT have both struggled to make any significant impact against Android and iOS, so this could be viewed as Microsoft’s final chance to make mobile work on its own platform. Expect to see tighter integration between the mobile variant of Windows 10 and its desktop counterpart, alongside some new UI changes that align the Live Tile style more closely between phone, tablet, and Xbox. Microsoft’s Windows Phone team likes to ship features that are unique to its platform — think Kid’s Corner, Cortana, or Driving Mode — and it’s highly likely we’ll see one or two big additions here. Given Microsoft’s Office improvements on Android and iOS, the company will be keen to show its work on Windows. Office touch is closely aligned with Windows 10, so we assume that it will be integrated into the mobile version through a Store app, and we should get an even closer look at its features on Wednesday.
Microsoft is also planning to add some of its Lumia Camera features into Windows Phone itself. The default camera app in Windows 10 will include a similar interface to that of the Lumia Camera, and Microsoft will likely show this and other app improvements on Wednesday. Some of the new Windows Phone gestures will also be built into Windows 10.
As Microsoft’s mobile version of Windows 10 is likely to be a radical departure from Windows RT on the tablet side, all eyes will be on how the company manages an upgrade path for existing Surface RT and Surface 2 tablets. Microsoft’s last major mobile shift saw Windows Phone 7 owners stuck on an outdated version of the OS once new hardware with Windows Phone 8 started shipping. That scenario could play out again for Windows RT tablet owners.
That should be the main focus of Spencer’s participation on Wednesday. While Microsoft can’t match the power of Valve’s Steam service, realizing the potential of cross-platform play and bringing Xbox Live to the PC in a way that makes sense could help, alongside an improved Store to access popular titles and indie games. Microsoft has long promised games that let you play on a phone, and then resume on a console or PC. Pitting Xbox One gamers against PC players in the same game could be an option, but Microsoft now has the infrastructure to enable true roaming games across phone, tablet, PC, and console. We're expecting to see some of that on Wednesday. imagine playing Xbox One games on your Windows PC, or buying a single game that you can play on your PC or Xbox One and the game state syncs alongside achievements and Xbox Live integration. Wednesday could hold lots of possibilities for gamers, but a commitment to PC gaming will be a key part.
Xbox and PC gaming
IS A VR HEADSET ON THE WAY?
Microsoft will also be participating in the Game Developers Conference in March and E3 in June, so don’t expect all the details on the company's plans for Xbox One on Wednesday. Microsoft also continues to work on a VR headset, codenamed Project B, and it's possible we might see some hints or an early look at the company's progress with its new Xbox hardware on Wednesday. Microsoft may also detail its plans to bring Xbox Live cross-platform to iOS and Android, but the Windows 10 event timing makes that unlikely.
We’re not expecting any new Windows Phone hardware, but that doesn’t mean Microsoft won’t get a little creative. The Information is reporting that Microsoft is planning to show a phone-laptop hybrid on Wednesday, and The Verge understands this will be part of the company’s prototype demonstration of future Windows-powered hardware. Microsoft is keen to showcase how Windows can run across a variety of devices, but most of this will be for demonstration purposes. With Microsoft’s focus on the internet of things, it’s likely we’ll see how Windows and Microsoft services can help power tiny devices of the future.
A new Spartan browser
Microsoft’s naming of its upcoming Internet Explorer replacement could be a key announcement on Wednesday. If the company is ready to name the browser, then we expect the Internet Explorer name to disappear. While a traditional Internet Explorer will be available in Windows 10 for legacy and enterprise reasons, the majority of users will launch Spartan. This gives Microsoft a good opportunity to finally ditch the Internet Explorer name that’s surrounded in hostility and legacy.
Microsoft’s presentation begins Wednesday, January 21st at 12PM ET / 9AM PT. The Verge will be reporting from the event live, and you’ll be able to follow along with us for all the news.