Windows 10 to have a grand coming out party on January 21

The OS enters a formal beta test phase for the masses to test it out.

Windows 10 on Microsoft Surface PC tablet

Microsoft will hold a huge all-day event at its Redmond campus on January 21st to disclose more information on Windows 10, such as its release date. The company is also expected to launch a widespread beta test release for the masses to pound on.

Clearly it's a big event because CEO Satya Nadella, Windows chief Terry Myerson, and Windows Phone chief Joe Belfiore will be there, along with Phil Spencer, head of the Xbox division. With Belfiore there, that likely means discussion of Windows Phone 10 and possibly Windows RT as well. Microsoft has changed the revision of its mobile OS to match the desktop OS.

Windows Phone has been a laggard despite Microsoft's efforts, languishing at 3% market share worldwide, according to IDC. The company is expected to release beta of Windows Phone 10 by the end of the month. There is no word on when the OS will be released to the few handset makers Microsoft has left.

Microsoft will also likely show off "Spartan," a new browser designed to reverse Microsoft's slide to Chrome and Firefox. Some screen shots have emerged of Spartan and it lives up to its name; it's a very simple application at this point. Spartan is not believed to be a replacement for Internet Explorer, and its engine is reportedly based on the IE rendering engine.

So at this point the question Microsoft has to answer is why people would use it. IE is not a bad browser in terms of loading and rendering. I don't use it because it has no plugins like Chrome and Firefox. Those two browsers have a rich market of mostly free plugins to protect privacy, block ads, manage bookmarks, and so on.

Also, there is some expectation among Microsoft watchers that Cortana will be a part of this consumer beta. Cortana is the voice assistant from Windows Phone that's meant as a competitor to Apple's Siri. For Windows, Cortana is expected to be cloud-based, so updates can be made there rather than on every individual desktop.

Another feature people will be looking for is Continuum, a UI modifier that changes how Windows behaves depending on the mode you are in. It's basically meant for 2-in-1 laptops where the screen is detachable and can be used as a tablet. When you are in PC mode, you get the Start menu and the usual desktop features. When you detach the screen, it switches to a tablet/touch mode.

The event will be live-streamed for all to watch.

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