Why January could be a big month for Windows 10

A new build, a consumer version, and Cortana are all planned for the start of the year.

Windows 10 on Microsoft Surface PC tablet

While people are banging away at the Windows 10 technical preview, Microsoft is preparing for a real big month come this January, including major updates and a wider release product.

Currently, Windows 10 Technical Preview is on build 9879, although there have been stories of build 9888 being out in the wild. This was described as an interim partner build of Windows 10, not meant for public consumption.

In that build, people noted that Microsoft changed the kernel version number from 6.4 to 10.0. A whole lot of fuss was kicked up over this change, but for the end user it means nothing.

Going forward, things will get interesting. Multiple sites report Microsoft plans to take the wraps off the "consumer preview" of Windows 10 in January 2015. A consumer preview would mean it's much more stable for casual users and much more feature-complete. This is how Microsoft has always done betas. It does the rougher beta for more technical-minded users who can provide adequate data feedback, then within a few months it comes out with a more stable release for the masses.

The more obvious time to release this preview would be the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), taking place in Las Vegas in early January. However, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella isn't among the keynote speakers. The CEOs of Samsung and Intel are.

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley says there will be a press and analysts event at the Redmond HQ on January 20-21, which is when the January Technical Preview, as it is called, will be shown off. One of the key new features is expected to be Continuum, a feature that helps switch the UI on 2-in-1 laptops, so you get a different interface when the display is detached and when it is connected.

Foley and other sites also say that the January preview will be the first to feature Cortana, the digital voice assistant that first appeared on Windows Phone and is a competitor of sorts to Apple's Siri. Bringing Cortana over to the PC is a logical move, and Microsoft has made no secret of its desire to see Cortana everywhere.

This doesn't even touch on Windows Phone 10, which is reportedly planned for next year as well. Given how much code is shared between the mobile and PC versions of the OS, a close release schedule makes sense, but at this point it's all conjecture.

Foley claims there will be a monthly build release, which jives with earlier reports that Microsoft wanted to keep testers up to date with the latest builds. This would be contrary to the Windows 7 and 8 beta cycles, where we had one public test build and didn't see another until the release candidates hit months later.

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