Windows 10 January Technical Preview: Show me the bits

The dog-and-pony show is over, but a key question remains: Why isn't Microsoft releasing the January Technical Preview?

open hands
Caitlin Regan (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

No matter how you slice it, Microsoft knows how to put on a great presentation. While I've been around the Microsoft block far too many times to believe things will turn out as neatly as presented, the grand scheme looks very inviting. And the holograms! Even if they aren't really holograms, imagine the kind of damage programmers could do with a hologram API in Windows.

ICYMI, the whole presentation is now available in nonstuttering video on the Microsoft website.

The main open question, to my mind, is the licensing can of worms teased by Terry Myerson and, after the presentation in the Q&A session, by Satya Nadella. "Windows as a service" may or may not be equivalent to "Windows for rent." Only time will tell -- Microsoft sure isn't. InfoWorld's Serdar Yegulalp hits the high points of how Windows upgrades will be free for existing users -- at first. Paul Thurrott has posed a fascinating, central question:

But consider this line: "Once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device -- at no additional charge." This suggests to me that keeping Windows 10 up-to-date going forward is not optional. That in order to get this offer—or perhaps just to get Windows 10 as a consumer, regardless—will require you to let Microsoft keep your system up to date.

It kind of sends shivers down my Automatic Update chute.

Now that we've seen the future and marveled at the 84-inch 4K Perceptive Pixel -- er, Surface Hub display, another key question remains: What will be in the January Tech Preview? Sadly, at this point, we don't really know.

Brad Sams at Neowin has a series of screenshots on the Neowin site -- shot with a camera, somewhere in a bunker in Redmond -- that shows several aspects of Windows 10 Build 9924: The Cortana-enabled search bar, the weird pinned program layout on the new Start menu, the new version of Metro Start, the Notification pane, the Metro Control Panel -- er, PC Settings, the still-odd File Explorer now without a Home, floating Metro windows, even a tease for Aero Snap.

You have to ask why Microsoft isn't releasing the January Technical Preview at this point. I've heard two theories. One is that the scheduling didn't work out -- Microsoft had to schedule the rollout extravaganza several weeks ago, and somehow the bits weren't baked in time to hand them out.

The other theory is a bit darker. Perhaps Microsoft is milking the moment, to get double the tech press coverage, with two headline-worthy "announcements" back-to-back. That approach would be particularly effective if the new Tech Preview isn't so different from the old one.

It'll be interesting to see if Build 9924 becomes the January Technical Preview.

I'm struck by the odd, but consistent terminology that's flying around. In his presentation, Meyerson said the bits would become available "in the next week." Gabe Aul, the point guy for Windows 10 announcements, has also tweeted twice, "New PC build in next week. First Phone build in February." To me, that's a peculiar way to phrase something that should be pretty simple.

Forgive me, but until I can see the pixels dancing on my monitors, I'll remain skeptical about the new features.