Microsoft releases Windows 10 preview for a handful of phones

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) released an early "technical preview" version of Windows 10 for smartphones to those who have registered for its "Insider" program, but only made the software builds available to customers with a few mid-range, Lumia-branded Windows Phones.

After demonstrating the company's new operating system last month, Microsoft has been releasing technical previews of Windows 10 on PCs and tablets and now it has brought the platform to phones.

Right now, the phone preview is only available on the Lumia 630, 635, 636, 638, 730 and 830. Additionally, as The Verge notes, Microsoft is warning people who are accessing the software builds that they will be missing lots of features that are available in Windows Phone 8.1. Those include search, the fact that messaging is missing dual-SIM support, sharing voice notes and ringtones, viewing all group recipients and reminders and quiet hours through Cortana. Cortana is also only available in the U.S. on the preview.

"This is the earliest publicly available preview we've ever done for Windows on phones. This preview is still very much under development and you're going to see some rough edges," Gabe Auel, engineering general manager for the operating systems group at Microsoft, wrote in a company blog post. "We're sharing it with you so you can be with us at every step, and provide your feedback to help make this the best release ever—because it's the one made for you. You will encounter bugs. You will see experiences that are clearly just not done yet, and UX that lacks polish at this point. DON'T WORRY! It will improve as we go and new features, stability and performance improvements, and more polished UX will come at each step."

Windows 10 is expected to be commercially available late this year and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has promised that there will be a wide range of phones that will use it, from flagship devices down to more affordable phones.

However, for the technical preview, Auel explained that high-end phones like the Lumia 930 or 1520 were not included because of a forthcoming Windows 10 feature called "partition stitching," which will allow Microsoft to adjust the OS space dynamically create space on phones in the future. "Until this comes in, we needed devices which were configured by mobile operators with sufficiently sized OS partitions to allow the in-place upgrade, and many of the bigger phones have very tight OS partitions," Auel noted.

"Note that this doesn't mean that Windows 10 will take more disk space than Windows Phone 8.1, it's just a function of the upgrade process at this point," he wrote. "Once the partition stitching feature is completed, many more devices will be supported."

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of the operating systems group at the company, said on Twitter the company will be "delivering new features and new devices...over the next few months."

As The Next Web notes, some of the new features available in the technical preview include   full size wallpapers for the Start screen, an expanded Quick Actions notification center view in the Action center that lets users see up to three rows of actions, enhanced speech-to-text which can be used in any data field, and a more powerful Photos app that will aggregate local photos with those stored on OneDrive, Microsoft's cloud storage service.

This is also the first Windows 10 preview to show off the upcoming Project Spartan browser engine. While the technology is currently hosted in Internet Explorer, the new browser will likely replace IE in future builds.

Microsoft's vision for Windows 10 is that it will be a unified operating system that will let developers write universal apps for multiple device sizes, in a bid to jumpstart Microsoft's weak market position in mobile.

With Windows 10, Microsoft is also bringing back many of the familiar elements of Windows 7 on PCs while also incorporating the touch-friendly design elements of Windows 8--which critics said went overboard in embracing touch, alienating consumers and businesses and depressing PC sales in the process. At the same time, Microsoft is bringing some features that started on the phone, such as its Cortana digital assistant, to the desktop environment, while also introducing new features for PCs and phones. Microsoft expects to release Windows 10 commercially in the early fall.

For more:
- see this Microsoft blog post
- see this The Verge article
- see this Re/code article
- see this The Next Web article
- see this Windows Central article

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