Microsoft aims for 1 billion devices running Windows 10

The ambitious new version of Windows, due this summer, will find its way to an even billion devices within two to three years, Microsoft says.

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Watch this: Microsoft announces goal of Windows 10 on 1 billion devices

Microsoft has a plan for Windows 10 to get onto all sorts of devices -- a billion of them, before too long.

"Within two to three years of Windows 10's release, there will be 1 billion devices running Windows 10," Terry Myerson, Microsoft's vice president of operating systems, said Wednesday during the keynote presentation at the company's annual Build developer conference in San Francisco.

For now, the starting point for that timetable remains "this summer," a broad target that Microsoft revealed in March, though the chief executive of chipmaker AMD, a longtime Microsoft partner, earlier this month spoke of a release date in late July. At Build on Wednesday, Microsoft's parade of executives failed to address the matter.

Windows 10 has the potential to solve some of Microsoft's most pressing problems. The operating system "will be a service across an array of devices and will usher in a new era...where the mobility of the experience, not the device, is paramount," CEO Satya Nadella told investors last week after Microsoft announced earnings and said the company's profit topped Wall Street's expectations.

That is, Microsoft is making a promise to developers and consumers that Windows 10 will be a single platform on which to run all their apps across all their devices. Developers will write to a single code base, allowing them to create so-called universal apps that work on any device so long as that device runs Windows 10, including phones, tablets, PCs, the Xbox One game console, TVs, ATMs and even the new HoloLens virtual-reality headset.

Windows 10 is also an attempt to atone for the missteps of the little-loved Windows 8.

One tool for getting to the goal of universal apps is software known as Continuum, which will help Windows 10 to detect and adapt to the type of device you're using. "With Continuum for phones, we believe any phone can be your PC," said Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the operating systems group, said during the Build event Wednesday.

Also at Build, Microsoft showed off HoloLens running apps from Windows 10, pointing the way toward things like a holographic version of Skype that could go with you from room to room in your house.

Terry Myerson, Microsoft's vice president of operating systems
Terry Myerson, Microsoft's vice president of operating systems, at Build 2015 in San Francisco. Nate Ralph/CNET

Myerson, meanwhile, spoke of how Microsoft is trying to make it easier for developers to bring Android and iOS apps over to devices running Windows. Google's Android and Apple's iOS operating systems run on some of the most popular smartphones, including the iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy S lines, and have a vast ecosystem of widely used apps. Microsoft's own phone platform has proven far less attractive to developers.

Another key feature of Windows 10 will be a brand-new Web browser. Previously known by the code name Project Spartan, the browser will now officially be known as Microsoft Edge, the company revealed during the Wednesday keynote. It's not a complete replacement for Microsoft's venerable Internet Explorer, but rather an alternative and more flexible browser in the mold of Google's Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox.

At the moment, Windows 7 is the most popular version of Microsoft's operating system, a mainstay of desktop and laptop PCs for decades. At the start of April, it was running on 58 percent of PCs as measured by Net Applications, which tracks Web traffic to devices. The newer Windows 8 and 8.1 combined have garnered a far smaller share -- less, even than the much older Windows XP, which Microsoft no longer supports.