Microsoft to launch Windows 10 in 190 countries this summer

The next-generation operating system will feature a new biometric login system called Windows Hello.

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Microsoft says Windows 10 will run on screens of all sizes. CNET

Microsoft plans a global launch this summer of Windows 10, complete with a new biometric authentication process intended to replace traditional passwords.

No specific date was given, but the company is committed to that midyear release for the operating system, Windows chief Terry Myerson said during a speech Tuesday at the Windows Hardware Engineering Community (WinHEC) summit in Shenzhen, China.

"We continue to make great development progress and shared today that Windows 10 will be available this summer in 190 countries and 111 languages," Myerson wrote in a blog post. "Windows has been global with more than 1.5 billion users around the world and here in China hundreds of millions of PCs operate Windows today."

Microsoft declined to comment on a more definitive release date.

The company has lofty goals for the new operating system, its first big chance to move beyond the missteps of Windows 8. Microsoft has promised that Windows 10 -- a free upgrade for those using Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 -- will run across every device, from desktops with large hard drives all the way down to low-cost smartphones with barely a gigabyte to spare.

Microsoft won't be alone in hoping for a warm reception for Windows 10. Sales of PCs to consumers and businesses alike have been anemic for quarter after quarter, and that has taken a toll on the companies that sell PCs or make key ingredients for them. Last week, chipmaker Intel slashed its quarterly revenue outlook by nearly $1 billion, reflecting an enduring reluctance, especially among small and midsize businesses, to upgrade from the 13-year-old Windows XP.

Hello there

Myerson used the occasion of the Shenzhen edition of WinHEC to unveil a new feature of the operating system called Windows Hello, an identity authentication process that uses an owner's face, fingerprint or iris to unlock a device. The feature will be supported by third-party systems incorporating Intel's RealSense, a depth-sensing technology that uses infrared cameras to track the location and position of objects in space.

Biometric authentication, which confirms who people are by using their unique physical characteristics, promises to put up an additional wall of security between devices and malicious third parties. Though a fingerprint will always be more secure than "password1234," people do worry whether hackers can find a way to bypass their biometrics.

Myerson also said that a version of Windows 10 geared toward small-footprint Internet of Things devices -- on the home front, think refrigerators and thermostats that communicate with you, and with each other, over the Internet -- will be available at the time of general release for free.

"Windows 10 will offer versions of Windows for a diverse set of IoT devices, ranging from powerful devices like ATMs and ultrasound machines, to resource constrained devices like gateways," Myerson said.

Another new feature will apparently let users download updates from computers other than Microsoft's own servers. The latest build of the upcoming OS, leaked online over the weekend, reveals an option for choosing to download updates for the operating system from other PCs on your own internal network or from PCs either on your network or over the Internet, giving the update process a peer-to-peer capability.