What’s coming in Windows 10 is becoming increasingly clear as Microsoft discusses its plans. The latest: facial recognition and thumbprint identification, as well as a browser not named Internet Explorer.
Microsoft this week pulled back the curtain on some of its plans for Windows 10, hinting at the beginning of the end for one of the company’s iconic brands and announcing a login screen activated by facial recognition or thumbprint.
Microsoft executives confirmed in January that the company was developing a new Web browser, code-named Spartan, for the upcoming Windows 10 operating system. The browser would have features tailored to the modern Internet, they said, emphasizing reading and allowing for tools like the integration of Microsoft’s voice-activated assistant (called Cortana) and annotation of Web pages.
Executives at the January event didn’t mention Internet Explorer, Microsoft’s longtime Web browser, when discussing their plans.
Now, Microsoft is seeking a permanent name for Spartan, potentially leaving the Internet Explorer brand by the wayside. Microsoft marketing chief Chris Capossela, speaking this week at a conference in Atlanta, said the company’s research showed potential names starting with “Microsoft” scored better with Google Chrome users in the U.K. than variations of “Internet Explorer.”
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A Microsoft spokesperson said Internet Explorer would still be shipped on copies of Windows 10 for businesses and “other customers who require legacy browser support.”
The spokesperson didn’t comment in response to inquiries about whether, in addition to the newly developed browser, Internet Explorer would be included on copies tailored for individual consumers.
Internet Explorer was the world’s default gateway to the Web for much of the late 1990s and early 2000s, after Microsoft emerged victorious in a bitter battle for browser market share with Netscape.
But the browser lost its place in the last decade amid security concerns, antitrust scrutiny in the U.S. and Europe, and Microsoft’s struggle to establish a foothold in mobile devices.
Internet Explorer, the default browser for the Windows-dominated personal computer realm, still powers Internet use in 57 percent of desktops and laptops, according to Web analytics firm Net Applications.
But on tablets and smartphones, its share is less than 3 percent, trailing rivals built by Google, Apple and Opera.
“We’re right now researching what the new brand, or the new name, for our browser should be in Windows 10,” Capossela said, in comments reported Tuesday by the Verge online news site. “We’ll continue to have Internet Explorer, but we also have a new browser called Project Spartan, which is code-named Project Spartan. And we have to name the thing.”
The upcoming version of the company’s operating system, set for release sometime later this year, will also support scanners that allow users to log in with a thumbprint or facial recognition instead of potentially insecure typed passwords, Microsoft announced separately Tuesday.
The new biometric scanning capability and login screen, dubbed Windows Hello, will work on any Windows 10 smartphone, tablet or personal computer that features the combination of hardware to support it.
Existing devices with fingerprint scanners will be able to use the technology, Microsoft user-interface executive Joe Belfiore said in a blog post.
With Windows Hello, Microsoft is joining the roster of companies, including rival Apple, that are rolling out technology to make typed passwords redundant.
Nadella said in December he was optimistic that image recognition would help fix the password theft problem. “That’s something that as we disclose and talk more about Windows 10 you will hear more about it,” he said at the time.
The Windows Hello announcement came hours before Microsoft kicked off a long-dormant conference for hardware manufacturers. WinHEC (formerly the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference), began Wednesday morning in Shenzhen, China, after a six-year hiatus.
From 1992 to 2008, the event was held annually in a variety of U.S. cities.
The rekindled conference’s move to Shenzhen, a major technology-manufacturing hub and financial center adjacent to Hong Kong, is likely designed to spur manufacturers to better design devices tailored for Windows.
Microsoft is counting on Chinese manufacturers to roll out flashy hardware to highlight Windows 10 when the operating system is released later this year.
The company Tuesday also announced that Microsoft’s newest proprietary hardware — the Band health tracker — was set for increased shipments after initial consumer demand that regularly wiped out limited stock of the device.
Beginning Tuesday, the health-tracking device was available at Best Buy, Target and Amazon.com, the company said.
More-frequent shipments are bound for Microsoft’s own stores, too.
Since its surprise launch in October, the Band has been sold exclusively at Microsoft’s retail stores and website.
Actual availability has been patchy. The devices have regularly been listed as sold out online, with availability varying by location in Microsoft’s brick-and-mortar stores.
A visit to Microsoft’s website late Monday revealed the $199 devices were out of stock in all sizes. On Tuesday morning, the Band was available, with an estimated shipping date of by April 1.
Microsoft’s Matt Barlow said in a blog post that the company had heard feedback about the availability of the devices. Microsoft’s stores, he said, “will receive larger shipments than before, on a more regular basis.”
Barlow also announced that the Band would be released in its first international market, the U.K., on April 15.