Windows 10 Fall Creators Update loaded with cross-platform features

New features in the upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, announced this week at Microsoft Build, will help developers to create more consistent cross-platform apps and users to work better between different devices.

SEATTLE -- The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will deliver to both end users and developers a slew of new cross-platform features.

The next Windows 10 operating-system update, due later this year, includes several new features to help business users get work done faster and easier. It will also emphasize cross-platform development and usability, centered on sharing data and content across multiple devices and OSes.

"If it works as well as the demos suggest, it will be successful, because the reality is we live in a heterogeneous world of Windows, Android and iOS," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of research firm Moor Insights and Strategy in Austin, Texas. "People ... want to easily move across those devices and pick up where they left off."

Cross-platform brings IT challenges

One of the new features in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, announced here at Microsoft's Build conference, is Timeline. The feature displays a history of apps and documents in which the user most recently worked. It will be displayed in all of a user's connected devices, including Apple iOS and Google Android -- not just Windows 10.

Timeline combines with the new Pick Up Where You Left Off feature, which involves the Cortana digital assistant displaying a prompt of what apps a user most likely wants to open when they log into their device. For example, if a worker closes out of a PDF and walks away from their desk, Cortana will recommend they open that PDF when the user goes on their phone. Again, this feature works on iOS, Android or Windows.

These new features could present challenges for IT, however, if a device gets into the wrong hands.

"The Timeline feature shows I've worked in something and syncs that information to other devices," said Bill Rupp, senior manager of server operations and end user services at Vulcan Inc., a philanthropic company in Seattle. "I might not want someone to see that, for security reasons."

IT will have to make sure that users are meeting the company's security standards when they switch between different devices to access corporate apps and data, Rupp said.

"The IT departments will have to authenticate an employee's device in order for them to use [these features]," agreed Vojtech Kresl, CTO of Iconics Inc., an automation software provider in Foxborough, Mass.

Still, the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update cross-platform capabilities are quite impressive, Rupp said.

"Reminding you what app you were working in before on a new device is helpful," he said.

OneDrive updates

Microsoft also previewed OneDrive Files On-Demand, which allows users to access any file without having to download it. If a user saves a file on their desktop, it will automatically sync to OneDrive, and they'll be able to access that file on other Windows, iOS and Android devices, without actually downloading it.

"That's the way it needs to be," said Carlos Guevara, CTO of Velu Software, a business software development firm in Panama City, Panama. "My files need to be available everywhere, and not necessarily on the device itself. I can't be glued to one device and can't use all my storage, either."

Plus, the new OneDrive Offline Folders feature will allow users to save files to their mobile devices and open them even without an internet connection. If co-workers make any changes to a shared file while the user is offline, the updates will appear when the user is back online.

Files On-Demand will be available to Windows Insider Preview members this summer and publicly available in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. The Offline Folders feature is available now on Android for Office 365 Personal and Home customers and OneDrive business accounts. It will be available for iOS in the next few months, Microsoft said.

Fluent Design

For developers, Microsoft will bring the new Fluent Design System in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, which focuses on the aesthetics of the OS and apps, and it drives the cross-platform capabilities.

Fluent Design allows the OS to take advantage of 3D images, and it makes drop-down menus more translucent, so the user can see what's behind them. Additionally, it creates a more consistent interface to apps, whether they run on Windows, iOS or Android.

Fluent Design also helps developers support more actions from device-based features, such as a stylus pen or camera. For example, if a user uses a stylus to cross out text in a Windows 10 app, the app will recognize that the user wants to delete that text and will do so from that command.

"It's a nice evolution of the OS and helps tie together the capabilities of the device with its apps," Guevara said. "It makes the experience better and helps the developer keep track of what they need to take advantage of."

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is expected sometime this fall.

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