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Microsoft Unveils Windows 10 with New Start Menu

Microsoft has no time for the number 9. After months of anticipation surrounding the follow-up to Windows 8, the Redmond, Washington-based software giant has decided to jump the gun and unveil Windows 10 at a special event in San Francisco. Releasing sometime in 2015, Windows 10 brings a wealth of desktop-friendly features while promising a unified experience across smartphones, tablets, PCs and TVs.

As hinted earlier this year at Microsoft Build, Windows 10 will mark the long-awaited return of a Windows 7-style Start menu. The Windows 10 Start menu combines Windows 7's convenient column of app icons with a sidebar for Windows 8's colorful, touch-friendly Live Tiles. There's also a "Me" tile at the top of the Start menu that displays whichever user is logged in.

MORE: Windows 10 Hands-on - A Good Start

Microsoft teased the possibility of a more unified Windows earlier in the year, and Windows 10 seems to deliver on that promise by offering an app marketplace in which applications can be bought and updated across smartphones, laptops and tablets all at once. Windows 10 also has its eyes on the enterprise user, offering the ability to easily separate personal and business data. 

Multitaskers can look forward to Windows 10's new Task View feature, which lets you get a quick glance at all of your open apps in the vein of Mission Control in Apple OS X. The software will let you switch between multiple desktops, with a Snap Assist feature that lets you easily swap in apps from any of those open desktops. You'll also be able to snap up to four apps on the same screen.

In another upgrade for power users, Windows 10 has beefed up the command prompt function, which now lets you paste directories directly using the Ctrl+V command.

Microsoft showed Windows 10's new continuum feature, which is designed to automatically alter the OS when you switch modes on a 2-in-1, such as the Surface Pro 3. For example, clicking the Start button with a mouse and keyboard attached will open the classic-style desktop Start menu, while doing the same in tablet mode will bring up the Windows 8-style full-screen Start menu with large Live Tile icons.

Microsoft said that we'll learn more about the consumer side of Windows 10 early next year, and the company plans to talk more about Universal Apps at its next Build conference in April 2015. Microsoft will allow select users to preview Windows 10 as part of the Windows Insider Program, though the website currently says to "check back soon" for a start date.

The official Windows 10 press release claims that Windows 10 will adapt to your device, "from Xbox to PCs and phones to tablets and tiny gadgets." We're not sure how all of that is going to look in action, but we look forward to following Windows 10's evolution ahead of its 2015 release.

Mike Andronico is an Associate Editor at Tom's Guide. Follow Mike @MikeAndronico and onGoogle+. Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+