As promised on Sept. 1 at the IFA 2017 consumer electronics trade show, Microsoft officially released the final version of its Windows 10 Fall Creators Update on Oct. 17.
"Today, we deliver the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update offering breakthroughs in creativity—from bringing mixed reality and 3D to the masses, to faster broadcasting for gaming, to turning photos and videos into real memories, and so much more," said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of the Windows and Devices division at Microsoft. "The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update can be experienced on a wide variety of Windows 10 PCs and on a range of Windows Mixed Reality headsets available for the first time today."
Mixed reality is Microsoft's spin on augmented and virtual-reality experiences. Windows 10 Fall Creators Update contains features that enable users to interact with 3D objects and virtual worlds using off-the-shelf PCs and a new generation of affordable headsets. In fact, the first batch of Windows Mixed Reality headsets from the company's hardware partners are also officially launching on Oct. 17.
Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo all have their respective Windows Mixed Reality headsets on sale now with prices starting at $299 for bundles that include hand controllers. Samsung's offering, the HMD Odyssey with dual AMOLED displays—the same screen technology the company uses on its smartphones such as the Galaxy Note 8—ships Nov. 6. Prices start at $499, including a pair of motion controllers.
Microsoft and its partners will soon get some competition in the affordable virtual reality space from Facebook.
On Oct. 11, Facebook's Oculus VR subsidiary announced the Oculus Go, a lightweight and self-contained $200 headset that doesn't require users to be tethered to a PC or a smartphone. The company expects to ship the device sometime in early 2018. Facebook also announced a new permanent price cut for the original Oculus Rift bundle (including the headset and controllers) from $598 to $399, along with an Oculus for Business buying program.
Experiencing mixed reality with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update doesn't necessarily require a new headset. Included in the system software is a Mixed Reality Viewer which uses the PC camera to display 3D objects over a user's surroundings. The 3D technology also appears in Office by allowing Word and PowerPoint users to insert interactive 3D objects into their digital presentations and documents.
Although not as flashy as the operating system's new mixed-reality capabilities, Windows 10 Fall Creators Update also contains some features for security-conscious business users. Chief among them are new ransomware blockers that protect users from this costly form of malware.
The new Windows Defender Exploit Guard feature prevents unauthorized changes to files by applications and unknown exploits. In addition, the built-in Windows Defender Antivirus uses a companion cloud service to specifically detect and thwart ransomware strains such as Locky, Petya and WannaCry.
As in the past, Microsoft is slowly rolling out the update to Windows 10 devices over the coming weeks. For those who can't wait, manual options include triggering the update from the Settings screen, visiting the Update Assistant tool or downloading the Media Creation Tool. Instructions are available in this blog post.