Microsoft Squeezes Windows 10 Onto Lumia Smartphones

After making an appearance on PCs and tablets, early testers can check out the Windows 10 Technical Preview on select Lumia smartphones.

Windows 10

A preview of Microsoft's ambitious Windows 10 operating system is now available for a handful of Lumia devices, the company announced.

Windows 10 is less of a desktop OS—although Microsoft is taking great pains to appeal to the keyboard and mouse crowd—and more of a software foundation for a wide variety of devices, from tiny maker boards to an augmented reality headset to a giant, 84-inch smart whiteboard. Nestled within that expansive range of devices are smartphones, and this time around, Microsoft is getting an early start.

"This is the earliest publicly available preview we've ever done for Windows on phones," said Microsoft's Gabe Aul, Data and Fundamentals lead in the software giant's Operating Systems Group, in a blog post. As such, some users may encounter some issues, he cautioned. "This preview is still very much under development and you're going to see some rough edges."

Windows 10 for phones lacks some polish at this stage, Aul admitted. The reason is that Microsoft is currently focused on the "fundamentals" of its single-OS vision.

"Much of our work until this point has been on platform development rather than the completeness of the UI, so a lot isn't immediately visible—like the fact that we have a common OS core and app platform across PC and phones," wrote Aul. "But those 'fundamentals' represent a ton of work and are going to enable a lot of cool things to come, like apps that work seamlessly across devices, consistent manageability of devices, and the ability to run a whole new generation of Office Universal Apps on all of your Windows 10 devices."

Among the differences Windows Phone 8.1 users should notice are customizable full-size background images for the Start screen, interactive notifications and a bump in the number of quick actions available in the Action Center. A new Photos app aggregates images stored on the device and a user's OneDrive cloud storage account.

Speech-to-text has also been improved, Aul said, enabling users to fill out "any data field" by speaking. "Your words show up as you speak them—and punctuation appears automatically. This feature is smart enough to understand when to use 'two'—the number—instead of 'too' as in 'also,'" he boasted.

Windows 10 Insider Program participants can download the preview build now. For now, the OS supports just six Lumia smartphone models (Lumia 630, 635, 636, 638, 730 and 830), but Aul said expanded support "will be phased in with each new build, and we'll announce which devices are being added when the build comes out."

Microsoft's slow-and-steady approach is meant to prevent users from "bricking" their phones, or rendering their devices unusable after an upgrade. Nonetheless, the possibility still exists.

"We haven't bricked a single phone during all of our internal testing, but it is NOT IMPOSSIBLE, so you should be aware that there is some potential risk for you," Aul said. "In addition, bugs could prevent access to important features for you, including phone dialing and other core functionality."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...