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8 great consumer-focused features in Windows 10

Satya Nadella
Satya Nadella (Image credit: Windows Central)

With the recent Windows reorganization fresh in everybody's mind, a few people have begun wondering if Microsoft is going to throw in the towel when it comes to consumer features in Windows. That won't happen. Our Executive Editor Daniel Rubino wrote an excellent article detailing why this is the case.

With that in mind, I wanted to round up some of the biggest Windows features that consumers can take advantage of today. So let's take a look at Microsoft's efforts in the consumer space.

Paint 3D and Story Remix

Paint 3D and Story Remix are two features built into Windows 10 that really weren't designed for enterprises. Paint 3D is a spiritual successor to Microsoft Paint and is designed from the ground up for easy inking and art making. It even has ties to Mixed Reality, with the ability to create 3D models, characters and more, and you can upload them to a Paint 3D marketplace for others to download and enjoy.

Story Remix is a feature built into the Windows 10 Photos app that allows you to draw on and add effects to photos and videos, and create small video projects for sharing with friends and family. It's a sort of successor to Windows Movie Maker, except far more user-friendly. This is another feature built entirely with consumers in mind.

Windows Mixed Reality

While Microsoft is attempting to push VR in the enterprise space, right now VR is primarily a consumer-orientated market. Windows Mixed Reality is Microsoft's take on VR and is a project Microsoft appears to be committed to with HoloLens and new software features for Windows Mixed Reality itself. In the upcoming version of Windows 10, Microsoft is releasing a brand new Mixed Reality house, or central area.

Microsoft has said it's also working on future versions of Windows Mixed Reality that will allow users to invite each other to their own Windows Mixed Reality homes to watch movies, play games, and more. Again, Microsoft is attempting to push Mixed Reality in the enterprise, especially with HoloLens, but Windows Mixed Reality VR headsets so far have been almost entirely consumer orientated, as have the software features.

Xbox integration

There's no real way to position gaming as an enterprise-orientated thing, which means Microsoft building Xbox integration into Windows 10 is entirely for consumers. Microsoft is showing no signs of slowing down with this integration either, with recent releases bringing Mixer Streaming integration, and the upcoming Version 1803 release introducing a brand new, redesigned Game Bar.

Microsoft knows that PC gaming is only really a thing on Windows, so it's trying to take advantage of that.

Microsoft Store

The Microsoft Store in Windows 10 in a one-stop shop for apps, games, movies and TV, books, and even devices. While enterprises can customize the store so that it offers specific apps to employees, the majority of the work put into the Microsoft Store is aimed solely at consumers.

Cortana

Cortana in Windows 10 is an interesting feature. It's one of those features that has been designed from the ground up to work with both consumers and enterprise users. Being able to track packages, upcoming appointments, reminders, traffic alerts, and more are all excellent features for both user groups. But there are a few things Cortana doesn't that enterprise users likely won't care about.

For example, Cortana's new Skills capabilities are primarily for consumers. Sure, an enterprise could build a skill for Cortana that could then tap into specific things, but most enterprises aren't doing that. The skills available are also pretty consumer heavy, including things like Domino's Pizza, Fitbit, Hue Lights, Spotify, smart home related stuff, and more.

Microsoft is also working on a new Cortana UI that's designed to help make Cortana more approachable on desktops by encouraging the user to type instead of talk. This new UI is a chat-based one and will work similarly to how Google Assistant does on Android. While not a consumer-specific change, it's something that might get more consumers using Cortana.

My People

My People is a feature that works great no matter who you are. Everyone loves being able to quickly message a friend or work colleague.

My People also taps into the Windows 10 Share menu, which is sort of more consumer orientated that enterprise related. It lets users share things with contacts, devices nearby, or other apps in the system such as Twitter, Mail, and more.

Windows Timeline

Windows 10's upcoming Timeline feature is designed to help users resume their activities from the past and across devices. Timeline is a versatile feature that taps into all kinds of apps, including Office for work related things, Edge for web browsing sessions, and even apps like News, and Paint. Timeline is a great feature built for everybody, no matter who you are.

Timeline does have the ability to sync activities to the cloud so that you can resume them on other devices, but whether or not enterprises would want to enable that (out of privacy concerns) remains to be seen. Consumers will likely prefer this feature, for convenience if nothing else.

Windows Sets

Windows Sets is a feature coming later this year that puts your apps and websites under one tabbed window, just like in Chrome OS, which is primarily a platform for consumers and school kids. Of course, Windows Sets will be a lot more powerful, with ties into Cortana and Windows Timeline for resuming entire windows full of tabs in one click.

Sets will be great for students working on a project and who need multiple apps and web pages open for research, or for enterprise users who need to group lots of apps together for convenience sake.

Windows features are for everybody

In short, most of the features Microsoft commits to building into Windows 10 are features designed for everybody. There are, of course, features that will be built that are specific to consumers, like Paint 3D and Xbox, and there are others that will be specific to enterprises, like domain joining, and remote desktop. To think Microsoft is going to stop focusing on the consumer side of Windows is absurd.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

61 Comments
  • 0/8 in features used here. Curious if I'm the outlier or the norm.
  • you don't use the store, i prefer the Netflix app over the website
  • Yeah, Netflix on the phone & Roku. I think I had to download Citrix from the app store awhile back, I guess that counts? Never purchased movies or anything though.
  • Speaking of apps, how bad is the windows central app!
    My gawd its ugly and confusing, I only use ever use the website. The only app that is worse is the windows central mobile app. That right there is a disgrace, how may months/years since that worked correctly !
  • rest the app to default setting/ sign in works great after ( comments/ performance/ reliability) and navigation in app of the app is pretty straightforward and intuitive/ easy to learn
  • Netflix W10 app has issues that the website don't, I prefer the later. Tipically, changing the language and subtitles on a video is horrible on the app: you need to open the language panel, select the language, the panel disappears for no reason and the app freeze several seconds while loading the language, then open again the language panel to change the subtitles... on the website: open the language context menu, click, click, done; no waiting. Also if you make Netflix app fullscreen on one screen, you can't do anything on another screen, the app is minimized when losing the focus when it was fullscreen (who is the idiot coding such non feature). Finally, on a tv show video, the horizontal list of episodes always reset the scrolling onto the 1st episode, so it's almost impossible to navigate.
  • Yes I have had the scrolling bug ( scrolled to fast it would cause it to rest back the begin) but that has been fixed in a previous update. The latest update brought pip ( picture in picture) support 6.59.256.0
  • Outside occasionally using Cortana, I don't really use any of these either.
  • I'm always with in a good vocal distance of my desktop/laptop so I use Cortana for everything like set an alarm, turn off lights, turn off the PC when I'm too lazy at night to pick up the PC remote ha, opening app, music, send a quick text back
  • Whoa. I didn't know Cortana can do this stuff. Sorta like an Echo Plus, which I have. Time for me to play around with it.
  • Right there with you! lol
  • I know I'm an outlier...but Mixed Reality is all kinds of awesome. Such a shame so few have tried it. I imagine I'll care about timeline when other applications use it. Give me a firefox add-on that works with Timeline and I'll care about it. Cortana has a lot of potential, but if they only go down the route of "hey cortana, order me a pizza", I'll pass. Zero interest in paint3d until I can use it in mixed reality. Having 'Sets' enabled by default is a negative IMO.
  • What does Mixed Reality do? I never have the chance to use it, and quite possibly won't for some time. But I'm curious
  • Mixed Reality is a joke of an attempt at VR from Microcrap. If you want good and SUPPORTED VR, try Rift, HTC vive etc...
  • Same here to be honest, i have no interest in any of them.
  • Do you have any information on the alleged consumer features for RS5 that Microsoft has supposedly cancelled in favor of business features, according to Brad Sams?
  • link?
  • https://www.thurrott.com/windows/windows-10/156292/microsofts-pushing-en...
  • But... what has been cancelled? You linked to something that mentions it, but it's not a source itself.
  • That's why I said "alleged" and "supposedly".
  • so he's just speculating/guessing
  • Well Zac, what is the use of My People these days if it does not connect to non Msft services as Fb Messenger, WhatsApp and so on.
    To me Sets is a complete bullshit thing. I would be very happy to have persistency of app WINDOW arrangement of Virtual Desktops to pick up on work or whatever, but switching between tabs in 1 window, I don't see the point.
    Photos stupidity, it still doesn't support (equirectangular) panoramas.
  • It does connect to Unigram (Telegram).
  • I guess that tabs on web browsers are bullshit too, because they are exactly the same.
  • They're still pointless if they're artificially limited to UWP only applications
  • How are they artificially limiting it to UWP?
  • I'm reserving complete judgment on sets till I use it, but I don't think it's bullshit. It's a new and different way of working that may or may not turn out to be helpful. I'm interested in trying it.
  • Hey Zac, are you going to do a video showcasing the new features for VR in this Spring Update?
  • Like what? I'm on the skip-ahead ring, and STILL the only useful thing about WMR is playing a game.
  • He made a video showing HoloLens features. I think it would be cool to see the changes in VR, even if they are small changes.
  • I probably agree with most of what has been said so far here. Nothing really for consumers. But I am a consumer and I use windows 10 so no big deal if these are useful or not to me. They might be useful to someone.
  • It's a small list - - Cortana has become less effective in Spring Creator Update with the removal of tiles like Shares, parcel tracking etc.
    - Sets will only appear in RS5 (possibly)
    - My People is nice, but will only be useful by the time additional communication apps and SMS Relay are integrated. The other features are decent. But it highlights Microsoft's focus on Enterprise than Consumers.
  • you can still track packages the information will just now show up in the Action Center. also can get update info by voice command
  • But the problem with that is the action centre is often buried in the system tray...
  • Serious question: Does My People even work? I had to turn it off because the one app it did work with, Skype, destroyed my contacts creating duplicate after duplicate, and breaking links between them. Example; My wife. The most important contact in my address book. It created a duplicate, broke the link between her outlook contact and Skype contact, then refused to call her via Skype through the My People bar despite it clearly saying I was contacting a Skype user. TLDR; The minute My People was introduced, my contacts in the people app got WRECKED. Is that still the case?
  • Why are you forcing yourself to use this crap.. (let's call it what it is)??
  • Probably because he rightfully feels entitled to use (or given the current state, try to use) the software he paid for to its full extent?
  • Windows 10 was free, that's how they got the market share with it that they did. Currently about the same market share as Windows 7, released in 2009.
  • No, the upgrade to Windows 10 was free. A new license for Windows 10 costs and has always cost money. Please don't confuse upgrade vs actual prices.
  • He clearly said he isn't using it and turned that feature off, and he's now asking if the issue was fixed.
  • I can't really disagree with your assessment regarding features that are more consumer-focused. Although the Store, Cortana and WMR certainly could be. Sadly, I just see that the enterprise usually can't figure out how to actually use them right/well or are simply too scared of their own shadow (ahem, GOVERNMENT) to implement them at all. That being said, those three also happen to be the only ones I actually use. Cortana is actively on with ALL our devices and I rely on Cortana many, many times throughout the day. Of course, I prefer to use Store apps when at all possible, but there still are plenty of legacy programs that simply are unique or better. I have a home studio, so Microsoft simply can't touch programs like Sonar. Also, for video editing they can't touch programs like Nero or Premiere.
  • My People or is it People (some confusion there) is still baffling. Other than seeing some odd picture of myself as a recommended contact to pin to my own taskbar, I fail to see any use. No apps connect and if they do, the utility is barely functional at best. They shouldn't release these functions at all until they are ready for prime time.
  • The app store would be the only one I ever use.
  • The store... If there was one thing MS could do to improve its image with consumers, and at the same time win back some developer trust in the store, it's to act like a software company and author some quality universal apps to target specific app gaps in its store. Resurrecting MS Money would be a great start, since there are very few bank, credit card companies, stock trade, or personal finance/budgeting apps in the store. If MS is a "productivity" company, I'd like to know just what could possibly be more "productive" than personal and small business finance? If they don't remember how to write code? Then buy Mint from Intuit.
  • What a load of BS. The only "feature" that I would actually care about is the store and it is abysmal, both in content and functionality. How much did Nadellasoft pay you for this drivel?
  • ah, doncha love a keyboard warrior
  • Hm, I agree that Microsoft isn't stopping development of consumer apps and functionality. Unfortunately, none of the current crop is very useful for me. I don't use any of them. The People thing would be nice if it allowed you to use Google Contacts instead, since then my phone and pc contacts would be the same. Does it do that? In the past Outlook contacts and Google contacts didn't play very nice together. I am curious about Paint 3D, though.
  • Paint 3D really matters when you have Windows Ink enabled device. When Creator's update was launched I thought that only expensive devices would support Windows Ink, but I was wrong, I got an ASUS 11.6" 2 in 1 for $500 last month and it comes with Windows Ink support, Windows Hello Fingerprint and USB Type-C, unfortunately it didn't came with ASUS Pen, so I'm looking to purchase the Wacom Bamboo Ink Smart Stylus, hopefully it works well with my device.
  • Paint 3D / Story Remix, no; WMR, almost no (still use Oculus Rift most of time, only use WMR occasionally); Xbox Integration, maybe (although having a game PC, I still like to play on Xbox One X more); Store, when I clicked wrong icon on taskbar; Cortana, useful when it was WP8; My People, totally ignored; Timeline, very likely to be yes if most common apps support; Sets, very hard to say. 1~3/8 in sum.
  • Thanks for sharing. Here's my use:
    Paint 3D: Only once or twice;
    Story remix…: Once a quarter;
    WMR: Never;
    Xbox integration: Never;
    Store: Everyday;
    Cortana: Everyday;
    My people: Never;
    Timeline: Getting excited to use it everyday;
    Sets: Neutral. I want precision touchpads gesture to move between taps.
  • But a reality I would see with features that are considered "consumer" versus those that are considered "enterprise" is where a laptop, tablet or 2-in-1 is purchased and used as one's only "regular" computer. Such a system may be used in the office for work then taken home and used for play or you may see one use these machines on a long flight to play a game like a strategy game or view some video content.
  • Delusional Zac :)) Paint 3D a great feature? My People, a half baked useless junk? Microsoft Store? :))) more like junk yard store...Cortana? :))) WMR, a failed pathetic half baked attempt at Rift and othger VR providers.... LOL
  • I suspect You know nobody takes your comments serious with this toxic level of acidity and negativity in your rants?
  • I guess you have a boring no touch laptop, so you cannot use Paint 3D with a mouse, Paint 3D is optimized for Windows Ink, and is much more cost effective and Productive than Apple's Pencil which mandates you to purchase a MacBook + iPad while you can have everything with a $500 Windows 2 in 1.
  • If these are the main 8 consumer features, no wonder Microsoft is in trouble.
    Remember Satya saying he wants people to LOVE WINDOWS. Yeah if this is the best they've got, it ain't happening.
    Like it or hate it, Microsoft should be getting their OS up to feature/app parity with their competition (iOS and Android) for the CONSUMER aspects and anything on top of it (like the list mentioned above) will then be the stuff that differentiates and sells the platform.
    I hate the direction Microsoft is going; I'm one of their biggest fans but all things come to an end I guess.
  • I use my Android phone less and less everyday, and my Windows 2 in 1 connected to Internet more and more, however I miss an official Whatsapp application in my Windows 10 device.
  • 3/8 used here, and I don't use insider builds
  • Okay, so for the average consumers later it will be the oh-another-annoying-long-update-it-must-be-security-or whats-not assumption. And guess what? Sets will confuse the average of us. Xbox is like heh? I don't think average consumers use Xbox, let alone WMR & Cortana. I think only the maturing PWAs will be useful enough for average users. Just my biases anyway.
  • To be honest the only thing I use in this Article is Windows Store and Cortana.
    I really miss an official Whatsapp service for Windows 10, this should be adopted in a next release, as Microsoft's intentions are to make Windows always connected ARM devices popular so having Whatsapp officially supported with all security enhancements can make good use for these new Mobile devices in the form of a laptop.
  • I really like these features but MS needs to show more people about them and teach people. No one is gonna automatically know that Paint 3D can create that cool image like in the article. No one is gonna know how useful the Store is when everyone just goes online to do things. I think when Windows gets set up, there should be a message saying "Hey there's lots of cool stuff on Windows that you thought you didn't need but actually do! Wanna make a cool 3D painting? Wanna be able to talk to people on your computer instead of replying on your phone every 5 seconds?" I think users will start to realize these things more. Another thing I fear that MS will discontinue these features like what they have done with other products. It's annoying.
  • Cortana would be a great consumer-focused feature...if only they supported more languages and regions, today. I think MyPeople is a confusing experience. To a degree it is still tied to the People app. I've tried, but it is a fragmented app experience that is oddly baked to the taskbar. I think a new and better People hub would have been a better option for consumers, with the current features built into the people hub.