Microsoft will try to make Windows 10 more versatile with a wave of new features for creating memories, exploring virtual scenery and hopscotching from personal computers to mobile devices.
The added bells and whistles will roll out later this year as part of "Fall Creators Update" that will be provided for free to 500 million personal computers, smartphones and tablets powered by Windows 10.
Microsoft previewed the update Thursday in Seattle during its annual conference for applications developers. The company didn't specify when it will be available; a preview for early testers was released Thursday. The latest changes come on the heels of a free update that began to roll out last month.
"We are building Windows to be the platform that empowers everyone to create," Terry Myerson, Microsoft's top Windows executive, wrote in a blog post.
Some of the upcoming tools represent another step in Microsoft's attempt to catch up with two of its biggest rivals, Apple and Google. Along that vein, a new feature called Story Remix will automatically identify the best photos and videos to help people create highlights of their experiences.
Microsoft also is opening up Windows 10 so it works better with the smartphones and tablets running on Apple's iOS and Google's Android software. A growing dependence on those mobile devices has reduced the role that Windows-powered PCs play in people's lives.
That shift to smartphones and tablets also is one of the reasons the next Windows 10 update will include a multi-faceted clipboard to let you copy text, images and other content on a PC and paste it on a phone, even iPhones and Android, as though the PC and phone were one. The tool is similar to what Apple already offers with Universal Clipboard in iPhones, iPads and Mac computers.
Another upcoming feature will let you start working on a document on a Windows 10 PC and pick up where you left off on a rival phone.
In another concession to the popularity of Apple's products, iTunes software will be added to the Windows Store — an announcement that evoked some of the loudest cheers in Thursday's crowd. That development will be particularly helpful for students using a streamlined version of Windows designed for classrooms. That recently introduced version, Windows 10 S, can't get apps directly from third parties such as Apple, as regular Windows 10 users can.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is vying to be more of a trailblazer by expanding its exploration of a new technological frontier that allows people to blend the real world with three-dimensional projections of life-like images.
The Redmond, Washington, company calls the emerging field "mixed reality" because it melds the artificial with things that are actually happening around us. The concept is more commonly known as augmented reality. Another format that immerses people in completely fabricated situations is known as virtual reality.
Microsoft plans to introduce a new headset and motion controller in time for the holiday season. The equipment, to be made by Acer, will sell as a package for $399, far less than the $3,000 to $5,000 Microsoft charges for another mixed reality headset called HoloLens.