By Peter Stein
Microsoft has just released the latest version of its desktop operating system, Windows 10.
There are a couple of reasons why this is a momentous move. Microsoft releases are often best in their third iteration, so after XP’s universal success Windows 10 should really be the next core business operating environment. As we know, history does not necessarily predict the future, so one of the things that Microsoft has introduced with this, their last ever major version release, is a free upgrade from qualifying versions of Windows which will be compelling for many.
Why is this the last major version? Microsoft is going to be more agile and will be adding ongoing features, rather than new versions. As a business customer at the moment this doesn’t mean that you will no longer need software assurance. Microsoft is offering some nice ways to get on the train but you still have to pay for your ticket to stay on.
Windows 10 brings back a little of the old and tightens up around security and usability. The much loved Start menu is back and serves both standard desktop applications and Windows apps. It means you now have one place to go to get to everything. Windows 10 also introduces a number of new functions like the Edge browser and Cortana digital assistant.
All of these features are touch- and voice-enabled and there is even a new feature called Continuum, which makes Windows 10 much better at resizing windows. It suits the size to the environment by detecting the type of machine you’re running, and then changing its interface to the one best suited to the device.
Don’t worry if your environment is not touch-enabled. Using Windows 10 on a non-touch desktop or laptop PC will work just like the old XP, just with better graphics.
You can also still pin and unpin apps to and from the Start menu and Taskbar and resize the tiles by right clicking on them, allowing you to make sure your most relevant apps are there waiting for you when you are ready. The Taskbar is consistent in tablet mode too, so you are starting to get a common interface across environments.
One thing you will definitely pin to the task bar is the new Edge browser, which replaces Internet Explorer. Edge is Windows 10’s default browser; however, IE will still exist. My plan is to try Edge first and if the app doesn’t work, drop back to IE or Chrome. Though Edge is faster than its predecessor it is still first generation.
Remember what I said earlier about third-generation Microsoft products? There is still improvement needed with Edge and I am sure it will come fast. One of the cool toys with Edge is if you have a pen device you can even annotate on a web page. As we become a mobile first, cloud first world, the browser is going to be the source of lots of information.
Cortana is another feature that is new to the desktop OS. For those of you who have used Cortana in a mobile world, you will see some common features, but on a fixed device Cortana is predominantly the front end to the search feature under the Start menu. If you are voice enabled you can wake it up by saying “Hey Cortana” or “Hi Cortana”. You can then ask it to do something, such as find a file, launch a program or find information. If you prefer typing to talking, type your request into the search bar. Cortana is tied to your Microsoft ID, so it has the same information about you across all the Windows devices you use, including smartphones.
On the voice thing – the ‘Aussie and Kiwi’ accents are a bit hit and miss, though I have been using Cortana through Bluetooth in the car and people are amazed at how well it works. In our open office environments, I don’t think it will be a feature of day-to-day business like touch can be.
Under Satya Nadella, we have seen Microsoft become more integrated with their ‘co-opertition’, with Office being opened up to run on iOS and Android. If you are a OneNote user like me it is a great solution but it is still not exactly a consistent feel. This is where the Windows 10 for all devices comes in. If you are sitting using a Surface 3, a Nokia Phone or a Surface hub, you will have a common user experience. With all devices sharing criteria across devices and the user experience being consistent based on your Microsoft login. For most of us in IT this makes a lot of sense, seeing we all use more than one device to engage with our business environment.
I personally think that Windows 10 will be a hit. Home users will receive updates from Windows Update automatically when it’s available. Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise users will have the ability to postpone updates. The amount of time that Windows 10 Pro users can postpone updates is limited.
Your Windows 10 strategy needs to form part of your corporate planning now. Do an application review, set up a proof of concept and start to schedule your upgrade time frame and project plan to ensure you are in-line with the twelve month deploy window. Datacom already have piloted proof of concepts across Australia and New Zealand both internally and through clients in the corporate, education and public sectors.
To close out, here are the three reasons why I think Win 10 will be huge this year:
1. It is free (for a time and with T & C’s)
2. It has a familiar user experience
3. It allows a common experience across devices, and greater mobility
Peter Stein is General Manager of Licensing in Australia.
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