Last week, Microsoft showed the world what the final version of Windows 10 will look like, unveiling a variety of new features and apps that signal a new direction for the latest operating system (OS). In fact, Microsoft execs claim the company skipped Windows 9 because 10 is such a radical overhaul rather than an incremental update.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to create more perceived distance between the new product and the Windows 8 debacle. Windows 8 and 8.1 were widely panned by both experts and the average user, combining to own just 12 percent of OS market share, far less than Windows 7 (53 percent) and even XP (24 percent), which is no longer supported.
Microsoft is going to great lengths to ensure widespread acceptance of Windows 10 by launching the Windows Insider program, a collaborative initiative developed to make the product more intuitive and user-friendly. Participants receive a technical preview of Windows 10 and are encouraged to provide feedback throughout development as updates are made. A Windows Feedback app can be used to offer suggestions and identify issues, while the Windows Technical Preview Forum enables insiders to interact with Microsoft engineers and other program participants.
At the top of the list of highlights for the new Windows 10 is the return of the Start Menu, which had been replaced by a confusing Start screen in Windows 8. Not only is the Start Menu back, but it’s bigger and can be viewed in full screen, providing users with one-click access to their most commonly used files and functionality. It can also be customized to include the user’s favorite apps, programs, people and websites.
Another major change is the emergence of Spartan, a new browser that is expected to replace Internet Explorer and be available on all mobile and desktop versions of Windows 10. Key features include built-in note creation and sharing capabilities, and the ability to save a page with one click for later viewing from any device. Windows 10 users will also be introduced to Cortana, a virtual assistant similar to Google Now and Apple Siri. Just say, “Hey Cortana” to receive help and take advantage of far greater intelligence than Cortana had in Windows Phone.
The Surface Hub, a massive tablet available in 55-inch and 84-inch versions, may represent the boardroom and conference room of the future. Surface Hub includes Skype for Business, OneNote, cameras, sensors and microphones, which are used by Windows 10 to deliver high-quality audio and video, recognize gesture controls, and enable the use of a smart pen to turn Surface Hub into a whiteboard.
Improved multitasking functionality, such as Snap Assist, helps users combine or snap apps together – up to four in a single window – and intuitively recommends what additional apps to use. Multiple desktops make it possible for users to easily create, differentiate and switch among different projects instead of having groups of apps and files that serve different purposes open on the same desktop.
Perhaps the most significant change in Windows 10 is that it represents Microsoft’s first cross-platform OS, capable of delivering a natural, seamless user experience across all Windows desktop and mobile devices. Universal apps, including the Microsoft Office suite of programs, a new Photos app and the new Spartan browser, will work virtually the same on a Windows 10 phone as a laptop. OneDrive will enable files to be synced and shared across devices and services.
Windows 10 is expected to be launched in late summer of 2015 and will be offered as a free upgrade for Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 users for one year. Let ICG, a Microsoft technology partner, show you how to best utilize the new features and functionality to achieve your business goals.