July 29, 2015 is the official release date of Windows 10, and Microsoft is putting a lot behind their latest operating system. The company’s top executives have promised to have Windows 10 running on a billion devices within two to three years. To get to those numbers Microsoft is pulling out all the stops, offering Windows 10 as a free upgrade to PC owners running Windows 7 or Windows 8, as well as making it free for small devices. Although Windows is still the number one desktop operating system in the world, PCs have seen their market share steadily decrease over the last few years to the benefit of portable devices.
Microsoft’s first attempt to adapt its OS to these types of devices was Windows 8 and although many people applauded what Microsoft tried to do, the OS itself never really took hold of the consumer’s heart the way Windows 7 and XP did before it. Windows 8 drastically changed the Windows appearance by giving us what seemed to be a tablet first look with the start screen — a look Microsoft believed would also work well with PCs. But consumers did not agree and largely stayed away. Windows 10 is Microsoft’s second attempt to give us an operating system that works well for all types of devices, from smartphones to large PC monitors. But looks alone are not going to make the enterprise client sink the time and money needed to roll out a new operating system, so Microsoft has also worked hard at improving what the enterprise values most: security and productivity. Let’s take a look at some of the big changes that Microsoft hopes will get you and your business using Windows 10 sooner, rather than later.
- Start Menu. It’s back! A start screen made up of live tiles once seemed like a good idea, but it just never really resonated with the end user. Windows 10 brings it back, but this time you can pin live tiles to it, giving you the best of both worlds. Users get back the familiar, which is always good, but with the benefit of the live tiles, which allows you to view the status of your apps like mail, calendar and weather at a glance, without needing to waste time opening them.
- Cortana. Cortana is named for the AI in the popular Xbox game Halo, its Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant, much like Apple’s Siri. Cortana was first developed and released for Window Phone 8.1 and now has expanded to include Windows 10 with an iOS and Android release, coming soon. Cortana now becomes the search option for the OS, being able to not only do things like book appointments and set reminders, but also search the index of your files, resources and start menu items, as well as the internet-leveraging Bing search capabilities.
- “Hello.” A more secure way to log on is something that has always been very important, and developers are always looking for ways to secure the logon process. Passwords are fine, but they can be guessed and hacked. Picture passwords have been around for a long time but are not terribly secure and easy to spoof, so Microsoft has gone the route of using infrared cameras to do facial recognition for a new feature know as Windows Hello. Fingerprint, facial recognition and iris recognition are also options. These features will be dependent on having the right hardware, but if you need the security, then these features alone might be enough to get you thinking about Windows 10.
- Microsoft Edge. In a world where cloud services have gained so much momentum and web apps are common place, the web browser has taken on a great deal of importance in today’s enterprises. Internet Explorer has been around a very long time and has had many ups and downs, but many feel that it is not up to the task. Instead of trying to “fix” IE to meet these challenges, Microsoft has started from a clean slate and given us Microsoft Edge. Edge will more closely follow the standards for the languages that web pages are written in and also support the industry-accepted extensions. It sports a much cleaner look; a read mode that can translate a page to your favorite language; Cortana integration; and the ability to take notes, write, doodle and highlight directly on webpages as well as the ability to share these with others through emails, texts or social media.
- Universal Apps. Microsoft introduced the universal apps model back in April. Now developers can reuse the bulk of their code when porting an app between phones, tablets and PCs. Universal apps aim to merge close to 450,000 apps that make up the Windows Store and the Windows Phone Store.
- Continuum. Whether you are using a touch screen or mouse and keyboard, Windows can switch back and forth automatically. What this means to the user is that if you are using a convertible device like Microsoft’s Surface Tablet or Lenovo’s Yoga laptops, the app will move automatically from a touch-and-gesture-friendly tablet mode to mouse and keyboard mode.
- Enterprise App Store. One of the biggest security concerns for enterprise admins is and has always been viruses and spyware. To date, the strategy has been to allow the OS to install anything but try to limit the user’s abilities to do so and to use software to catch malicious software. What Microsoft aims to do with Window 10 is to give the admin the ability to have Windows trust nothing and install nothing unless it comes from Microsoft store where all apps have been vetted and certified to be none-malicious. This might take a little time to build, but if Microsoft is even close to its estimates on the adoption rate of the new OS, then software developers will be enticed to get their apps certified and be part of the Enterprise app store sooner rather than later.
- Data Loss Prevention. Microsoft offers Encrypting File System (EFS) and BitLocker for on-disk encryption, as well as cloud-based solutions such as Azure and Windows Rights Management Services (RMS.) These tools are designed to ensure that sensitive data stays private, but they require a lot of administration and, to some extent, are prone to user error; and in the case of the enterprise solutions, serious infrastructure may also be required. Windows 10 takes a proactive approach to data loss prevention (DLP) by separating corporate from personal data, like some smart phones do, by encrypting the data as it arrives from corporate locations such as email, websites and corporate applications. Policies will also ensure that locally-created content will be encrypted as and that the company data cannot be moved to external locations.
Over the years we have had version of Windows that have revolutionized the industry and some others not so much. I doubt any version of Windows will ever have the amount of fanfare and marketing success that Windows 95 did but Windows 10 aims to be an evolution on every front and truly change what a modern operating system is and what it does, no other OS has ever been designed to be as secure and as adaptable across all platforms like Windows 10 is. Only time will tell if the industry will embrace Windows 10 as with Windows 95 and XP or stay away like it was with Vista and 8, but if you ask me this is not just another version of Windows this is one that will be considered a high-water mark in the industry for many years to come. Here is the link to upgrade to Windows 10.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Panagakos (MCSE, MCSA, MCITP, MCT) is a Microsoft Certified Trainer with more than 20 years of experience in the IT industry. John is currently an instructor at Global Knowledge in Canada who specializes in Microsoft network and server maintenance and troubleshooting.