Windows 10 will be released to manufacturing on July 29, and I truly believe we’re on the cusp of something extremely significant.
I’ve been involved in the Windows Insider Program as a Windows 10 beta tester, and I’ve seen it evolve over the past year very nicely. And I believe we’re at an inflection point in computing today. It’s a combination of the new hardware available, the mature operating system, and the cloud — which is really the fluid or the enabler for many of things now possible with Windows 10.
Many of you may be wondering: So what’s the big deal? Is this a major shift or a new, pretty wrapper around the same-old, same-old Windows OS?
As I said in my recent webcast — which you can hear in an on-demand version — I’m very bullish on Windows 10 and the great new innovative features that it offers.
Here’s a look at what I like about it:
1. A Consistent Experience Across all Devices with Continuum
With Continuum, the Windows 10 user interface adapts to the device you are using, whether it’s a desktop PC, touchscreen device or mobile phone. I consider this feature the most significant element in Windows 10.
For example, if you are using a Windows tablet minus a keyboard, it will default to a touch-friendly mode, with the Start menu expanding to the full screen; if you’re using a PC, it will default to a traditional desktop mode. For hybrids, it will intelligently switch between the two modes depending on whether you have a keyboard attached. If you need to force a switch, Windows 10’s new Action Center has a dedicated Tablet Mode button that you can enable or disable.
An interesting feature within Continuum is the ability to connect your Windows Phone to a monitor for a larger “second screen.” Simply plug the phone into a docking station to project to a monitor via cable or wireless.
2. Universal Applications
One of the driving forces behind Continuum is a universal code base for developers to build applications around. With Windows 10, applications developed for Windows Phone are available for the Windows desktop, and vice versa. So a developer can build something once and have it proliferate on a number of devices — desktops, tablets, mobile phones, even the new HoloLens.
I believe the universal applications in Windows 10 will increase the variety and quality of apps for all devices, and will cause people to look again at the Windows Phone platform.
3. Multiple Desktops
You can now have your business apps and data on one desktop, and your personal apps and data on another¬ — both organized how you like them — and seamlessly switch back and forth between the two. The data on each desktop is isolated and encrypted.
4. Security Features that Offer Multi-Layered Protection
By running across multiple devices, Windows 10 is now subjected to a wider number of vulnerabilities. But Microsoft has responded with increased layers of advanced security, making the software and hardware tougher than ever to crack.
Microsoft Passport helps protect user identities and user credentials. It also helps circumvent phishing and brute force attacks, and helps prevent server breaches.
Microsoft Passport works with Windows Hello to provide a strong, two-factor authentication that limits access to protected resources and services to only authorized users. With Windows Hello, biometrics (facial characteristics, iris or fingerprints) identify users — eliminating the need for passwords. Infrared cameras or dual cameras with 3D imaging make spoofing identities extremely difficult. However, those who prefer to continue to use passwords can do so.
Windows 10 also introduces Virtual Secure Mode, a new Hyper-V component designed to protect the system against malware, zero-day attacks and other serious security threats. Virtual Secure Mode (VSM) is a protected virtual machine that is separated from the Windows 10 OS (& kernel). This architecture protects the VSM even if the Windows 10 OS kernel is compromised, since the kernel doesn’t have direct access to VSM.
The new operating system has beefed-up protection against hardware threats with tools such as Secure Boot, Device Guard, Device Health, and Windows Defender. And Microsoft pledges to stay on top of the latest security threats with a stream of updates through its Windows Update for Business service.
5. The New Edge Browser
Formerly known as Project Spartan, the new Edge browser is built from the ground up and lighter, faster, and quicker for trawling the modern web. But a key reason why I like it are the digital inking tools that enable you to highlight and annotate web pages to share with others. Another reason is the clutter-stripping Reading View.
But here is perhaps the biggest reason I like Edge, and Windows 10: Cortana is built right into Edge. See No. 6.
Cortana, the clever personal assistant for Windows Phone, is now in Windows 10 and is — in my opinion — one of the best things about it. I like having Cortana available to get me directions, tell me the weather forecast, set reminders, find files, search the Internet, even tell me jokes.
You must enable Cortana via your taskbar, but once you do, you can summon her simply by saying, “Hey, Cortana!”
7. The Free Upgrade
Last, but certainly not least, Windows 10 is a free update for Windows 7 and Windows 8 registered users. You have one year — until July 29, 2016 — to take advantage of this offer. Enterprise customers with active Software Assurance subscription in volume licensing also have the benefit to upgrade to Windows 10 enterprise offerings.
Some other important things about Windows 10 to pass on:
- Yes, the Start menu that was missing in Windows 8 is back for Windows 10.
- I have upgraded many of my own personal devices already to Windows 10, and the upgrade process has not been challenging. In fact, it’s been very straightforward.
- The new Windows 10 hardware will add numerous capabilities, such as in the area of biometrics. But you don’t need new devices; Windows 10 works great on any device designed for Windows 7 or 8/8.1.
- When upgrading to a new operating system, I always recommend that you plan ahead and that you test well to ensure that your core applications work as expected. I do not expect Windows 10 to present a challenge, but I still recommend caution in undertaking this process.
Thanks, and enjoy Windows 10.