Microsoft’s Windows 10 represents the first step of a whole new generation of Windows. The latest iteration of the world’s most popular operating system will run across an incredibly broad set of devices – from the Internet of Things, to servers in enterprise data centres worldwide.
Some of these devices have 4-inch screens – some have 80-inch screens – and some don’t have screens at all. Some of these devices you hold in your hand, others are ten feet away. Some of these devices you primarily use touch/pen, others mouse/keyboard, others controller/gesture – and some devices can switch between input types. Here are 8 key features you need to know:
1. Number Jump
Microsoft has now announced its new version of Windows, surprisingly called ‘Windows 10’ – not Windows 9. This is because Microsoft claims it’s such a significant leap over Windows 8 – that calling it Windows 9 wouldn’t do it justice.
2. Pricing & Availability
Windows 10 may be given away free to upgraders or involve a nominal fee and is now available only to advanced users and developers. An official release will follow ‘later in 2015, which suggests the operating system (OS) is not as far along as many expected and Microsoft wants to develop it in conjunction with user feedback.
3. A Single, Cross Platform OS
Architecturally, the biggest news is that Windows 10 is being designed to run across all devices – desktops, laptops, tablets, phablets and smart phones etc and promises a tailored experience for each device. To elaborate, Microsoft state that there will be one way to write a universal application, to store stuff and for apps to be discovered purchased and updated – across all of these devices. Microsoft has also confirmed ‘Windows 10′ will be the next major version of Windows Phone. However, what devices get the upgrade and how Microsoft will handle it remains to be seen.
4. Start Menu Comeback
The start menu will return and combine both aspects of the classic Windows 7 start menu with apps from the Metro/Modern UI. Searching within the start menu will now perform a web search too. Importantly, its layout can be customised so apps can be removed or resized – offering real flexibility and personalisation potential.
5. Streamlined Touch/Keyboard/Mouse
Microsoft has responded to criticism about the hassle of moving between touch, the keyboard and mouse elements of Windows 8. Microsoft’s new approach, called ‘Continuum,’ will ensure a better union between to different input methods. Continuum will enable automatic switching between modes by detecting how users interact with their device. It also carries over aspects like the new start menu and windowed apps within the desktop.
6. Virtual Desktops
The virtual desktops feature will work like the multiple desktops on Linux and Exposé on Mac OS X. The view can be triggered with a new ‘task view’ button which allows users to both launch a new, virtual desktop and jump between them. Interestingly the taskbar can be customised to look different/relevant to each desktop – enabling a simple leap from work to home modes. Microsoft state that all open programs in the virtual desktops will continue to run in the background, which may create some interesting memory management challenges, but also greatly increases the potential productivity of Windows – as well as de-cluttering the desktop space.
7. Still In The Dark
There is still no firm news on pricing and release time. Microsoft also hasn’t revealed performance information such as – install size and minimum hardware requirements. No details have yet emerged on Cortana integration (the voice assistant in Windows Phone 8.1), or any insight on how Windows 10 will handle scaling on high resolution screens. This bit is really important as 4k monitors and super high resolution laptops are quickly gaining momentum.
8. Great Potential & Humble Pie
There is however a positive feeling about the new OS and Microsoft’s new direction in general. The company was probably hurt by the mixed reaction to Windows 8 and with Windows 10 will try and mix the best aspects of Windows 7 and Windows 8 into a more user-friendly experience. The proof of the pudding is that Microsoft is now releasing initial builds, swift updates and developing in parallel with user feedback.