WINDOWS 10: A RETREAT AND A REVOLUTIONBy
On July 29, Microsoft will release its newest operating system (OS), Windows 10. The new OS will quell the grumbling among those who haven’t adjusted to the big-tile user interface of Windows 8. But more than that, it will become the universal engine that can be installed on all types of computers, from the servers at work to the chips in your refrigerator at home. The goal is to round out a user base of one billion computers running Windows 10.
Microsoft watchers have commented on the ambitious scope of this new OS. The base upon which all of it rests is a “universal apps” concept—one OS serving all platforms. Windows 8.1 had four versions; Windows 10 will have seven: Home, Enterprise, Professional, Mobile, Mobile Enterprise, IoT (Internet of Things), and Education. Each version will be adapted to the specific platform, but the shared code amongst all the versions will encourage the development of apps that are truly universal. In his book Inside Windows 10, Windows product analyst Onuora Amobi describes the benefits: “Developers could write less code and have their program run on multiple platforms. Consumers in turn could use these new programs across multiple devices and not have to worry about compatibility.”
First announced in September 2014, Windows 10 evolved throughout the stages of testing, watched by four million volunteers in the Windows Insider Program. Participants have been testing and commenting on each stage of the program’s evolution. If that brings to mind the Open Source law of software development (“given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”), that’s precisely what’s going on here. And this is part of the revolution. For most of its existence, Microsoft enshrined the proprietary model of development, self-contained and solely owned, miles away from the Open-Source community development of projects like the free Linux OS and Apache software.
WHAT’S NEW IN 10
Amobi describes the new OS as “the most comprehensive and exhaustive overhaul of Microsoft’s Windows franchise in the history of the company. It is a complete rethinking of Windows from top to bottom.”
Well, that’s fine, but first Microsoft had to deal with widespread complaints about abandoning the Windows 7 home interface in version 8.1. With Windows 10 the company will take a half-step back and reintroduce the Windows 7 Start menu along with elements from Windows 8/8.1 with large tiles that open full-screen apps.
The new features in Windows 10 include enhanced Cortana, a new browser called Project Spartan, new Mail and Calendar apps, virtual desktops, an Xbox app, and a Continuum feature that allows you to switch between PC and tablet interfaces. The Charms panel from Windows 8/8.1 has been replaced with a single Settings menu.
At the beginning of the year, the Internet Explorer browser had a market share of more than 55%. A distant second was Google Chrome with about 12%. For Windows 10, Microsoft will dump the Internet Explorer browser for a new faster, more lightweight browser that uses Edge technology for rendering pages. A copy of the older Internet Explorer 11 will be included in Windows 10 in order to be compatible with legacy and enterprise websites. Spartan, or it might be called “Edge,” allows you to directly mark up Web pages and then share them. It also comes with built-in support for offline and PDF reading.
Cortana is a virtual assistant, like Apple’s Siri, and it will be embedded in almost all Windows 10 devices—desktops, laptops, tablets, and more. Built on the Bing search engine, Cortana isn’t only for search. It learns as it interacts with you. It can set reminders, and because it keeps a record of your preferences, it can be predictive and offer suggestions. Ultimately you have the ability to edit and remove personal information you would rather Cortana not store.
Merriam-Webster defines “continuum” as “a coherent whole characterized as a collection.” Microsoft demonstrated the concept in its preview of Windows 10 by showing how the OS can work seamlessly across form factors. With a Surface Pro 3 two-in-one computer, you can switch between a tablet with touch controls and a laptop that has a keyboard and mouse (or touchpad). Just remove the keyboard, and the device switches to tablet.
Windows 10 is a very ambitious undertaking, but it could help Microsoft finally migrate off the desktop and onto mobile devices and the wider world of the IoT.