September 9, 2015

by Jeffrey A.

We have been accustomed to new Desktop Operating Systems from Microsoft every few years with the promise of improved reliability and security with a more modern interface while still maintaining backward compatibility.   It seems like every other version of Windows “gets it right” with broad user adoption and OEM support. While Windows 8 boasted faster booting and the touch-based Metro Interface with rectangular tiles, it also suffered from a split personality including a disjoint Desktop Mode, which looked somewhat like Windows 7 minus the familiar Start Menu, which was partially brought back in Windows 8.1.

On July 29, 2015, Microsoft released the initial version of Windows 10. Here are some initial impressions:

User Interface Windows 10 has a new Start Menu, which combines a less flexible version of the Windows 7 Start Menu for those more comfortable with using the keyboard and mouse, as well as components of the Windows 8 tile interface (see the picture below). The new Windows 10 tablet mode provides much of the touch capability of Windows 8.1 featuring spread-out tiles with limited groupings and the Start options hidden under the “triple horizontal line” icon in the upper left.

Compatibility This is one area where Windows 10 shines. There are no huge application security model or driver architecture changes, as there were when moving from Windows XP to Windows Vista, or Windows XP to Windows 7. In the few cases where a compatibility problem exists, the installer highlights those and tells you what you can do about it (if applicable). Any application running on Windows 7/8/8.1 will run just fine on Windows 10.

Windows Universal Apps Microsoft is pushing hard to join the world of Apps that Apple and Android have made ubiquitous. The Universal Windows app experience has improved significantly for Windows 10 from the Windows 8.1 experience. With the introduction of the single, unified Windows 10 core and the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), one app package can run across all platforms. You now build one Universal Windows app that runs on all Windows 10 devices. Run your app on a Windows 10 phone, a Windows 10 desktop, or Xbox. It’s the same app package. You can design your pages so they render properly no matter what device is used to view them.

Browser Microsoft’s first modern browser and arguably its most advanced Windows Universal app program, looks poised to take on Firefox and Chrome head-to-head. It has a streamlined new design, runs fast, and is closing in on its rivals in HTML5 support. Edge is more secure than Internet Explorer because it doesn’t support any of the residual add-ins such as ActiveX, Silverlight, Custom Navigation Bars, Browser Helper Objects, VBScript nor attachEvent. For those that rely on these components, Internet Explorer 11 is also included with Windows 10.

The Microsoft Edge browser has basic features, with good annotation options that could come in handy to those who are looking to enhance collaboration on the web, but it still lacks a number of key features such as an option to save annotations as screenshots. One of the major features that Microsoft will be adding soon is extension support, which should further enhance browser functionality in a way that’s already seen in other browsers.

Microsoft is working to add Google Chrome extension support, which basically means that you should be able to pick extensions designed to work in Google’s browser and then install them to run in Edge. All Edge extensions will be published in the Windows Store after being verified first. This extension support for Edge is projected to arrive sometime in the next few months, most likely in October, as part of a larger Windows 10 update.

Should You Upgrade to Windows 10? Windows 10 boots faster, works faster, and seems much more robust than either Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1. Windows 7 upgraders can take advantage of many Windows 8 improvements: a better Task Manager, more functional File Explorer (though it still doesn’t support tabs), Storage Spaces to manage all of your drives in a group, File History, built-in antivirus, and the considerable under-the-hood improvements in Windows 8.

Other ease-of-use improvements include smoother in-place upgrades. Cortana is starting to become a viable “assistant,” and if you’re willing to let Microsoft look at your activities. The potential for Cortana help extends into every interaction you have with Windows. On that note, please pay close attention to the default Security and Privacy Settings, especially if you log in with a Microsoft account rather than a local account. Windows 10 default settings maximize the collection of information and can also auto-connect to and share Wi-Fi hotspots, which can expose your computer to malware and other vulnerability exploits. It is recommended that you go through the Settings and turn off these “information collection” features that you don’t need or use.   If you have already taken the Windows 10 plunge, also keep on top of the Security Patches for both the OS itself and the Edge Browser. Plug-in support, which includes Web Security add-ons, is still not ready and is slated for a future release. There are many good features in Windows 10, but a finished or good baselined product is still a work in progress.

The Future of Windows The initial release of Windows 10 on July 29 was more of a consumer version with the back-to-school crowd in mind. The next major release of Windows 10 won’t appear until October or thereabouts, in the form of Threshold 2. Think of TH2 as an accelerated Service Pack 1, ready for the enterprise.

The new service-based strategy for Windows is another sign that Microsoft is catching up with other modern technology companies. In the years following Satya Nadella’s appointment to CEO, the new leader has not only emphasized the importance of cloud and mobile, but the power of being a services company.

Microsoft’s decision to deliver Windows as a service, with smaller incremental updates, does not equate to a lack of major feature rollouts on the horizon. The mobile version of Windows 10 will be released after the desktop release, with new interactive technologies on the horizon such as HoloLens.