Today Microsoft held an event in San Francisco announcing the next version of Windows. There were a lot of rumors going into the event regarding the name and pricing. Some of those were answered, some were not, but there were definitely a few surprises.
The event featured Terry Myerson, Microsoft executive vice president of operating systems and Joe Belfiore, Microsoft corporate vice president, operating systems group, giving a peek at an early build of Windows 10 along with offering insight into future direction. The event was open to a small group of industry insiders and was not live streamed. My thoughts in this post are based on my impressions and interpretations of multiple live blogs that took place during the event.
First let’s deal with the name – Windows 10. First question that comes to most people’s mind is: “What happened to Windows 9?” Terry and Joe answered this as a vision that this is not an incremental update to Windows – this is a monumental step forward. Honestly, time will tell whether this is born out in reality or if it is simply marketing fluff. My first impression is that there is reason to hope that this will indeed be a significant release. Several fundamental aspects of Windows 10 were mentioned outright or inferred that piqued my interest.
Fitting with the “One” theme that is coming out of Redmond lately, this release was described as a product family that ties together all device form factors: phones, tablets, PCs, and even Internet of Things or IoT devices. Not that they would all have the same interface, but there would be a common code base. Along with that, they announced that there would be a common application experience and a single application store. This is a switch from the current scenario where Windows Phone and the Windows tablet/PC OS have different applications and stores.
There were also a few interesting bullet points regarding the applicability of Windows 10 for use in the enterprise. This is one area that gives me significant hope given the slow adoption of Windows 8 in the enterprise. While I have personally enjoyed Windows 8/8.1, I can also understand the reasons that many enterprises have not chosen to widely adopt it. One of the biggest objections I have heard from customers has been that Windows 8 was too much of a leap in user interface (UI) design. The concern was that there would be too much cost involved in training thousands of corporate users to use Windows 8. With that in mind, it was refreshing to see “familiar, compatible, productive” tweets of the event. As Microsoft fleshed out what that meant, it does appear that they have been listening to corporate users and have made what appear to be some very nice adjustments. These include:
- Bringing back the Start Menu, but with a big improvement on the old Windows 7 Start Menu. While I have personally liked the Windows 8 Start Screen, I do understand the concern about pushing this down to thousands of corporate users. The demo of Windows 10 included some very nice adjustments to the Start Menu that looked like a nice melding of a Start Menu with the customizations allowed by the Windows 8 Start Screen. In short, I can see this being a very good answer to objections from corporate IT while still allowing for very nice customization that was offered by the Start Screen. The key to this one is that it looks familiar to users. Familiarity is often a critically key component for adoption. One quote on familiarity came from Joe Belfiore: “We want all these Windows 7 users to have the sentiment that yesterday they were driving a first-generation Prius…and now with Windows 10 it’s like a Tesla.” If Microsoft pulls that off, they will have made a huge step toward better enterprise adoption of Windows 10.
- Computer management was mentioned at a very high level. This one in particular intrigued me because of Paul Thurrott’s tweet: “With Windows 10, customers will be able to use MDM to manage all PCs, phones, tablets, industry IoT devices. Not just phones and tablets.” Given that Windows 10 will have what sounds like a common code base across all devices, it makes sense that the management of them could be greatly simplified. It also sounds a bit like a blog post I had on my personal blog last March where I described “A Hypothetical Future of SCCM”. Could it really get to be as simple as something like Windows Intune? We’ll see what this looks like in reality, but this could very well be a foundational shift.
- Universal Apps (formerly known as Metro apps) run in windows. They look like normal apps on a regular PC. As they should. While I use a significant number of them on my personal Surface 2, I don’t use very many at all on my non-touch screen ThinkPad T530. I believe that making them less immersive for users of a traditional PC will drive a larger adoption of these apps.
- A change to the touch UI (named Continuum) was also demo’d. This adjusts the UI experience depending on whether a mouse and keyboard are present or not. This addresses one of the biggest complaints I have heard from users – that Windows 8 tried to force the modern UI on non-touch laptops when it didn’t make sense. The screenshots I saw appear to be a valiant attempt to address this issue.
There were other features that were demo’d that I won’t delve into in this post. These included Snap Assist to enable easier multitasking, multiple desktops and allowing keyboard shortcuts in the Command Prompt. I expect smaller changes of this nature and more, but I wanted to focus this post on the more fundamental changes that we can expect.
Availability for Windows 10 was announced as being later in 2015, although no firm date was given. There will be a preview available beginning October 1 through the Window Insider Program.
In a nutshell, I am intrigued and excited about the future of Windows. I will be joining the Windows Insider Program and am looking forward to seeing how this develops.