Posted on May 20, 2015
On June 1, Microsoft announced that what is to be be the last version of its flagship OS, aka Windows 10 is coming on July 29 to a PC near you. The messenger of choice for this announcement, couldn’t have been more appropriate as it was Cortana, “the world’s most personal digital assistant”, with is freakishly natural sounding voice that took the center stage:
A month earlier, speaking at Microsoft’s Ignite conference, developer evangelist Jerry Nixon pointed out that:
“Right now we’re releasing Windows 10, and because Windows 10 is the last version of Windows, we’re all still working on Windows 10.”
and well before that, Microsoft’s Jim Alkove laid out the upgrade policy for Enterprise customers:
Windows 7 Enterprise and Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise are not included in the terms of free Windows 10 Upgrade offer we announced last week, given active Software Assurance customers will continue to have rights to upgrade to Windows 10 enterprise offerings outside of this offer – while also benefitting from the full flexibility to deploy Windows 10 using their existing management infrastructure.
Now, when changes like these come from a technology behemoth like Microsoft, companies, businesses, sys-admins and tech vendors all tend to freak out a little bit (usually a lot). So, in an effort to help cooler heads prevail we look at the top upcoming novelties in Windows 10 and what they mean for business users.
More Secure and Up To Date
Going the way of Apple, Microsoft is finally responding to the broader landscape changes by allowing their business customers (referring to them now as the Current branch for Business) to upgrade in a way that once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, Microsoft will continue to keep it current via Windows Update for the supported lifetime (Details on our device’ supported lifetime policy will be shared at a later time. apparently) of the device – at no cost. Now what is important here is that Microsoft is talking about devices thereby taking the next step towards a safe and secure BYOD enterprise policy. Specifically, by putting compatible devices on the Current branch for Business, enterprises will continue to receive security updates on a regular basis and also to receive feature updates after their quality and application compatibility has been assessed in the consumer market. This is meant to provide IT departments with some extra breathing room to start validating updates in their environments the day changes are shipped broadly to consumers, or in some cases,if they have users enrolled in the Windows Insider Program, even earlier. This goes a long way towards placating the more conservative and change averse among it’s clients. What this means in practical terms is that by the time Current branch for Business machines are updated, the changes will have been validated by millions of Insiders, consumers and customers’ internal test processes for several months, allowing updates to be deployed with this increased assurance of validation. Windows 10 Enterprise clients will be able to decide if they want to receive updates automatically via Windows Update, or if they wish to have full control over how the updates are distributed in their environments, through management tools (via WSUS).
Universal Windows Apps
The most important thing for Enterprise users is that Universal Windows apps will work across all devices. This basically simplifies the process for developers, and makes the Microsoft’s traditional money makers like Office 365, fit for the mobile world and beyond for the very first time. Developers can now build one app for a broad range of products, but it’s also good news for business pros juggling multiple devices for work and home. According to Microsoft, Windows 10 will ship with built-in universal apps for Messaging, Mail, Calendar, People, Photos, Videos, Maps, and Music. What can be expected is that all of them will have a similar appearance across devices, and of course content is stored and synced on OneDrive (although Microsoft did start integrating third party services like Dropbox and it shows a much more collaborative attitude to the broader tech ecosystem).
Basically this means that employees can can start a project on one device and continue on another. As expected the first universal apps supported on Windows 10 will be those from Microsoft Office, for Office 365 users this means that with the upcoming upgrade all your work will be mobile for the very first time, also versions for the main Office apps have already been released and are out of beta for Android and iOS. The Windows versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote have been redesigned for touch optimization across devices. this is definitely good news for doers who spend most of their time on smartphones and tablets, or prefer/need on-the-go productivity. The envisioned integration of Office 365 as an integral part of the Windows 10 experience is intended to allow users to create and edit Word documents, annotate and present PowerPoint slides, and build and update spreadsheets in Excel sans keyboard or mouse. Microsoft also made sure to getting as many businesses on board by announcing that Office universal apps will be free on smartphones and smaller tablets running Windows 10, and available for download on the Windows Store on all other devices.
Windows Continuum for Phones
Now here comes the good part, as one of the best new features in Windows 10 for smartphones (this is not backward compatible with the Nokia or similar smartphones running previous versions of Windows) is the ability to actually use a Windows Phone as a full-fledged computer, once you hook it up to a screen. If you have a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, you can plug them in and use it as a (almost) full ledged desktop if you’re so inclined.
As PCMag reports. the upcoming lines of Windows 10 phones/computers are expected to be a fully functional computing machine that, when combined with additional docking stations, can create the work space of a full two-monitor workstation along with keyboard and mouse.
This type of approach to devices explains a lot of recent Microsoft strategy and it’s goal to be the first to the unified OS mark; it’s clear (also having in mind Microsoft’s ridiculous R&D spending levels) that this product has been in the works for some time. It is in fact the pinnacle of the entire Microsoft cloud strategy and Office 365 service offering. It is now clear that Microsoft’s short lived acquisition of Nokia was just a well paid know-how plunder from Nokia Mobile. The already third revision of it’s Surface laptop/tablet along with a line of Microsoft branded devices worldwide means it was all worth it, and Microsoft is poised to once again take the OS crown even among skeptics and trolls – if they manage to pull this one off right.
Windows Store for multi-device purchases
What made and still makes Windows Phone inferior to Android and iOS mobile devices is its lack of apps. With a new Windows Store in Windows 10, Microsoft is once again betting that users would prefer a unified computing platform, and so now, users can buy apps once that work across their computers, smartphones, and tablets. Microsoft is doing their best, all things considered, to make it as simple as possible for app developers to want to make all of the good stuff available on Windows 10, because without it, users will still avoid their platform. Recently it was reported that they will also aim to control the pricing so a lot of the heavier enterprise apps will become more affordable and utilize the broad reach the Microsoft is hoping to offer. It was also announced that Microsoft will undertake sweeping changes to the Windows Store and says it will no longer allow the low-quality, me-too apps that currently clog its online storefront. This move is as overdue as it is welcome because the store today is filled with poor quality apps and many of the big Android and iOS publishers have simply ignored it (let’s hope that this is the moment they’ve been waiting for). What is important for developers is that Microsoft says that it is adoptingto a new app certification process with more “robust” rules that will protect developers who create good apps and help users avoid poor ones.
Cortana, the digital assistant
Microsoft’s answer to Siri and Google Now the truly personal digital assistant (the name Cortana is based off the character with the same name from the Halo video game series – by the way Cortana is an AI in the game), has been available for Windows Phone for a while now. The plan is to release it to separate apps for each mobile operating system and basically to enable it to run outside of Windows. Microsoft is only providing an early look at those apps today, according to them you’ll be able to make the same queries and ask the same questions using Cortana across Windows, iOS, or Android. The Cortana companion will be available for Android in late June and iOS later this year.
But by baking it right into Windows 10, Microsoft makes it a lot easier for users to get answers to simple questions, like “Hey Cortana, what’s the weather today?” or getting useful info like flight reminders and notifications straight from the desktop — something that Apple’s Siri can’t do but also something that actually brings AI-like functionality straight into the hands of power users. Also the release of Cortana on iOS and Android phones, it’s hoped to be the ultimate way for your Windows computer to play nice with your existing smartphone, whatever it may be.
Windows 10 is a huge leap forward for Microsoft, and an incredible boost in business productivity if implemented properly and of course if you train your people how to use the most out of the tools they have. It seems to be the first step that Microsoft takes towards responding to the multi device, multi resolution, multi screen modern workplace.
What businesses can apparently expect if they choose to connect end user machines to what we’ll for now reffer to as Windows Update is a reduction in management costs, instant access to security updates and critical fixes and access to the latest innovation from Microsoft on an ongoing basis. In any case we recommend keeping non-mission critical end user devices, while receiving updates automatically via Windows Update, as a best practice for Windows 10 for many enterprise users.
Watch the Microsoft Ignite Keynote