People expected a new Windows operating system to be unveiled last Tuesday at a Microsoft event, and they were not disappointed. The new platform has been named Windows 10, and shipments will start in the second half of 2015.
When Microsoft announced a ‘Windows Event’ at San Francisco on September 30, everyone started looking forward to a ‘Windows 9’ platform – which would be much better than the mess called Windows 8. Joe Belfiore and Terry Myerson sprung a mild surprise at the event, by announcing that the new version of the PC operating system would be named ‘Windows 10’ (that’s right, no 9 here!). Without getting into the pointless discussion on why 10 came directly after 8, let us directly dive into some of the best features of the operating system:
- Return of the ‘Start’ Menu – Yes – not the Start screen or the Start button – but the good ol’ Start Menu is making a return on Windows 10. It would be much in line with the menu on Windows 7 (with the Windows symbol, and not the actual letters). The live tiles feature on Windows 8.1 found appreciation among web and mobile app developers – and it is continued in the new platform.
- Enhanced multitasking – Microsoft has clearly taken a cue from Mac Systems, for designing the all-new multiple desktop system/Task View feature. You can now set one particular layout as your home screen – and create/simultaneously work on several other screens, which would remain open. Toggling across screens is easy (if you are a Mac-user, you would know all about it). No longer do you have to pile one browser window upon another.
- Continuum – This is probably the most user-friendly feature on Microsoft’s new computer OS. Via Continum, a PC can automatically change modes – depending on the hardware accessories attached to it and/or the precise requirements or users. For instance, if the keyboard is detached, buttons would appear on the screen for seamless navigation. It’s not exactly clear how the Continuum feature would work on non-touch based systems though.
- Purchasing apps in bulk – App development experts are raving about the volume-based app purchase option that Windows 10 offers. Virtual organizational app stores can be created, and it’s easy to manage the licenses of purchased applications as well. Deployment of the apps in diverse scenarios is not difficult either. Like Windows 8, this OS version is optimized for tablet-users too.
- Split screens – Windows 8.1 did provide glimpses of the Snap View, but Windows 10 takes this method of multitasking to a whole new level. You will now be able to view as many as four different screens at the same time (arranged at the four corners of your computer screen). The quality of the split screens would depend, of course, on the resolution level set on your machine.
- Arrival of Universal Apps – What used to be Metro Apps in Windows 8 has been renamed and re-arranged as Universal Apps in Windows 10. The highlight about this new app model is that – it will be compatible with all other, older applications in the Windows store. Mobile app development experts have also confirmed that Universal apps can be installed and used on Windows Phone. Not quite a challenger to iOS or Android apps yet – but certainly a step in the right direction by Microsoft.
- Azure Active Directory arrives – Do not have a Microsoft account, and are worried about security threats? With Windows 10 (technical previews now available), you can bid adieu to such apprehensions. On the new OS, users will be able to log in to their systems with their Azure AD credentials. The login information can also be securely stored in the cloud network. It sure seems like system hackers will have a tough time to break into updated Windows 10 PCs!
- Web results in Universal Search – The search box below the Start menu has also been tweaked about – in a bid to enhance its functionality. In addition to looking up files and folders stored in your computer, you can also look up web results related to any particular query (for example, the Wikipedia page for anything) directly from the search box. A nice option for users to start availing internet services without having to launch a browser separately every time.
- High-end enterprise features – Windows 10 is by far the most enterprise-user-oriented operating system launched by Microsoft. As software analysts and app developers have been saying for months, Windows 8 never became popular – and people wanted an alternative to Windows 7 (support to Windows XP has, of course, already been withdrawn). The new platform will keep personal and business data separate, and would come with extra provisions for secure mobile device management.
- Apps would now ‘float’ – Web applications on Windows 10 is not only about the presence of Universal Apps. The apps would now ‘float’ on their respective desktops – lending the user-interface (UI) a modernized, sophisticated appearance. People would also have the option to check out more options with these ‘floating’ apps (with the ‘…’ icon). The right-side of the screen no longer has those slightly irritating Commands (under Charms).
- Computing security like never before – Web and mobile app analysts place key emphasis on the issue of data security. Microsoft has done a great job in this regard, by incorporating Server Side Includes authentication in the new PC platform. All forms of user credentials will be auto-checked thoroughly (including password alternatives, if any) – before the requested data is made available from the database. There are pre-tested options for both general consumer authentication and enterprise authentication.
- A facelift for the Command Prompt – If you are one of the few who needs to use the command prompt regularly – here’s a bit of good news for you. The developers at Microsoft have created convenient keyboard shortcuts for the command prompt – including pasting the commands. This might not be a groundbreaking feature, but is definitely a welcome addition.
- Per-application VPN framework – Yet another state-of-the-art virtual security feature that Windows 10 users will be able to avail of. The built-in Virtual Private Network (VPN) would help in screening every application separately, which means that only a select collection of apps would be allowed on the platform. Apps and ports can be remotely accessed as well. Chances of an app with malware being present on your system would be minimal.
- A better Windows Explorer – The default view of the Windows Explorer has been changed to a Home location. This can potentially take up the utility of the Explorer by a couple of notches. The taskbar will also have a dedicated ‘Share’ button. Once again, we will have to wait and see whether a similar button is present in the Context menu as well.
- More frequent updates – Windows 10 will stay a step ahead of its last successful predecessor, Windows 7, in terms of business updates. IT admins will get the option to either lock the Windows environments of workers at office, or opt for the more open consumer-level updates. The critical security updates and patches will be automatically installed – so no worries there.
For those who are still wondering about the no-show of ‘Windows 9’, there are two alternative explanations. The first (and most logical) one is that Windows 10 is actually version 6.4 of the OS platform – the successor of version 6.3, which was…you guessed it…Windows 8.1. The other one might also have some grains of truth in it – Microsoft wishes to quickly put the debacle of Windows 8 behind it, hence the gap. Of course, there never had been a hard and fast numerical pattern to the PC operating systems from Windows (remember XP, NT, Vista, and the older 95 and 98?).
The first-look and preliminary screenshots suggest that Microsoft has done a good job with the new platform. It becomes available next year – and that will be when the public verdict on it will be out.
At least, it shouldn’t be an unmitigated disaster like Windows 8!