Any of us who have been around in the tech industry for a year or twenty will remember that before Apple was what Apple has become, there was Microsoft… and they were the company you loved to hate (and hated to love). There was a time when we waited on the edges of our seats to see what was coming up in the next version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system (and then we would salivate while also joking that there is no way we’d be installing it until there was at least one major service pack). Thanks in part to the availability of solid alternatives plus a little sprinkle of Ballmer (whose goofiness made a lot of us take the company less seriously), it’s been a while since we cared about a new version of Windows. Until now. Windows 10 has now been previewed, and it actually sounds pretty fantastic.
Windows 7 was pretty solid. Windows 8 was basically a disaster. Windows 10 promises to pull the best from past versions, while leaving behind the stuff that just didn’t work.
At the top of the feature list is a makeover to the desktop experience that intends to provide a consistent user experience across all platforms (mobile and otherwise). Hard to disagree with that approach, given how interchangeable technology is these days –but what else can we look forward to with Windows 10?
- Cortana – Designed to be Microsoft’s version of the ever-popular digital assistant, Cortana looks like a combination of both Apple’s Siri and Google Now. If demo’s can be believed, Cortana listens more clearly (and responds more accurately) to voice commands than any of the competition.
- Universal Apps – Long gone are the days when users are willing to spend hundreds of dollars on individual software titles (especially when they only work for one platform and you end up buying secondary clients and access apps for your mobile devices as well). As an added bonus, Microsoft’s Xbox One is also included here.
- Project Spartan – So many people have a foul taste in their mouths over Internet Explorer. It’s wavered back and forth between being the only browser worth using and then the one that needs deleting (if only you could) more times than I can count. Microsoft isn’t abandoning their flagship browser entirely, but they are planning a new and separate web browser that is light-weight and Chrome-like.
- Updated Control Panel and Settings – Simply stated, Microsoft wants to give users more control without over-complicating things. With the addition of the new Action Center, a series of toggles will control common options like switching WiFi on and off. Configuration of notifications happens here as well, with syncing across all devices so if you handle something on one device it’s taken care of everywhere (Apple users will really appreciate this, I can’t tell you how many times I end up dismissing things like calendar alerts across all of my hardware).
- Continuum – A bit of a niche for those using convertibles, but very cool nonetheless. When docked with a keyboard and such, apps will behave in a windowed manner –pull them off the dock and use them tablet-style and the user interface adjusts accordingly. As long as this works as advertised, Continuum is all about the elegance and refinement that the corporate world really likes to get behind.
- Gaming – Finally! Microsoft is bridging the gap between their Xbox and all other Windows-based hardware by providing apps and interfaces that let you use it all together.
- Free Upgrades – As long as you are already running Windows 7 or 8.1, and you upgrade within the first year, Windows 10 will be free. This price-point is important because at this stage a large number of Windows users will only upgrade now when it falls under the heading of “what the heck, it’s free”.
- Skype Integration – Featured front and centre just like iMessage and FaceTime, Skype is the hub of text and video messaging for all Windows devices. If either Apple or Microsoft really wanted to impress me though, they’d make them fully compatible with each other (without having to use a different third-party app on both platforms).
- Microsoft Office Free for Mobile – Another stolen note from Apple’s playbook perhaps, but it seems Microsoft is finally going to offer their Office Suite (including Word, Excel, and Powerpoint) free of charge on Windows Phone and small tablets.
You may have noticed that I left Microsoft’s HoloLens out of my ‘features list’. This was intentional, due in large part to my confusion over why it was included in these announcements. It is an AR platform that displays 3D projections using a pair of rather goofy looking wireless goggles. No sense in talking much about it yet, the release date was very vague (in the Windows 10 time frame they suggested)… and typically with Microsoft this means to expect more than a few delays. For whatever my opinion is worth, I think Windows 10 is Microsoft’s last chance to impress the corporate world and prove they are still relevant –so trying to look all space age and Google-like just cheapened the rest of their news.
In case you wondered if this is still the same old Microsoft, rest assured they are… few companies hold huge launch events with only the vaguest of release dates for the wares they are showing off. In this case, you can expect Windows 10 to ship sometime (later) in 2015. Almost certainly. Probably. Likely. We hope.
Now, with that said, I do want to see it in action when it comes out.
Jillian Koskie is an experienced software developer, content writer, project manager and usability design expert. With over 17 years in these roles, Jillian has enjoyed applying her skill-set to assist clients and users across a wide variety of sectors including: legal, health, and financial services. Combining these professional opportunities with a love of technology, Jillian is pleased to contribute articles, opinions, and advice to numerous news outlets, websites, and publications.