Windows 10 innovations that will impress your colleagues
It’s coming! On 29 July 2015 Windows 10 will be released. The question is: Are we ready for it? Looking back to the olden days of Windows 7 and 8 (with a brief foray into Windows 8.1 and Windows 9 a mere rumour), a lot has changed in just a few years and here are a few examples of what’s to come.
Users can source content for all Windows devices from a single point. Apps, video and music will all come from the same portal rather than different stores for Xbox, Windows and Windows Phone. Conversely, apps will work across platform so the same program will run on a tablet, phone or Xbox. Larger organisations will even be able to create their own customised app stores for employees, and businesses may be allowed to reclaim licenses.
- Windows 7: Apps found all over the place. Different devices, different app functions – where do you start?
- Windows 8: Little improvement from Windows 7 when it comes to sourcing and downloading apps.
- Windows 10: A unified app store for all Windows devices, from phones to giant screens.
Return of the Startup menu
The Startup menu is back (to the relief of desktop users). Not a big change, but a welcome one and a sign that Microsoft is listening to concerns large and small of customers, especially those who couldn’t use Windows 8. As an added bonus, the Search function in the Start menu now performs both local and web searches. No more swiping from the right of the screen to find the charms bar either – result!
- Windows 7: The Startup Menu was effective and without frills. It looked about the same as it always had and everyone was happy with that.
- Windows 8: Start button eliminated. Live Tiles introduced and everything seems geared towards touchscreen, with users having to swipe right and left with the mouse.
- Windows 10: Start button restored. Live Tiles modified for desktop users and much of the touchscreen feel changed to a more intuitive or traditional mode.
Continuum Mode enables easy switching between desktop and touchscreen
Continuum Mode has a new Start Screen for two-in-one PCs, and will adjust the user-interface accordingly depending on which hardware is in place. Windows 10 will be able to switch back and forth between touchscreen and keyboard/mouse settings on devices that support both, and for convertible devices there are two modes: desktop and tablet. This means you can bring your work wherever you go and switch easily between device modes to suit your environment (trains, cafés, kitchen table). You’ll be able to switch from work mode with an essential mouse keyboard (editing PowerPoint presentations, updating data in Excel spreadsheets, researching new suppliers with the keyboard) to home mode (surfing the web for holidays, gifts and the all-important Friday night takeaway) with only the touchscreen necessary.
- Windows 7: Touchscreen devices are not yet universally popular so it’s likely that desktop and touchscreen devices were always separate entities – read ‘at least twice as expensive’.
- Windows 8: Cumbersome switching capabilities with certain devices.
- Windows 10: Free adaptation of the interface depending on the hardware a device is running.
Office available for all devices
From a tiny phone to an 80-inch screen, Windows can now be accessed on all devices. This is especially good for businesses that use Office as the apps on Windows 10 mean users can create and edit Word documents, annotate PowerPoint slides in real time and make use of the brand new touch-first controls in Excel to update spreadsheets without a keyboard or mouse. Work can now truly be taken anywhere and viewed on all manner of screens.
- Windows 7: Office 2010 can be used by both desktop and touchscreen aficionados.
- Windows 8: Office 2013 works with the cloud and has had a visual makeover. It can be used for free as an Office app, without some of the features of the full program – not ideal for businesses.
- Windows 10: Fully accessible on all devices, making mobile working on a single machine an actual ability rather than something to cobble together with a handful of company devices.
What’s coming in Windows 10?
Business-focused Enterprise platform
“Windows 10 is our best enterprise platform ever,” says Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group. Businesses will benefit from the Enterprise OS with better corporate data protection and other features tailored exclusively for their professional needs, such as the ability to simplify management and deployment. New hardware has been tested as resistant to recent cyber attacks, making data doubly secure. Businesses can opt in for the faster-paced consumer updates or specify their desire only for critical and security updates as it suits them. They can also sign up for new innovations only after the developments have been tested in the wider market. And what’s truly amazing, these update settings can be modified for different devices within a single company – a truly bespoke option.
- Windows 7: Mobile users gained access to corporate networks without a VPN, and data protection was enhanced to include removable drives, with encryption and back-up also improved. Security updates – just keep counting them.
- Windows 8: Security measures continued to strengthen, but users refused an update at their peril, even if they would never benefit from it.
- Windows 10: Flexible updates where businesses can opt in or out to the faster-paced cycle as well as examine mission critical apps for groups as they become available.
What’s good in our book?
Edge browser replaces Internet Explorer (and maybe even Chrome)
This is a completely new and a less RAM-hungry alternative to Chrome that businesses will love. Once called Project Spartan, Edge has grown up to become Windows 10’s default browser and Internet Explorer is officially legacy software support. New features include a screengrab tool for touchscreen doodling, reading mode and a note pad. Interestingly, Cortana has been built into the browser, making for customised search results as well as directions and restaurant review you’ll find handy for those all-important client lunches. It looks pretty good, too, with a dual-functioning address bar that doubles as a search field, as well as the familiar tabbed view. Enterprise Mode is even compatible with existing web apps.
- Windows 7: internet Explorer remains the default browser: familiar and slightly outdated.
- Windows 8: Internet Explorer is the default browser, with many users installing Google Chrome, Firefox, Dogpile and other browsers as their preference.
- Windows 10: Edge replaces Internet Explorer with its new rendering engine, reading mode and link to Cortana. It may go on to trump other browsers with these improvements.
Improved display modes with Task View, Snap Assist and multiple desktops
Better thought-out displays are evident in the Task View button (gives an Exposé-style view of apps in use), Snap Assist UI (takes up to 4 apps to be snapped on the same screen) and multiple or virtual desktops (allow users to create and arrange desktops for different projects over several plains). It’s goodbye to clutter and hello to multi-tasking the easy way when you can filter the taskbar to show only the apps on your current desktop.
- Windows 7: Multi-monitor support is offered, but with limited success in mirror mode or as one big desktop. Snap exists in a very early version.
- Windows 8: No multiple desktops, just a lot of documents and folders to organize into filing systems, spreadsheets and subsets and––we’re getting flustered just thinking about how to keep all of that straight…
- Windows 10: The ability to work on different project simultaneously, without mess or fuss, and separate professional and personal work environments on one device.
A smarter, more proactive Cortana for everyone
We’ve been promised the virtual assistant to end all virtual assistants and it’s here on PCs and tablets. Although Cortana has been alive and kicking for some time, it takes centre stage with this release. There has been a visual redesign (black colour scheme) and the set-up process is easier. With a click at desktop level or a voice command, Cortana will be key to finding things out and getting stuff done at any odd moment during the working day. It also monitors your email, calendar and search to send you reminders and useful information when you most need it. Discover the weather forecast at your conference hotel or what traffic jams are occurring on your way to the airport, as well as updates on anything else you may want – current events, management resources, share prices and the match results of your manager’s favourite sports team. Help and the latest information are just a click away.
- Windows 7: A personal assistant? You’ll need to pay them a pension, have annual reviews and make small talk in the morning.
- Windows 8: Cortana only available on phones, with somewhat limited search functions and no regionality.
- Windows 10: Cortana comes to PCs, knows where you are, what temperature you prefer you coffee (just about) and the nearest place to serve it right.
Should your business switch to Windows 10?
It’s anticipated that Windows 10 will be the last full version of Windows and Windows may be offered as a service instead of a full-blown OS. Whether this pans out we’ll have to see but in the meantime it seems clear that an upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 will mean a great boost to professional development and tech investment for businesses. From a shorter boot-up time to greater hardware acceleration to the long list of software improvements, Windows 10 is paving the way for steep performance improvements – something to aim for in all areas of business life.
Microsoft has officially announced that Windows 10 will cost the same as Windows 8.1 in the UK. That means Windows 10 Home will cost roughly £80 and Windows 10 Professional will cost approximately £140. (Windows 7 is currently £67.95.) But the good news is that Windows 10 is available as a free upgrade for new or existing Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices, for those customers who upgrade in the first year.