Image from Microsoft
First announced in September, Windows 10 has become available as a free upgrade in 190 countries. According to a blog posted by Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group (WDG) at Microsoft, the release which represents a “new era of Windows” is the beginning of the company’s plan to deliver on a vision of “one platform, one store, and one experience that extends across the broadest range of devices from the smallest screens to the largest screens to no screens at all.”
Windows is used by over 1.5 billion people in every country of the world, according to Microsoft. To encourage uptake of Windows 10, it is being offered as a free upgrade to Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 customers.
Addressing the ubiquity of mobile devices for business use, and an increasing emphasis on anywhere anytime access, Windows 10 will run across devices, with a tailored experience for each device, and also adds greater security enhancements.
New Features in Windows 10
Among the new capabilities, explained Myerson, is that Windows is both “fast and familiar,” designed to be compatible with the hardware, software and peripherals users already own, offering updates on features and security, and utilizing OneDrive online storage, to enable sharing and keep files up to date across devices.
Windows 10 is also more secure with enhanced Windows Defender and Smart Screen to help safeguard against viruses, malware and phishing. In addition, another layer of security, Windows Hello (which requires specialized hardware, including fingerprint reader, illuminated IR sensor or other biometric sensors) is available to greet a user by name providing a password-free way to log in.
In addition, Windows 10 aims to get more personal and more productive, with Voice, Pen and Gesture input allow users to more naturally interact with their PC, and new Office Mobile Apps, and other features.
And finally, supporting a better experience and new devices, the new Microsoft Edge browser allows users to more quickly browse, read, and mark up and share the web.
Industry Experts Weigh In
IT industry leaders commented on the significance of the new platform, what it means for widespread enterprise adoption, and the relevance of the free upgrade offer.
“Windows 10 continues the recent devaluation of desktop (and indeed server) software. By giving Windows 10 upgrades for free, Microsoft is acknowledging the increasing difficulty of monetizing desktop software,” said Guy Harrison, executive director of R&D at Quest Software and a DBTA columnist. “The ‘one-year free’ time window seems designed to encourage migration from older platforms with an aim to accelerating the sunset of those platforms.”
This seems to indicate a greater interest in decreasing costs of maintaining older versions, rather than seeing new versions as an opportunity to generate new revenue, Harrison said, asking: “If the money for Microsoft is not in server software, and the money is not in desktop software, then where is the money? The obvious answer is in SaaS and the cloud.”
Other market experts were enthusiastic about the opportunity presented by the new release, but suggested that caution should be taken with any upgrade, even one that can be had for free.
The Need for Testing
At IT management software provider SolarWinds, Thomas LaRock, senior technical product marketing manager and head geek, cautioned that deployment plans must include a review of new features in order to minimize risks. “Most companies prefer to let the market do their testing, which is why a bulk of companies will likely refrain from migrating until around the time of the first service pack. Doing so minimizes risk and gives companies an idea as to how to best to move forward, including the potential need to file additional audit exceptions in order to continue running older OS versions past their support dates.”
Craig S. Mullins, DBTA columnist and president of Mullins Consulting, Inc., agreed that despite the allure of new features and the return of the familiar Start menu, many users will wait to let the market do the testing before jumping in with both feet.
“Windows 10 should be a significant operating system for both businesses and home users alike. It promises to bring back some of the traditional interface elements that were jettisoned (or at least well-hidden) when Windows 8 took the leap into the touch-screen tablet world. For example, the Start menu is back and that should make everybody happy,” Mullins said.
It will be interesting to watch the market as it decides not just whether to update their PCs, but how quickly, Mullins added. “The fact that Windows 10 can be had for free for most users is compelling, but it would surprise me if enterprise customers made the leap immediately when Windows 10 becomes available. Moving to a new operating system, no matter how well-tested, is not a trivial and should not be undertaken without planning and attention. Sure, you might try it on a home PC or laptop, but probably not on your company’s equipment – at least not until the IT department is ready.”
The release of Windows 10 actually provides good opportunity for organizations to review their infrastructure plans regarding how to best deploy and manage a new OS, but also how and when to retire the oldest systems still in use, said LaRock.
And there is no urgency to move fast, Mullins pointed out. Users have a year to install Windows 10 for free, so they should take their time. Users should check to make sure their PCs can support Windows 10, he said, and they can check for appropriate drivers, application support and hardware requirements using Windows Update.
What It Means for Developers
While the new release introduces many features and onboarding programs to entice adoption, its success will ultimately depend on continued support from software developers, observed John "JT" Thomas, senior director of applications development products at Embarcadero Technologies in a recent DBTA article.
Windows 10 may be one of the biggest releases in Microsoft’s history, Thomas noted. “Software developers want and need to support widely adopted platforms, and Windows 10 appears to be ready for rapid deployment with its free upgrade program, wide testing and UX improvements.”
In addition, Thomas said, “Developers also need to be enabled with new capabilities to help drive the end user adoption, and again Windows 10 appears to be addressing that in meaningful ways with its UWP bridge projects, Centennial for classic Windows apps, Astoria for Android, Islandwood for iOS, and Westminster for web apps. In summary, every developer has an opportunity with Windows 10, and that is going to make all the difference.”
Blending Old and New
But, as one observer pointed out, a key advantage going for the new Windows release is as much what it is not, as what it is. Windows 10 provides an upgrade path that circumvents Windows 8. “With the new release, Microsoft has combined the best of the old features with the new features and upgrading is a ‘no-brainer’ decision at this point,” said Michael Corey, a Microsoft SQL Server Most Valuable Professional (MVP), as well as founder and president of Ntirety, now a division of HOSTING.
“I can finally upgrade from Windows 7,” said Corey, who praised the portability in Windows 10 up and down the stack, across laptops and tablets. And, expressing a sentiment that appears to be widely shared, Corey pointed out, “Even though Windows 8 and 8.1 had great new features, the UI design forced users into new habits, making it undesirable to upgrade.”
Still, moving to a new operating system, “no matter how well-tested, is not trivial and should not be undertaken without planning and attention,” said Mullins. “Sure, you might try it on a home PC or laptop, but probably not on your company’s equipment – at least not until the IT department is ready.”