It’s finally here. Windows 10 has been in testing by Windows Insiders for the better part of the last year. Dubbed ‘The Last Windows you will ever need’ by some, the revolution has begun. Back in September of 2014, Microsoft announced their successor to the much maligned Windows 8. To everyone’s surprise, they named it Windows 10 but why?
Windows 10 is a large departure from previous Windows versions, but it stays true to its roots. With Windows 8, Microsoft attempted to push the world away from their evil ways, eschewing Win32 apps and programs and tried (and failed) to introduce a new touch-centric user interface. It’s still in Windows 10 but better implemented; Windows 10 sneaks into your house instead of barging in with a steam roller. Programs you know and love just work, anti virus is a thing of the past with Windows Defender (unless you’re on *that* part of the web, then we suggest you get Kaspersky) and security updates are seamless and unobtrusive. This Windows is so much better, so much more than just an operating system that it skips to 10. So what is new?
Microsoft announced the new Continuum user interface that is integrated with Windows 10 and Windows Mobile. This makes your PC/Tablet/Phone a whole new category of device. In the past you’d have to lug around two or more devices, depending on what you wanted to achieve throughout the day. With Continuum, devices like the Surface Pro 3 come to life. When your device is ‘touch only,’ you receive a prompt that gives you the option of going into ‘Tablet Mode’. When you connect a keyboard and mouse, a prompt will pop up, giving you the option of moving back to Desktop Mode.
With your phone (limited to new Windows Mobile 10 hardware), you can dock into one of the upcoming docking stations and turn your phone into a fully fledged PC by connecting a display and mouse and keyboard to it. But your phone remains usable, as you can still send and receive calls and messages while working on a spreadsheet on the larger display. We’ll see more on this when Microsoft announces their new Windows 10 Lumia devices later this year.
Virtual assistants are everywhere these days. When you turn on any device these days, some chirpy voice pops up asking you what your favourite types of music are, so it’s only fitting that the most advanced virtual assistant made its way to Windows 10. Microsoft launched the Cortana AI on Windows Phone 8.1 and also announced that she’ll make iOS and Android devices more friendly soon.
Cortana is unobtrusive in a way that is unique. You have the option to turn her off, and you have full control over how much she knows about you. It features a nifty notebook that allows you to check up on her from time to time, so you know exactly what she’s tracking.
Microsoft is very adamant about allowing its users access to their services on whichever device you have. With Cortana, you can schedule a meeting right from your desktop and get the notification on your phone. Location based reminders are also possible, when you need to pick up flowers, it will keep track of your location and let you know when you’re near a listed Florist in your area.
Cortana will be available on Windows 10 devices in the US, Canada, UK, Spain, China, Latin America, Australia, and more when it launches and will expand to more countries in the coming months.
The gaming revolution is here, and Microsoft is at the forefront of the march. Microsoft announced the new, highly advanced API, called DirectX 12, which will supercharge any device to allow amazing graphics and gameplay for even the most casual of gamers. With DirectX 12, some have seen up to 1000% improvement in draw calls over Windows 7 and 8 based graphics API’s on the same hardware, and it’s only the beginning.
DirectX 12 will allow you to install multiple graphics cards from different vendors; for example, you can install an AMD Radeon graphics card and double up with the latest Nvidia GeForce graphics card on the same system. Before Windows 10, this was all impossible. and this will give gamers the opportunity to get the best of both worlds when building their next gaming system.
Microsoft also allows you to stream your Xbox One games to your PC with the new Xbox App. If you own an Xbox One and want to achievement hunt in the bedroom on your Surface tablet, now you can. Just connect you Xbox controller via USB or the new wireless dongle, run the Xbox app and enjoy your games at 1080p 30fps. Want to take it even further with virtual reality? Well Microsoft announced a dual partnership with both Oculus and Valve, which will allow you to stream the Master Chief to your face.
Microsoft turned Windows 10 into the gamer’s dream operating system. Xbox One users will also get some Windows 10 love with the new Xbox Dashboard with Windows 10 and DirectX12 which will supercharge gaming right across the board.
Live on the Edge
Gone are the days of Internet Explorer. Microsoft finally replaced the loathed browser with a new, fresh and fast one (112% faster than Chrome) in Windows 10. The new browser keeps the familiar ‘e’ icon, but that’s where the similarities stop. Built from the ground up with a Microsoft Trident Webkit supported engine and a minimalist user interface, Microsoft Edge beats the competition where it hurts. Microsoft Edge is fully HTML5 compliant and will play nice with Webkit based websites. The browser is also fully independent from the operating system, which means they will rapidly update it instead of the current ‘once when it suits us’ model.
Microsoft also announced full extension support for those who want to run their favourite Chrome extensions. However this will be available after launch.
Cortana also finds her way into the browser, with full search functionality support built right in. Whenever you visit a site, Cortana will give you relevant information such as the company’s closing times, their location near you and even their menu (if you’re looking at a restaurant). Cortana will also give you a weather update when you type ‘weather’ into the address bar.
Microsoft Edge gives you full pen support as well. Internet Explorer was the best touch based browser available, and this was extended to Microsoft Edge with full pen and touch support. With pen support, you can make notes directly on a website and save or share it with your colleagues using OneNote. It’s a great time to ditch that nausea inducing browser/s and switch to Microsoft Edge.
When Windows 8 crashed down like a Titan in Titanfall, everyone and their local media outlet had a collective fit over the new Start Menu. Windows 8 forced a full screen Start experience on users that was jarring and complicated (to some). With Windows 10, Microsoft took that criticism and made the experience better by allowing you to choose, based on your use case scenario.
When you click on the Start Button, the menu will pop into view just like you expect (a la Windows 7). You will still see the Live Tiles for apps and contacts you wish to see, but the rest of the apps are available by clicking on the familiar ‘All Apps’ button. This should appease the millions of users who found the Windows 8 start experience a bit hard to understand. The new start menu will also feature app suggestions from the store to let you know if there is a new, interesting app based on your use cases, and remember this is also optional.
Microsoft also introduced the revamped Action Center for notifications and quick settings. When you click on the notification button at the bottom right corner, the Action Center will pop into view, giving you quick access to all your recent notifications and toggles for settings such as WiFi and Sound.
Windows 8 introduced the Windows App store with new and fun games and apps, just as you expect from a device in this day and age. However, because the apps were full screen, people tended to stay away from the app store, as the experience was less than stellar for most. With Windows 10, apps will now run as windows on the desktop. The new Windows store will also introduce classic Windows applications which will run in a virtual ‘box’. Something I’ve been waiting for since I started using Windows. This will keep your system safe from those unwanted updates which will install malware you do not need or want (cough Adobe cough).
Uninstalling these apps and games will be easier and will not mess up your system. Since they’re installed in their own little virtual environment, when you remove them, every drop of information will be gone. This also means that you don’t need to scour the web for your favourite program. If it’s not on the Windows App store, you shouldn’t install it.
Death of Control Panel
Back in 2001, Microsoft revealed the updated settings panel with Windows XP, which featured a new context aware settings page instead of the original icons based Control Panel. Today, we see the new Settings app in Windows 10, which simplifies it even more for users, so they can quickly find and adjust popular settings. You can also search and pin them to your start menu or desktop for quick access.
For those who like to tinker, Microsoft still allows for deeper access to settings with the original Control Panel. This can be accessed by right-clicking on the Start Menu. Microsoft has admitted that they will be moving away from the classic Control Panel, but we’ll see how long it will take. It would be nice to get all settings from one centralized Settings App.
Is it worth it?
Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8 users, and Windows Insiders will get a free upgrade as well. But is it worth the upgrade from Windows 7 or 8? Yes. Based on security alone this upgrade is well worth the price (or lack thereof) of admission. If you have an activated and genuine copy of Windows, you should have already seen the upgrade offer in your task bar, and I suggest you grab it today, if you haven’t already. Not to mention that you will be updated to any new Windows release for free in the future for, as long as your device is supported (meaning your hardware specifications are supported).
Windows 10 will offer users the most secure platform in this changing world where all your information will be safe. Your PC will recognize you and tell you jokes when you’re down, it will change to the way you use your PC and it won’t force you into something you don’t want (unless you hate automatic updates). Updates and upgrades will happen seamlessly over time, and you do not need to worry about any update breaking your system. Windows 10 is the operating system of the future, and your data and information will go where you go thanks to the seamless integration with your smartphone or tablet.
Change is here, and you should be one of the billion users who will be using and enjoying the next frontier of computing.