Microsoft is counting on unprecedented user collaboration to help deliver platform unification with upcoming Windows 10.
When Microsoft released Windows 8 in late 2012, it marked a radical departure from the company’s operating system legacy, featuring a new interface designed for touchscreen, mouse, keyboard and pen input. It was Microsoft’s response to the “post-PC era” — an OS that would unify desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones and gaming consoles.
To date, however, neither businesses nor consumers have been overly enthusiastic. Windows 8 and version 8.1 combined currently have only about 12 percent of the OS market share, trailing Windows 7 (53 percent) and the out-of-support Windows XP (24 percent). Surveys show users have been confused over Windows 8’s dual user interfaces, have trouble accessing installed applications and can’t always figure out what apps they have open.
In an effort to address such user satisfaction issues, Microsoft changed its entire approach to the development of Windows 10, which is expected to launch in late summer 2015. The company’s new “Windows Insider” program represents its largest-ever open, collaborative development effort, and it is designed specifically to produce a much more intuitive final product.
Program participants receive the technical preview of Windows 10 and a steady stream of revisions, and they will be able to give feedback throughout the development cycle. There are various ways for these “insiders” to engage in a two-way dialogue with Microsoft, including a Windows Feedback app for sharing suggestions and issues and a Windows Technical Preview Forum for interacting with Microsoft engineers and fellow Insiders.
Even the name of the product represents an important shift for Microsoft. Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the company’s operating systems group, said they decided not to call this version Windows 9 because they consider it to be substantially more than an incremental product update.
Windows 10 adapts to the devices customers are using — from Xbox to PCs and phones to tablets and tiny gadgets — and what they’re doing with a consistent, familiar and compatible experience, enabling greater productivity. Windows 10 will run across the broadest range of devices ever, from the Internet of Things to enterprise data centers worldwide. Microsoft is also delivering a converged application platform for developers on all devices with a unified app store. Developers will be able to write an application once and deploy it easily across multiple device types, making discovery, purchase and updating easier than ever for customers.
Windows 10 builds nearly everything that businesses need right into the core of the product — including enterprise-grade security, identity and information protection features — in ways that can reduce complexities and provide better experiences than other solutions. One area of advancement is in the work Microsoft has done with user identities to improve resistance to breach, theft or phishing. Windows 10 will also help advance data loss prevention by using containers and data separation at the application and file level, enabling protection that follows the data as it goes from a tablet or PC to a USB drive, email or the cloud.
Management and deployment have been simplified to help lower costs, including in-place upgrades from Windows 7 or Windows 8 that are focused on making device wipe-and-reload scenarios obsolete. Businesses will also have the flexibility to choose how quickly they adopt the latest innovations and influence continued improvements. In addition, organizations will be able to customize an app store specific to their needs and environment. The intent is an app store that will allow for volume app licensing, flexible distribution, and the ability for organizations to reclaim or reuse licenses when necessary.
The early technical preview of Windows 10 demonstrates new levels of flexibility, navigation and familiarity throughout the Windows experience. Features include:
Expanded Start menu. The familiar Start menu is back, providing quick one-click access to the functions and files that people use most, and it includes a new space to personalize with favorite apps, programs, people and web sites.
Apps that run in a window. Apps from the Windows Store now open in the same format that desktop programs do. They can be resized and moved around, and have title bars at the top allowing users to maximize, minimize and close with a click.
Snap enhancements. Working in multiple apps at once is easier and more intuitive with snap improvements. A new quadrant layout allows up to four apps to be snapped on the same screen. Windows will also show other apps and programs running for additional snapping, and it will even make smart suggestions on filling available screen space with other open apps.
New Task view button. The new Task view button on the task bar enables one view for all open apps and files, allowing for quick switching and one-touch access to any desktop created.
Multiple desktops. Instead of too many apps and files overlapping on a single desktop, it’s easy to create and switch between distinct desktops for different purposes and projects — whether for work or personal use.
“Windows 10 represents the first step of a whole new generation of Windows, unlocking new experiences to give customers new ways to work, play and connect,” said Myerson. “This will be our most comprehensive operating system and the best release Microsoft has ever done for our business customers, and we look forward to working together with our broader Windows community to bring Windows 10 to life in the months ahead.”