“We are focused on making Windows 10 the most loved version of Windows ever,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has repeatedly stated over the past year. “Within two to three years of Windows 10’s release, there will be 1 billion devices running Windows 10,” Microsoft VP Terry Myerson said on April 29, 2015 during the Microsoft Build conference keynote address.
These are ambitious goals for a product expected to launch this summer, especially following the painfully disappointing introduction of Windows 8 in 2012. Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for current individual users of Windows 7, Windows 8 and 8.1 for the first 12 months of availability. Microsoft will support upgraded computers with security and system updates for the lifetime of those devices. Corporate computer systems and older versions of Windows are not eligible for this offer.
Windows 10 was first demonstrated in September of 2014. Along with 3.7 million other enthusiasts, I enrolled in the Windows Insider program to review and comment on a series of Technical Previews. Progressive improvements have been evident with each new test release. The programming for Windows itself has been reduced in size and efficiency and speed is improved. The lackluster Metro apps (now termed “Universal Apps”) initially supplied with Windows 8 have been thoroughly rewritten and improved, Gone are the confusing “Charms”, the puzzling dual personalities of Internet Explorer, the rarely used Media Center and the exasperating start screen, while a revised but functional start menu makes a return appearance.
The new “Continuum” feature automatically adapts the user interface to a configuration optimized for each device type, be it a smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop or a reconfigurable hybrid device. Automatic identification of input devices (touch screen or pad vs mouse and keyboard) will provide each user with appropriate software tools. Internet Explorer is being replaced by Microsoft Edge, a completely new internet browser that is smaller, faster and safer than its predecessor. The now unified Windows Store is greatly revised, facilitating the rapid adaptation of thousands of popular apps initially written for Android or iOS into the Windows ecosystem. Cortana, the voice of the artificial intelligence assistant, is becoming more sophisticated and more fully integrated into the operating system.
Microsoft is now nurturing the notion of “Windows as a service.” Windows is to be an ongoing product, constantly updated and always current, with patches and new features added as soon as they are ready. Some Microsoft employees now refer to Windows 10 as “the last Windows.”
A recent Windows update has already prepared most eligible systems to promote the upgrade to qualified consumers when it becomes available. This may begin as early as July if recently leaked information is correct. With the massive number of computers involved, the offers to update will be rationed out over a period of several months. Will Windows 10 be yet another fumbled opportunity or the dawn of a whole new era for Microsoft? We’re about to find out!