Microsoft Announces Windows 10 - InformationWeek

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Software // Operating Systems
9/30/2014
04:06 PM
Michael Endler
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Microsoft Announces Windows 10

Microsoft execs emphasize the desktop UI, say Windows 10's final version will be shaped by customer feedback.

9 Innovative Products: Designers Of Things Conference
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Microsoft on Tuesday announced Windows 10 at an event in San Francisco. No, you didn't somehow miss Windows 9. According to Microsoft OS chief Terry Myerson, who presided over the event with corporate VP Joe Belfiore, the new operating system is so substantial, "it wouldn't have been right" to simply tick up from version 8 to version 9.

Microsoft's detractors would no doubt counter that Microsoft chose the new name in order to further distance its latest release from Windows 8, which has been criticized as difficult to use on traditional, non-touch PCs. Myerson and Belfiore alluded to this criticism, emphasizing that Windows 10's user interface will be familiar to legacy desktop users.

"Whether you're coming from Windows 7 or Windows 8, [Windows 10] will let you be immediately productive," said Myerson. He said the new OS, which won't be available until next year, will be compatible with the apps, tools, and systems that desktop customers use today.

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In a series of demos, Belfiore demonstrated how Windows 10 attempts to balance the needs of Microsoft's diverse customer base. Many changes are consistent with previous reports and rumors. For example, the OS will add support for virtual desktops and include a Start menu that combines legacy applications and Modern-style Live Tile apps, as expected.

But Belfiore and Myerson cautioned that Tuesday's preview did not provide a complete look at Windows 10. They said the event represented the beginning of a "conversation" between Microsoft and its enterprise customers. The OS will change as these conversations continue, they said, adding that Microsoft will address consumer-centric elements of Windows 10 early next year.

Myerson said Windows 10 will be the next version for the entire Windows ecosystem -- not just PCs and tablets, but also smartphones, and even the Internet of Things. This echoes Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's proclamation last summer that various versions of Windows will converge into a single OS. But Myerson cautioned that Windows 10 is "not one UI to rule them all" but a "product family with a tailored experience for each device" but common app and management models.

Mirroring moves already made by other Microsoft divisions, such as its Office teams, Myerson and Belfiore said Microsoft will build a better version of Windows by involving customers early in the process. To make this possible, the company announced a Windows Insider program that will allow interested parties to test early Windows 10 builds and provide feedback to Microsoft.

Windows 7 and 8 users can sign up for the Insider program beginning Wednesday. Microsoft execs offered few specifics about the program but said to expect additional Insider releases for Windows Server and other products.

Other business-centric Windows 10 features include the ability to separate personal and corporate data, enabling IT admins to manage the latter without touching the former. Some smartphone management products already take this approach, but Microsoft execs said Windows 10 will allow admins to manage PCs, tablets, and smartphones in this way. Windows 10 will let businesses set up a customized App Store to deploy Modern-style line-of-business apps.

Belfiore said that although Microsoft has reinvested in the mouse-and-keyboard experience, it hasn't abandoned touch. He said some of Windows 8's touch implementations hadn't worked well on desktops, but that others -- such as swiping to scroll a page -- have been praised by users. He said Windows 10's desktop UI will retain these lauded elements for those with touchscreen PCs.

Belfiore showed off a new capability called Continuum that allows two-in-one devices to more easily switch between keyboard and touch modes. Otherwise, company execs said relatively little about how Windows 10's tablet and smartphone user interfaces might change, compared with current versions.

Myerson and Belfiore declined to answer reporters' questions regarding how Windows 10 might change the company's business model. Myerson said, for example, that the company isn't yet ready to discuss pricing. They also didn't specify a firm date for Windows 10's final release, though Myerson said it would come after the company's Build conference, slated for April.  

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
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10/2/2014 | 10:28:35 AM
Re: What WIn 8 was supposed to be
I think the Star Trek pattern lost steam with the Next Generation movies. The last couple were stinkers. And then we got (at least in my opinion) two very good Star Treks in a row with the Abrams reboots. Perhaps they're alternating in pairs now... Anyway, I bring this up because maybe Microsoft, despite having selected an even number, can break the pattern too.

Assuming Microsoft continues to improve Win 10 over the next six or so months, I think it could tempt a lot of Windows 7 users. It looks equally easy to use but more powerful and flexible. Still not sure how well 2-in-1 devices and this Continuum feature will work-- but for desktops, Windows 10 actually looks pretty good.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/2/2014 | 10:21:16 AM
Re: windows app development
Good point, though Apple's doing some interesting things to make their phones and computers work together better--e.g. the "Continuity" feature between iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. Apple will probably be hosting a WWDC preview about whatever comes after Yosemite by the time Windows 10 finally hits the market, so I find it a bit difficult to directly compare their respective ecosystem trajectories. Microsoft's Universal Apps sound good in theory, but Microsoft's still developing the concept. It'll be interesting to see how Microsoft toes the line between making money from iOS and Android apps, and making money by advancing its own ecosystem. Those goals aren't always in opposition for all users, but they conflict often enough that Microsoft will face some tough decision.

All that said, and the fuzziness of Universal Apps aside, I think Microsoft's doing a good job with Windows 10. I think they're evolving the the UI in an intelligent way, especially with their efforts to give desktop users more ways to organize and interact with their content (e.g. Windows 10's Task View, which is something like Mission Control in OS X).
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
10/1/2014 | 6:02:32 PM
Re: What WIn 8 was supposed to be
So opposite pattern of Star Trek movies?
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
10/1/2014 | 3:02:52 PM
What WIn 8 was supposed to be
My initial reaction is relief that Windows 10 is reverting back to traditional desktop UI features. Though somewhat selfishly. I'll be looking to update my old Windows 7 laptop by around summer and DO NOT want Windows 8.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
10/1/2014 | 2:35:49 PM
Call it, Ishmael
Trying to do this from memory: 3, 3.1, 3.11, 95, NT, Me, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10

Did I miss any? Why should we trust an operating system that doesn't know how to count?
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/30/2014 | 11:53:32 PM
Re: windows app development
They've done some smart things in Windows 10 to blend Win32 apps and Modern apps into a single UI that's oriented around mouse and keyboard use. It looked intriguing in the demonstrations. I'll be curious to see how organic it feels in practice. But the Microsoft folks gave the impression that they're thinking about many of the right questions, from an end user perspective. Asking the right questions is only useful if you get to the right answer, of course-- we'll know more soon enough!
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/30/2014 | 10:18:25 PM
Re: windows app development
Mostly the same story as before-- universal apps, etc. No new specifics, unless I just missed something. Myerson implied we'd hear much more at Build, with the official release of Windows 10 to follow. But that's more than six months from now.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/30/2014 | 5:26:27 PM
windows app development
Was anything said about Windows app development? Is it more of the same?

(I'd have liked to see Microsoft go straight to Windows 11, as an homage to Spinal Tap.)
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