Windows 10: 5 Unanswered Questions - InformationWeek
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10/4/2014
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Windows 10: 5 Unanswered Questions

Microsoft's Windows 10 preview shows users some of the things they can expect from the new OS, but it also raises several questions.

Windows 10: 11 Big Changes
Windows 10: 11 Big Changes
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

After months of rumors, Microsoft on Tuesday finally took the wraps off of Windows 10 -- sort of. The company showed off a barrage of new features for PC users, from the revamped Start menu to support for virtual desktops, but said little about mobile devices. In fact, Microsoft might have revealed as little as 10% of the OS's feature set, according to one report.

Windows 10 won't hit the market until at least mid-2015. Microsoft will continue to develop and refine the OS based on feedback it receives from users running the just-released Windows 10 Technical Preview, aimed at enterprise and desktop users. Additional previews aimed at consumers and developers will follow.

By choosing to start its Windows 10 campaign with an emphasis on mouse-and-keyboard users, Microsoft likely made the right call; this group was among the loudest critics of Win 8's tile-based UI and needs to be reassured that Windows offers a viable upgrade path. Even so, by revealing only part of its intention for Windows 10, Microsoft has raised as many questions as it's answered. We've collected five of the biggest unknowns swirling around Windows 10. Did we miss one of your burning questions about the new OS? Let us know in the comments.

What will Windows 10 cost?
Microsoft execs have declined so far to discuss Windows 10 pricing, but according to rumors the update could be free for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8. Microsoft recently offered free and low-cost Windows licenses to device manufacturers in order to stimulate production of cheap Windows devices. This tactic supports the view that Microsoft is more interested in amassing users and encouraging them to use the company's cloud services than it is in upfront licensing revenue. Free Windows 10 upgrades would further this strategy.

[For more on Microsoft's upcoming OS, see Microsoft Announces Windows 10.]

Even so, Windows 10 is expected to run on a wide variety of devices, from PCs, tablets, and smartphones to the Xbox One and Internet of Things devices. It's also aimed at a huge number of would-be customers, from Windows XP and Windows 7 holdouts and tech enthusiasts who live on the bleeding edge to consumers who just want an intuitive experience. Microsoft will release several versions of Windows 10 to accommodate the needs of its huge user base. Will some versions be free? If so, which ones? Will Microsoft follow Apple's lead and make OS upgrades free to as many users as possible?

Will the new Windows update cadence work for enterprises?
Earlier this year, Microsoft said it will begin releasing Windows feature updates as often as every month, as it does with OS security updates. In the past, the company unrolled new features in big chunks, separated by many months. The new approach could help Microsoft's Windows team to be more responsive and agile -- a theme also present in the Windows 10 preview and Microsoft's call for user feedback. Consumers demand such agility, but businesses tend to make changes more slowly. Microsoft execs say the company can balance the needs of both groups. They painted this goal in mostly broad terms, however, and it's unclear specifically how Microsoft will implement its intentions.

"Fundamentally, we are changing how we will deliver Windows," Microsoft director Stella Chernyak told InformationWeek at Tuesday's Windows 10 event. She said many customers want to use the most current releases and to see Microsoft quickly respond to feedback. "At the same time," she continued, "we have businesses [that] may have mission-critical environments where we respect the fact [that] they want to test and stabilize the environment for a long time."

How will Windows 10 make Modern apps more viable?
Windows 10 includes a range of UI changes designed to make touch-oriented Modern apps more palatable to mouse-and-keyboard users. These changes, such as the ability to run Modern apps in floating windows on the desktop, should help Microsoft address the usability concerns that Windows 8 generated. Likewise, the revamped Windows 10 app store, which will allow enterprises to set up customized storefronts, should enable users to more effortlessly find new titles. But even if Modern apps are easier than ever to use on non-touch devices, will users care? And will developers already invested in other platforms begin to produce more titles for Windows devices?

At the Windows 10 reveal, company execs continued to tout Microsoft's Universal Apps model, which allows developers to target Windows smartphones, tablets, PCs, and the Xbox without rewriting apps for different device types. A unified development platform for all Windows devices sounds appealing -- but it's unclear, for example, how many apps will benefit from availability on both PCs and game consoles. Likewise, even if developers can target apps on numerous devices with a single set of code, how much will they sacrifice for the convenience? Will polished apps tailored to a particular UI demand additional developer work, or has Microsoft found a way to truly realize its "write once, deploy everywhere" vision?

Windows 10 reportedly includes hundreds of new APIs for Modern apps, but it's not yet clear what the added capabilities do. Microsoft touts Modern apps as more secure and manageable than legacy titles, but will users and developers embrace the company's new tactic? Microsoft is expected to soon release touch-first, Modern versions of its Office apps. Will they show the potential of Microsoft's new platform?

What's coming for consumers?
Microsoft said a consumer-oriented preview of Windows 10 for tablets and smartphones will arrive early next year. According to rumors, the OS's consumer-oriented features will include a notification center, a new version of IE, and Windows Phone virtual assistant Cortana. These features sound like a good start -- but the presence of Cortana and a notification center hasn't helped Windows Phone explode in popularity, so it's hard to see how Windows 10 will be a consumer hit if it doesn't bring more to the table.

How much will Windows 10 change due to preview feedback?
Microsoft reps emphasized that the Windows 10 preview is an early build with many rough edges. Corporate VP Joe Belfiore noted, for example, that Windows 10 probably won't include Windows 8's Charms menu but that the company hasn't quite worked out the replacement. Likewise, the company previewed its Continuum feature, which will let 2-in-1 devices more gracefully switch between touch and non-touch UIs, but did not include it in the preview. How much will feedback from preview users influence the final version of Windows 10? How much will preview builds change as Microsoft rolls out new features and experiments to its early Win 10 users? Time will tell -- but the answer to these questions will demonstrate whether Microsoft has truly moved toward a more open, collaborative dynamic with its customers.

If the world wasn't changing, we might continue to view IT purely as a service organization, and ITSM might be the most important focus for IT leaders. But it's not, it isn't, and it won't be -- at least not in its present form. Get the Research: Beyond IT Service Management report today. (Free registration required.)

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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RajivS85
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RajivS85,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/1/2015 | 8:57:22 AM
Switching back to windows 7 or reinstalling windows 10 after one year after upgrade?
I know Microsoft really wants us to use windows 10 but the majority of people really do not want it. So I want to ask what if, since they are using force tactics to pressure people, what if someone upgrades just to be on the safe side and then gets the serial code and then goes back to windows 7. We all got enough of lessons with windows 8.1. Will it be possible to do this? Or would it be possible only to upgrade via a windows 7, which would mean if one day after one year your machine has a problem and you need to reinstall then you cannot switch back to windows 10 unless you pay for it. These details need to be known before they take advantage of people.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
10/7/2014 | 2:13:59 PM
Re: Can Windows be more inclined to open source side?
Good point -- the PC is not dead. Mobile devices have gained a lot of popularity and PC sales are down. However, this does not mean that productivity is not required, and apart from the Surface line, I do not see any hybrid mobile device that might be able to provide the same level of productivity that a PC provides. Granted, mobile devices can be a nice complementary force to aid in productivity.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
10/7/2014 | 1:24:59 PM
Re: Can Windows be more inclined to open source side?
I'd have to disagree with your point. Computer OSs vs portable OSs (mobile, tablet, IoTs) are two different creatures. Sure Apple gives away it's computer OS - but it still only commands around 10% of the market. With their market cap and profitability they can easily subsidize the development of the computer OS. However, I think if the shoe were on the other foot, that is, they had 90% of the marketplace for PCs and 10% portable share, you would see much different behavior from Apple on their OS (as well as different criticisms from the tech press at large). For Apple's mobile, they are the only manufacturer that can use iOS on mobile, so they can subsidize the iOS dev costs with the overpriced hardware that Apple, and ONLY Apple, sells.

Sure, many people can replace a PC if all they do is Facebook, email, browse and tweet. However, many users still use their PC for gaming, Media servers, and productivity software, as well as POS systems. For too long and too loudly, we have heard the PC is dead - it's just not true. The development costs for these types of systems are very expensive and you just can't open source that kind of thing. People want an OS that just works, not an open source OS that has to be constantly tweaked by geeks who know what they are doing. Not to mention, consumers and enterprises want a company to provide support, not to browse forums all day to get some response on why their OS is having problems on the network.
Mark532010
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Mark532010,
User Rank: Moderator
10/6/2014 | 2:27:50 PM
Re: Only one question that matters
and a corollary to that question - is it going to be better for the support department. Many of the things that were easy in Windows XP (like managing default profiles and imaging computers) are much more difficult and complex in Windows 7/8 (requiring sysprep just to update the default image - really Microsoft?! a limit of 3 Sysprep's then you have to start over with a new computer and redo all your work - really Microsoft?! no more imaging with SID changing - really Microsoft?!)

Hopefully someone is taking a hard look at the manageability of Windows10 and its menus, built-in virtual machines, app stores and everything else with an eye to making it easier for the IT dept to do what it has to do.

 
Mark532010
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Mark532010,
User Rank: Moderator
10/6/2014 | 2:18:54 PM
Microsoft needs to look at usability
We just got a Windows tablet because people are unhappy with iPad's inability to access domain resources. The tablet is a nightmare to use. With touch, half of the functions work great in the Modern side but then you hit something like adding a domain printer and get dropped into desktop with its tiny tiny plus signs and clickable arrows and checkboxes - almost impossible to use on a tablet with your fingers.

On the flip side, on my desktop with its big screen and mouse, the Modern side is an joke..However I like many of the concepts.

Microsoft really needs to provide a fully functioning environment for both sides. I hope they can do it with 10.
SteveG950
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SteveG950,
User Rank: Strategist
10/5/2014 | 2:48:52 PM
Re: Sounds Encouraging
Well I agree, that is the question.  Companies not listening to users is an epidemic. Apple comes up with some great innovations but they do not respond well or make changes to individual programs based on user feedback.  I have been in the business a long time and users have good ideas, if companies would just listen.  Windows 7 is difficult to install now because disk controllers, network interfaces, and other hardware interfaces have evolved and Microsoft has not updated the Windows 7 install for years because they want to push people to Windows 8. So lets hope Windows 10 or whatever it is called is really worhwhile.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
10/5/2014 | 1:55:37 PM
Re: Sounds Encouraging
I continue to use Windows 7 and I'm pretty happy.   I'm interested to know how the different windows applications will be available throughout its many platform.  I think if Microsoft works better with their users, they will be able to get really good features into Windows 10.  Reviews about versions higher than windows 7 aren't that good.    

 
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
10/5/2014 | 3:18:37 AM
Microsoft and the Internet of Things
Most of the large tech firms have a roadmap towards the Internet of Things, Microsoft is no different but the company has not publicized about it a great deal. It will be interesting to see Microsoft's approach, if the OS route is taken then maybe Windows finds its way onto devices such as, the raspberry pi.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
10/5/2014 | 3:06:44 AM
Re: Can Windows be more inclined to open source side?
Good question. I think the OS of the future will have to be open source. Otherwise, devices will end up costing too much for the consumer. Desktops have been around since a long time, but now there are mobile devices, wearable devices and IoT devices, etc., that consumers and businesses are finding valuable. Technology works best with economies of scale.
SteveG950
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SteveG950,
User Rank: Strategist
10/5/2014 | 1:47:57 AM
Sounds Encouraging
I have not been one to say many good things about Microsoft and especially Windows 8. I installed Windows 8, hated Charms and all the hidden nuiances. I then installed a free Start Menu Program and use it like Windows 7.

I have also continued to do Windows 7 installs but the hardware has advanced so far beyond the Window 7 install support that it can be quite challenging.

I have been quite critical of Microsoft's apparent philosophy of we know what is best for you so don't bother me with the negative feedback. Well that did not work for Vista or Windows 8. Windows 8 was a horrible enterprise product and confusing for general consumers.

Now, it appears, with the departure of Steve Balmer, that Microsoft is making changes that will enhance the product. I am encouraged. As they say, the proof is in the pudding but I will be looking forward to the previews for the first time in a long time. The really good news is that I can run the preview in a new Virtual machine on my MAC and leave my Windows 8 virtual machine alone. I still run Windows 7 on my Windows Development system.

 
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