by Bob Hafner
I’m sure most of you heard about the Windows 10 announcements from Microsoft yesterday. Steve Kleynhans was briefed thoroughly by Microsoft and thought it would be appropriate to do a “guest blog”. So here is what Steve thought of these big announcements.
Windows 10 is a new Chapter for Microsoft
On Jan 21, Microsoft raised the curtain on the next act for Windows 10 and provided some significant insight into how the operating system and Microsoft are evolving.
As a quick recap, Windows 10 is currently going through a year-long “preview” period. This started with the Technical Preview in September 2014, and will end with the release of Windows 10 which we expect to see this coming September or October. In between, Microsoft is continually updating the preview to test and demonstrate new capabilities and aspects of the OS. The announcements this week are aligned with the next major update of the preview: “Technical Preview 2″. This update focuses more on consumer rather than enterprise features which we expect will be expanded in the coming months. The new preview includes the revamped tablet experience, a more complete feature set, and the first look at the upcoming phone UI. While there is still work to be done, Microsoft is demonstrating progress from the original preview. For those who had issues with Windows 8’s UX, Windows 10 should be more comfortable to work with. Those who like Windows 8’s touch UX will appreciate how the experience has been evolved to better adjust to different types of tablet and 2-in-1 devices. All users will appreciate how the user can control the experience based on their preferences.
Along with the enhancements to the technical preview, Microsoft also made a number of other announcements about Windows and its ecosystem. The details of the announcements have been well covered in the press, but I wanted to highlight a few items of particularly importance to enterprises.
Windows 10 is a new direction for Windows
Under Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft is transforming towards a mobile and cloud centric vision of the world. Many have speculated that Windows didn’t fit this new vision and was being left behind. With the announcements this week, Microsoft is working to maintain and expand the role for Windows and Windows is being positioned as the best way to experience many of Microsoft’s other products and services. For Microsoft, Windows 10 is not just another OS upgrade, but rather a transition to a new Windows experience. Microsoft uses terms like personal, connected, and cross-device, to describe this experience. However fundamentally it is about trust. Microsoft aims to provide a secure, reliable, and consistent experience for Windows users regardless of type of device they are using. Microsoft has much to prove in this regard and it will take time and spot-on execution to establish this new message in the minds of users. At a technical level it includes a new cross-device application model (Universal Apps), new management processes (more closely aligned with MDM tools used with smartphones), new rapid servicing cadence, new security options (bio-metric and multi-factor authentication), and a host of other changes. With all these changes there will be a lot for IT support staff to learn. Organizations need to start the learning process soon, and understand how these changes will impact their environments. The good news is that when compared with Windows 8, Windows 10 will provide an experience that adjusts to the user, rather than forcing the user to adjust to it. Users should find this new version both less scary and more compelling.
Windows 10 changes applications
With Windows 8 Microsoft introduced “Metro” apps which failed to catch on with developers as Microsoft hoped and remain a weakness of the ecosystem. These apps were like the tablet apps on other platforms in that they were touch oriented, downloaded from an app store, and ran full screen. While there were similarities to apps that existed on Windows Phone they were distinct and came from a separate store, with different terms and conditions and administration options. With Windows 10, Microsoft has melded these into a single “Universal app” model which runs across all Windows devices (phone, tablet, PC, Xbox, and even some new types of devices). Universal apps on Windows 10 have done away with many of the clumsy issues from the Windows 8 days. Most notably when running on a PC they now run in a window alongside all other applications and are virtually indistinguishable from legacy Windows applications. This is important, because it extends the reach of these apps to traditional non-touch PC users. Universal apps have a number of nice features for enterprises. They are easier to install, update, and secure. They are all signed, and run isolated from other apps on your system. They are poised to be a big deal as Windows 10 rolls out and deserve some attention from corporate developers.
With Windows 10 Microsoft is trying to focus on experiences for consumers and workers rather than “OS bits”
One of the most visible new capabilities is the inclusion of the Cortana personal assistant across all Windows devices. Cortana is evolving beyond simple searches and reminders, to provide a greater level of proactive information and assistance with navigating complex workflows. However Cortana is just one part of a move to change the way we interact with Windows devices. Touch, gestures, speech, and new display technology are all supported with Windows 10. While it isn’t yet clear how each of these will play out in the office environment, natural interaction models will have a profound effect on the relationship between users and technology and hence enterprises and workplaces over the next decade. Microsoft is well positioned to lead the market although it will face competitive challengers particularly on non-PC platforms. Another experience demonstrated at the event was the Surface Hub, a wall-sized interactive display designed specifically for Windows 10. These go beyond typical smart whiteboards and have the potential to change the way we conduct meetings and do group collaboration. Microsoft also stepped into the realm of augmented reality with the demonstration of its new top-secret HoloLens holographic reality headset. These enable users to view the world with a 3D overlay that can provide instruction, information, creation, or entertainment blended with the real-world. Trying to bring this level of technology to the consumer and mainstream business markets was a big surprise and a bold move. Over the next year we will be assessing these products to determine if clients can or should leverage these new types of hardware and experiences.
Windows 10 is inevitable
Microsoft is making the Windows 10 upgrade free for consumers currently running Windows 7, 8 or 8.1. Beginning shortly after the formal release, any Windows PC purchased by a consumer in the last six years should be presented with the option to upgrade at no charge. This creates the very real potential that most of your users will have exposure to the new OS in the next 18 months, and that Windows 10 users could represent the largest share of Windows within a year of its release. While enterprises won’t have the upgrade forced on them, if users like the product there may be pressure for the enterprise, hardware manufacturers and software providers to get onto the new OS. Coupled with that is the reality that in January 2020, Windows 7 will leave extended support. Enterprises don’t want to repeat the mad rush to upgrade that occurred as XP approached end-of-life in 2014. We don’t yet know all the details about how the upgrade will be priced for enterprises or how Microsoft will shift Windows towards a services model, but be assured that as those details start to emerge we will be there to provide guidance to our clients.
From our side Windows 10 will be a major topic for research this year. Over the coming months we will be publishing more detailed advice about the OS’s features, and what companies need to know and do about the upgrade. As always clients should feel free to set up an inquiry with us if they have questions.