Windows 10, tomorrow

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BitDepth#999 for July 28, 2015

Microsoft’s Ineke Geesnik, Windows BG Lead – LATAM New Markets. Photo by Garrett Britton, courtesy Microsoft.
Microsoft’s Ineke Geesnik, Windows BG Lead – LATAM New Markets. Photo by Garrett Britton, courtesy Microsoft.

Microsoft will begin rolling out the newest version of its flagship operating system, Windows, in a process that looks set to be far different from previous upgrades from tomorrow.

Getting a new major Windows upgrade used to be a matter of lining up outside a major technology store, but Microsoft increasingly makes use of modern digital delivery systems to not just deploy its software; it’s also been busy leveraging the large pool of users who aren’t afraid to try out code that isn’t fully baked.

Since September 30, 2014, Windows has been in a major technology preview phase, which allows intrepid users to use the new OS through the Windows Insider programme.

The test pool for Windows 10 is the largest in Microsoft’s history of beta testing its operating system software, and the free upgrade for users (for the first year of release) currently using Windows 7 and 8 is likely to be in hot demand once it becomes available.

There are currently 55 million people who have reserved their copy of the software according to Microsoft’s Ineke Geesnik who spoke exclusively with the Guardian last week.

Geesnik, the company’s Business Group Lead for Windows in its Latin American markets, explained that Microsoft is increasingly positioning the software as a service and the new Windows is going to be more uniform across all the devices that the company supports.

Windows 10, with a feature called Continuum, will adapt to the screens and capabilities of different devices and change its functionality across PCs, tablets and phones, but users can expect a more familiar interface wherever they use the software.

That’s a big change from Windows 8, which saw the company make a bold effort to craft a new version of Windows, best remembered by the Modern tiled interface that was most useful on tablet and phone devices.

On PCs, the Modern layer lives on top of traditional windows and that duality became a source of confusion and frustration for users who openly pined for their familiar Start button. A Modern UI only version of Microsoft’s Surface tablet went nowhere.

The Start button is back, and it’s greatly enhanced. The Modern layer has been reduced to become a launcher, but it lives alongside the more familiar Windows software list and tools, which includes – no doubt to the great happiness of users with ingrained muscle memory across the world – the power button.

“Users will be happy,” Geesnik said, “with how we have blended the experiences of Windows 7 and 8 together. It’s going to be one Windows, across all platforms and devices.”

The company will also address a significant concern of developers, the coding gulf between Modern apps and traditional Windows desktop software by giving software written for the Modern UI an equal presence on the PC and unifying the process of writing software for all Windows 10 devices.

In this halcyon world, an app written for Windows 10 running on a phone will also work on a desktop PC, something that seemed sensible, but never seemed to happen after Windows 8 was introduced.

Developers interested in working creating the new Universal Windows 10 apps that can be deployed on phone, tablet, PC and Xbox will find information at www.dev.windows.com from tomorrow.

Several features introduced for Windows phones and tablets are also making their way to the new, Windows 10 “native” devices, including the digital personal assistant Cortana and Windows Hello, a new face recognition addition that makes your face your password.

These new Windows 10 devices will be available in T&T no earlier than October and the release of Cortana for T&T and the region is still to be confirmed.

Windows 10 users will also find much greater integration with OneDrive (formerly Skydrive) for moving their documents and music to the cloud, improved security and a new, spare browser, Microsoft Edge, which supports virtual pen capabilities, allowing users to write directly on a browser page.

The new Windows store will also be open to all Windows apps, not just Modern UI software and business users will be able to choose how they adopt Windows 10 on existing platforms.

If you are a Windows 10 beta user, you’ll get a notification that your upgrade is ready, though the product, largely targeted for online deployment at first, will be introduced in phases.