Microsoft is moving quickly to close the book on the Windows 8.x era. And that is welcome news for small businesses that struggle to make the move to a mobile work style.
Designed to run on both tablets and PCs, the Windows 8 operating system (OS) received enormous criticism for catering too much to tablets while shortchanging desktops. Microsoft issued patch after patch to smooth out the rough edges, but the damage was done.
PC owners remained devoted to Windows 7. As of September, the five-year-old operating system is the most popular desktop OS with nearly 53 percent of the market, according to Web analytics specialist Net Applications. Windows 8 and 8.1 account for roughly 12 percent of the market.
Even Windows XP, released 13 years ago and put out to pasture by Microsoft in April, clings to nearly 24 percent of the market.
Windows 10 is a big deal for the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant, according to Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Microsoft's operating systems group. "This will be our most comprehensive operating system and the best release Microsoft has ever done for our business customers, and we look forward to working together with our broader Windows community to bring Windows 10 to life in the months ahead," he said a Sept. 30 statement.
As Microsoft discovered, sometimes moving forward requires revisiting the past.
Windows 10 Clicks the Re-Start Button
Windows 10, currently available in preview to members of the free Windows Insider early access program, is "really Windows 7 plus 8," said Michael Slabodnick, an IT service management expert and customer community manager for SysAid Technologies, an IT management software company. He described the new OS as "the hybrid solution Microsoft should have launched with Windows 8."
There are many reasons to like Windows 10, he said. But the Windows faithful will be elated about the return of the Start menu, a fixture since Windows 95.
One of Microsoft's most controversial decisions was to ditch the Start menu in favor of a splashy Start "screen" for Windows 8. In Windows 10, the Start menu returns, albeit with more modern touches, like support for Live Tiles—self-updating panels that provide a touch-friendly alternative to launching apps. Its comeback is "a wonderful win for those of us who love the Start menu," Slabodnick told Small Business Computing.
Other welcome features include built-in support for multiple desktops and windowed modern apps (formerly Metro). Slabodnick is also impressed by how Windows 10 finally sets the stage for truly mobile workforces.
Windows 10 for Mobile
Windows users will finally feel at home on sleek computing slates. Windows 10 "looks great on tablets," said Slabodnick. "It gives you that desktop Windows 7 feel, but also has the [modern] user interface."
This hybrid approach successfully melds the best of both worlds, making it likelier that long-time Windows users can more seamlessly transition to mobile devices powered by the OS.
A cloud hangs over Windows 10, but in a good way, asserts Slabodnick.
Windows 10 features "great integration with the OneDrive," Microsoft's cloud storage product, he said. OneDrive provides businesses with a simple way of storing, sharing, syncing and backing up files.
In all, Windows 10 is a "fantastic OS," concluded Slabodnick. It helps that "Microsoft is trying to keep resources slim," meaning that the OS won't tax PCs of recent vintage. From an IT perspective, this can mean cost savings due to "no new hardware."
Similarly, businesses will be able to continue to take advantage past software investments. If your software runs well on Windows 7 and 8, it will more than likely run great on Windows 10, assured Slabodnick.
In the meantime, Slabodnick suggests that IT pros kick the tires on the preview versions of Windows 10. But there's no need to rush. A mid-2015 release—a guesstimate since Microsoft has yet to officially announce an official date—gives "IT departments, especially smaller ones, a little bit of breathing room so they don't feel they have to update from Windows 7," he said.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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