At an event in San Francisco this morning, Microsoft gave industry insiders and the technology press their first look at Windows 10. Understandably, there are a lot of questions floating around about the operating system. Many are wondering what features and advances Windows 10 will bring. Others are just thinking hard about whether Windows 10 actually address the issues that plagued Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system. Here’s what Windows 10 is and isn’t based off what we know so far.
Windows 10 Is an Operating System Upgrade
Windows 10, is the latest version of Windows to come from Microsoft. In case you don’t know, Windows is the software that runs on your computer and allows you to browse the internet and install other apps. Think of it as an app that holds your apps. For most people, Windows isn’t something they install themselves, instead it’s something that comes pre-installed on their new laptop, desktop, tablet or 2-in-1.
Windows 10 will run on servers, desktops, notebooks, 2-in-1s and smartphones, each with a customized interface. It’ll also run on the Xbox One. There will be one Windows Store that provides apps for all versions of Windows 10.
When and How Will I Get Windows 10
Most people don’t install Windows on their own machines, except for when something goes wrong. This will be the first change that Windows 10 introduces. Older large-scale Windows updates have always cost users money. Windows 10 could not depending on which device you own. Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 users could get the Windows 10 update free through the Windows Store.
For now, Microsoft isn’t saying how Windows 7 and Windows Vista users will get Windows 10 when arrives. That being said, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore explicitly mentioned changes in Windows 10 designed specifically for Windows 7 users. The company has to have some plan to make Windows 10 an affordable upgrade for Windows 7 users, but it isn’t saying what that is now.
What Features Will Windows Users Get For Upgrading to Windows 10?
Sure, having a new operating system with all the latest bells and whistles is one thing, but what users care about most is whether it actually changes their experience in any meaningful way. Today, Microsoft only showed off some features oriented towards small businesses, but what we’re seeing has huge ramifications for every one.
So far, we know that Windows 10 will allow users to sort their apps by different tasks and that an upgraded Snap system will let users put as many as four different apps one screen at the same time. Multiple Desktops will allow users to between tasks easily and searching for something in Windows 10 will give you web results, installed apps and files stored locally.
Does Windows 10 Fix Windows 8?
Of course, the biggest thing users are wondering now that Microsoft has shown Windows 10 for the first time is whether it addresses the issues that made Windows 8 such a controversial update.
Overwhelmingly, the answer is yes. Windows 10 does fix many of the issues users had with Windows 8. One of the biggest complaints about Windows 8 was the Start Screen. In Microsoft’s rush to make interacting the same on a tablet, desktop or laptop, it saddled everyone with an interface that completely takes over the entire screen. In Windows 8.1 Microsoft started walking some of these changes back. Desktop shortcuts and buttons for power and search appear for users with a mouse and keyboard. In Windows 10, Microsoft is stepping all of this up.
Windows 10 will detect whether you have a mouse and keyboard and tailor the experience accordingly. The Start Screen will disappear and form a Start Menu that includes many of the features of the old Start Screen but stays limited to a certain part of the screen. This Start Menu will be resizable this interface is for machines with a mouse and keyboard.
By default Windows 10 also uses the presence of a touch screen to change the way you interact with apps downloaded from the Windows Store. If there’s a touch screen present than full-screen apps are still the norm. If there isn’t — as is the case with a desktop or notebook – users get all the apps that were previously tied to the Start Screen in windows that they can manipulate in the Desktop environment. What this means is that Windows 10 desktop and notebook users can run Mail, Calendar and more right along with classic programs like iTunes and Microsoft Office.
You Can Get Windows 10 Tomorrow
I’ve mentioned that Windows 10 will come free on tablets, laptops, desktops running Windows 8 when it arrives sometime next year. There’s also an easy way to experience the changes Windows 10 introduces sooner.
With prior versions of Windows, Microsoft released versions intermittently that users could test on their home PCs and provide feedback. Testing a version of Windows required users to back up all their stuff and install a half-baked operating system. The process for Windows 10 is a bit different.
Windows users will be able to join the new Windows Insiders Program tomorrow. Overtime Microsoft plans to add new features and updates to Windows 10 and solicit feedback whenever it makes changes. In short, users who join the Windows 10 Preview Program, which is free, should expect updates to the operating system often.
Despite this new easier way to get updates, adding Windows 10 on your home PC isn’t the best idea. Updates over time could break features or change in a way you don’t like. If you’re committed to getting the operating system early it’s ok to do so from Microsoft’s website tomorrow – just don’t test out the operating system on a mission critical laptop, desktop or tablet.
Windows 10 will arrive in final form next year with more consumer features that what is being revealed tomorrow.