The upcoming update to Microsoft’s flagship OS, Windows 10, is nothing short of spectacular for end users and enterprise customers alike. The confusing product that was Windows 8, later alleviated by the release of Windows 8.1, has matured and evolved into a fantastic product that aims to deliver an end-to-end quality experience. For this reason it’s important to talk about Windows 10 and what it means for enterprise.
Key Features & What They Mean for Enterprise
Here are some of the core new features of Windows 10 and what they mean for enterprise customers.
User Interface & Task Features
User Experience (UX): The trend in Windows 10 seems to be the complete opposite of Windows 8. They’ve enhanced the UX and made it seamless across all device languages and families. You should now feel comfortable going from a tablet to a phone to a computer without being lost or having to shuffle between different UI paradigms.
The Start Menu: It’s back! Microsoft has taken the best of the good ‘ol Windows UI and the Metro UI and blended it into one seamless experience. Now when you hit the Start button you can see a Start menu like on the pre-Windows 8 days, but also with customizable tiles on the right side.
For enterprise customers, whether it’s retail, manufacturing, healthcare, automotive, and beyond, this means returning to a familiar environment that users are acquainted with and will have no trouble navigating in. Windows 8 was often described as difficult to understand. The paradigm of having the tiles view along with the desktop, plus the disappearance of the Start menu, meant users were often left guessing how to do things they had been doing for over a decade!
Task View: Gone is the task switcher and in comes the Task View. This let’s you see your open applications and windows, virtual desktops, and browse through them.
– For healthcare solutions, this means medical professionals can open up patient history in one pane while opening up test results or scans on an other pane.
– For grocery retail, this means a floor associate could bring up a customer’s loyalty profile while also looking at inventory. For retail clothing or merchandisers, it means associates could reference inventory while also looking at an online image the customer is looking for.
Virtual Desktops: If you’ve ever used a relatively modern Linux distro, or a version of OS X in the past few years, then you are surely acquainted with the concept of virtual desktops.
As was the case with the return of the Start Menu, Virtual Desktops will allow users to separate “concerns” or items they are working on, like personal and work or productivity and focused tasks. No matter how much screen real estate your display provides, as users we are always shuffling windows around, alt-tabbing to switch between open apps, and trying to find a way to keep content neat and easy to access. All of the tasks you have running in those spaces will still run, and you will still see reminders that are supposed to pop up.
Continuity & Usability Enhancements
Continuum: So you’re using Windows 10 on your brand new Surface 3, you are typing away with your keyboard but then you remove it as you want to browse the web. The OS will adapt to the different input modes and provide on-screen controls or buttons to facilitate using the OS on touch devices. You can now be productive no matter what device or you are using and what accessories you are using it with.
Cortana: Microsoft’s personal assistant, Cortana, is a key part of Windows 10. Cortana is designed to bring the personal interactions on phone to your other devices and desktop. This is a big help to enterprise users, but also creates a seamless experience across devices. For example:
– A sales executive can ask Cortana to remind them to call a client when they get to work. Cortana will remind you upon your arrival. They can also ask Cortana to open your CRM, make a note, or schedule an event.
– Think of a field service person, for example, a facilities maintenance person, who literally does the dirty work. They’re in the field using their hands, but also need to log jobs, enter hours, and get purchase orders approved in the field. Cortana could be a big help here with her contextual awareness.
– An even more compelling example is Cortana’s use in the medical field, especially procedural environments where a single touch could require a complete redo of scrubbing in.
Project Spartan: Microsoft’s new, modern browser is finally a reality. IE will still be around for compatibility, but the new browser (which was recently demoed) has shown a lot of promise and should bring some much needed support for new features, speed improvements, and more.
Development, Management, & Security
Universal Apps: Your employees, internal apps, or user-facing apps can now be built with support for all device types and families. Do you want your application to run on a regular PC? Check. Do you want your application to also run on a Windows Phone or small tablet? Check! Surface users or even Xbox One user are covered, too. You can now reach an even bigger user base with less effort thanks to Universal Apps, and the best part is the unified app store that will tie all of this together.
Universal Apps will be a very big deal in the enterprise because now organizations will be able to effectively leverage large bodies of written and tested .Net code and fold them into desktop, mobile, and tablet apps. Combined with tools like Xamarin, the reach can be extended to all platforms including iOS and Android.
Improved MDM: Windows 10 will focus its MDM solution on a mobile-first, cloud-first scenario, in addition to extending capabilities for traditional PCs. You will have the benefit of being able to manage your devices from the cloud. As a company you can also preload devices with apps you want installed along with custom settings and configurations. This should save a tremendous amount of time and make deploying/troubleshooting devices much faster.
Improved Security: There have been several improvements made to security and protecting your identity as a Windows user. These are features that are easy to manage, but also don’t get in the way of the end user’s experience. There are now identities for accessing your devices, apps, and websites but with improved protection against any security threats. Companies will also benefit from improvements in data protection. BitLocker is a great solution for protecting your data while on a device, but once that data leaves the device it is no longer protected. Windows 10 will offer additional containers for protection and data separation even down to the app and file levels. All this means is that you can have data that is protected wherever it goes.
The Bottom Line
App Store Pricing: Windows 10’s single app store will allow for volume app purchases for organizations. You can also create a customized store and offer applications for your employees that are separate from the store apps.
Free: For the first year after launch, Windows 10 will be a free upgrade to all non-enterprise Windows Phone 8.1 users, Windows 7, and Windows 8.1 users.
– Windows 7 Enterprise and Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise customers are not included in the free upgrade offer. At the time of publishing, enterprise pricing has not been announced.
Continued Enterprise Influence, Fantastic New Features
With this big focus on making a seamless experience across all devices, Microsoft is looking to continue to expand Windows and continue to claim a big part of enterprise operations. All industries will no doubt benefit from all of the features that Windows 10 has to offer. There really is no reason not to upgrade to Windows 10. It brings fantastic features to end users and especially businesses.
It’s shaping up to be one of the coolest and most important upgrades in Windows history. I’m a die-hard Mac, iOS, and Apple fan/user, but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you how excited I am about Windows 10, and our Windows developers are especially excited.
Also, don’t forget that you can download the Windows 10 Technical Preview and start playing and exploring Windows 10 now. You can even run it within a virtual machine if you are an OS X user.
What are your thoughts on Windows 10? What are you most excited about?
(The pictures in this blog post are from Microsoft’s own Windows 10 images, but you can see Windows 10 in pictures at ars technica.)