After Window 8’s lukewarm reception in 2012, has Microsoft got it right with its upcoming Windows 10 operating system (OS)?
Windows 8 was a radical departure from previous versions, but the company’s efforts to create an all-in-one OS for all devices alienated many users. The familiar Windows desktop and Start button were replaced by a completely redesigned default screen with touch-friendly ‘tiles’ – arguably making it more suited to tablets than conventional laptops and PCs.
With Windows 10, Microsoft appears to have listened to its users, while also introducing a number of new features. The company claims the result is so good it’s worthy of the jump from version 8 to 10 – there is no Windows 9.
So what are the new features? Here’s our top five.
1. A more intelligent interface
Windows 10 will detect what type of device it’s running on and automatically adjust the interface accordingly. For PC and laptop users, that means the traditional Windows desktop and Start menu is back, albeit with a modern design. For tablet users, the interface will remain like Windows 8. Microsoft says Windows 10’s dual interface even works for hybrid devices such as Microsoft’s Surface, which will switch from tablet mode to desktop mode when the keyboard is attached.
The tiles are still available on PCs as well as tablets, providing quick access to handy items such as the new ‘universal apps’ that will run on all Windows 10 devices.
2. A voice-controlled digital assistant
Mobile devices have had the likes of Siri and Google Now for some years, but Microsoft is bringing its new voice-controlled digital assistant, Cortana, to the desktop with Windows 10.
This could be a productivity boon, enabling users to tell the computer to search for files or send an email while working on a Word document. Windows’ multi-tasking capabilities will be further improved with a new task view that allows users to simultaneously view all open apps.
3. A new web browser
Windows 10 will include a new web browser code-named ‘Project Spartan’. It will include a note-taking feature, PDF support and the ability to save and read pages later, even when offline. It will also support Cortana, enabling users to give voice commands such as opening a web page.
Internet Explorer will also be included with the new OS, but Microsoft is clearly readying us for life without the older browser.
4. Virtual 3D environments
Perhaps the biggest surprise revealed at Microsoft’s most recent Windows 10 briefing was a feature called Windows Holographic. This feature will enable developers to create virtual 3D environments via a companion headset called HoloLens.
Games are the most obvious use for Holographic, but Microsoft also cited other applications, such as a virtual tradie to help with home repairs. NASA says it is developing software that will enable its space scientists to explore a virtual Martian landscape.
5. A free upgrade
Windows 10 boasts plenty of other new features. But perhaps best of all, it will be a free upgrade for those with Windows 7 or 8. Microsoft appears to be banking on increased demand for new PCs and other Windows devices boosting its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) business.
So will Windows 10 be a success when it is released later in 2015?
Only time will tell, but most of those who have seen or beta-tested the new OS are impressed. Or as US analyst Rob Enderle said: “This is what Windows 8 should have been.”