Microsoft’s much-maligned Windows 8 finally has an update in the form of Windows 10, which launches today in 13 select cities including Dubai.
The platform is, of course, freely available as an upgrade (for Windows 7 and later versions) across 190 countries and 111 languages this summer.
Microsoft is obviously making a big deal out of it (including promoting the hashtag #UpgradeYourWorld), but the fact that it skipped a number in the Windows nomenclature – from Windows 8 to Windows 10 – in order to make it a round 10 suggests that Microsoft does have high hopes from the platform.
Or maybe it’s just that seven ate nine.
Whatever it is, for the first time, Microsoft undertook a huge beta testing of its platform – with feedback from more than five million customers, it maintains – and that should (at least in theory) mean that it will have less of the bugs that were the hallmarks of some of its previous Windows editions.
“A new era of Windows starts today. From the beginning, Windows 10 has been unique — built with feedback from over 5 million fans, delivered as a service and offered as a free upgrade,” said Terry Myerson, executive vice president, Windows and Devices Group, at Microsoft.
“Windows 10 delivers on our more personal computing vision, with a natural, mobile and trusted experience. Along with our partners, we’re excited to deliver the best Windows ever, which will empower people and organisations around the world to do great things.”
The firm says its Windows 10 is the most secure Windows ever, and offers many innovations for more personal and productive experiences across devices. That shouldn’t come as a surprise at all, given the times we’re living in. Our security has never been more vulnerable, and we’ve never been more connected with and through our devices.
However, to be fair, the platform does have its selling points even as it is ‘free’ to upgrade.
So let’s take a quick sneak preview of some of the features that Microsoft hopes will make this the best Windows to date.
#1 All-new browser: Bye, bye Explorer. Hello, Edge
Codenamed Project Spartan, the new browser is officially called Edge, and will make sharing stuff from the browser window a child’s play. No more clumsy cuts-and-pastes into your e-mails, promises Microsoft.
With Edge’s Web Note feature, you could even doodle with a stylus or your fingers right on a webpage, and then e-mail it to whoever you wish to. Or just insert you own image to a report about an official meeting in Buckingham Palace, and watch your friends’ jaws drop!
#2 Game on
With Xbox on Windows 10, Microsoft is bringing some of the features from Xbox Live and some of the most popular Xbox experiences into Windows 10 itself. The browser even comes with a built-in Xbox app so you don’t always have to be next to your gaming console to play online with your friends. Now you can do it on your mobiles and PCs too.
In addition, the platform also offers game developers the convenience of developing one game for Windows 10 that will be compatible across all three Microsoft platforms – Xbox, mobile and PC.
#3 Welcome back, Start button
The Start button introduced in Windows 95 to the tune of Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up on August 24, 1995 is back with Windows 10. Microsoft was quick to realise its folly when its Windows 8 interface, called Metro, did away with the Start button and users made a huge hue-and-cry. The new interface gives the Start button its due by welcoming it officially back in its fold, right where you’d expect it.
#4 The Hero desktop
Microsoft says it drew inspiration from a number of components including the engineers who provided their feedback, along with the creative team building on the power of the word Windows for their new ‘Hero’ desktop.
It notes that its creative team worked closely with the engineers to ensure that all the breakthrough features (i.e., Cortana, Microsoft Edge, etc.) of Windows 10 were encompassed in the image.
#5 The Action Centre
Microsoft has moved all the Charms functions in a new Windows 10 Notifications panel and called it the ‘Action Centre’, which can be launched from the notifications area of the task bar.
#6 All-new File Explorer
The Windows 10 new File Explorer provides a Quick Access area to which you can pin and unpin any folders you want to regularly access. In the 'home' screen of File Explorer you can also see Frequent Folders and Recent Files.
#7 Search for anything, anywhere
Search your PC and the web from the taskbar to find help, apps, files, settings or anything. Your personal assistant Cortana will be your guide (alas, still not available in the UAE). After you enter a search term, select ‘Search my stuff’ to find results for apps, settings, photos, videos, and music across your PC and OneDrive.
#8 Universal Apps; new Windows Store
With its Universal App Platform or UAP, Windows 10 provides an opportunity to developers to develop apps that will work across PC, Windows 10 on mobile and Xbox too – essentially on every screen size.
These Universal apps are the replacement for the apps that, in Windows 8 and 8.1, were known as Metro apps or Modern UI apps.
#9 Built-in apps
Windows comes with built-in apps for photos, music, movies, and email. For instance, there is a new Photos app that provides a complete back catalogue as well as editing and filter capabilities. Sport and News are improved experiences too, claims Microsoft. The Music app, now called Groove Music, is synced up with Microsoft’s new subscription service.
The Windows Store has thousands more apps, says the firm, and can be accessed right from the Start button.
#10 It’s free to upgrade – and available now
Upgrading is simple for those on a (genuine) Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 PC or tablet. Starting today, people who reserved their upgrade to Windows 10 will be notified in phases when their upgrade is ready to be installed. For business customers, Windows 10 is available to start deploying within their work environments, and starting August 1, organisations that have volume licensing can upgrade to Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education.