Today, Microsoft did the first showcase of the New Windows, or Windows 10. The product is still months off, and it is clear the company thought long and hard about the new name. My personal position on naming is that the only thing everyone agrees on with regard to a new name is that the person who came up with it is an idiot. We were expecting Windows 9; we got Windows 10. This wasn’t a bad idea, really, because 10 is the highest score on a common 10-point scale and, often, the number used to signify excellence. This product will need to be amazing because it will be the first version of Windows to fully scale from phones to PCs, something that neither Google nor Apple can do today. This should give Microsoft an advantage with users and developers, but only if the platform matches its new name.
Microsoft is following best practice for a product that is designed to address both a consumer and an enterprise market:
- Roll with the enterprise messaging and options first, because enterprises take a while to validate and budget for a new product.
- Hold the consumer-focused messaging till close to the launch because consumers are far more tactical in their focus and they have a short memory.
Expect a consumer-focused effort after the end of the year.
As you would expect for an enterprise-focused event, Microsoft pointed out enhancements to security, manageability, a business-focused Windows store, and things focused on folks who deploy this for productivity, not for fun.
The user experience starts with a Start menu that blends the Windows 7 and Windows 8 Start menus. XP, Vista and Windows 7 users will love this because you have the Start button back (it looks like a window, much like it does in Windows 8.1), and you have jump lists and active tiles in the same view. The active tiles provide information that may draw you into an application (new mail, weather, social media updates), and the jump lists get you to your application, like they did with Windows 7. Rather than one or the other, this early build looks like it provides the best of both: Active tiles where they make sense and jump menus where they improve access speeds and lower the pain for those moving from XP, Vista or Windows 7.
As before, search appears at the bottom of the Start menu, but it now works like Windows 8 did, anticipating what you are typing and then automatically populating the result. For instance, if you are looking for the Skype app, you should have it in the view by the time you type S-K-Y.
One of the really annoying things about Windows 8 was that it opened some apps in full screen and you couldn’t put them in a window. Now these apps work like the old apps did; you can window the apps and you can split screen the apps, making them vastly easier to work with.
Another big problem that has been fixed is that, with Windows 8, it switched mode from touch to legacy based on app, not based on use. What I mean is that if you opened a new app, regardless of whether you were using a touch-screen device or not, you got a touch-screen interface. And if you launched a legacy app, like Office, you were in a non-touch interface. This drove me nuts. Now the modes change based on use. Touch-screen products get the touch-screen interface and non-touch products (laptops without touch or 2-in-1s in laptop mode) get the mouse-focused interface. This is actually pretty slick. I won’t try to describe it, because I can’t do it justice, but you should see this on a 2-in-1. It is actually pretty amazing. Just watching it change personality as you attach or remove a keyboard, taking it out of and into tablet mode, is pretty cool.
Snap is sharply improved. This is the feature that positions windowed apps on the screen quickly. You can now near instantly divide your screen into two, three or four equally sized windows. This will be increasingly handy as we move to larger and higher-resolution (4K) displays.
One of the geeky cool things is an update to the command prompt. Now keyboard shortcuts work with the command prompt. Selecting lines and words like you do with a Word document now works in the prompt. Geeky, yes, but for good techs a godsend.
A rumor was going around that Microsoft was giving up on touch. It isn’t. The touch features that people like, for instance scrolling, pinch and zoom, and swipe right to get to the charm bar and setting, remain. The charm bar itself will change. There will be some additions, for example, swiping right opens up a running app menu. A number of additional enhancements will be showcased later (likely when they are better tested, this is an early build, after all).
Wrapping Up: Windows Insider
One of the problems with Windows 2000, Windows Vista and Windows 8 was that the focus was on getting these products out the door, not on getting them out the door right. This new Windows 10 has wrapped around it a Windows Insider program, where a large number of folks who live on Windows will be asked to use and provide feedback on the product prior to RTM. This has always resulted in a far better offering because most of the annoying problems are identified and eliminated before the release ends up on everyone else’s desk mid-2015.
This will likely be the biggest launch that Microsoft has ever done because it encompasses phones, tablets and PCs, and it will be the initial signature product for Microsoft’s new CEO. Microsoft has to get this right.
I liked what I saw. If Microsoft executes as promised, Windows 10 should be what we’ve all hoped.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+