Today, Windows 10 is finally available as a free upgrade for owners of systems running Windows 7 and up, the company announced at midnight.
For users and businesses still clinging to Windows 7, representing over 60 percent of total desktop OS market according to the Web analytics firm Net Applications, the new operating system (OS) addresses many of the glaring issues that made Windows 8 a non-starter for productivity-minded folks. Namely, its predecessor's touch-first disposition has been replaced with an adaptive interface that helps keyboard and mouse users feel at home.
"First and foremost, we made Windows 10 fast and familiar," said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft Windows and Devices, in a late-day July 28 statement. "With the familiar Start menu, Taskbar, and Desktop you're already an expert and Live Tiles provide streaming updates of what matters most to you, instantly."
Microsoft made the controversial decision to replace the traditional Start menu with the touch-friendly Start screen in Windows 8, a move that alienated many Windows diehards. Windows 10 embraces the decidedly desktop-centric Start menu while incorporating more modern touches like the company's left-updating Live tiles, panels that display at a glance information pertaining to their respective applications.
For businesses, Windows 10 is a major step up in security, according to Brad McCabe, product marketing manager on the Windows commercial team. Customers with volume licensing agreements can begin upgrading to Windows 10 on Aug. 1.
With Microsoft's Passport technology, "businesses can log into their line of business apps without a password," McCabe told Datamation. Windows Hello, for example, can use Intel's RealSense 3D camera for quick biometric logins using one's face.
There's no sense in trying to fool the sensor, either. The camera's infrared sensor can tell a printed picture of a face from the real thing.
Even those organizations that plan to stick with user/password combos can expect better security. "With Credential Guard, we can block a whole series of events that go after user credentials," said McCabe about the company's new login data protection technology for businesses. Other productivity-enhancing features include Continuum, the rapid desktop-to-tablet (and vice versa) UI switching option for 2-in-1 PCs and Cortana, Microsoft's virtual assistant.
And there are more business-centric experiences in store, according to Jim Alkove, corporate vice president of Enterprise and Security in Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft.
"We're introducing revolutionary new categories of devices (like HoloLens and Surface Hub) that redefine workplace productivity," said Alkove in a statement. "We expect Windows 10 will enable the broadest range of innovative devices ever – from PCs and phones to Surface Hub and HoloLens."
PCs aside, Microsoft is making a move into the growing market for Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. A free, lightweight version of the OS for smart connected devices, called Windows 10 IoT, is also available today.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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