Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Next Step Forward with Windows

We've been hearing a lot about Windows 10 over the last week and we've had the Technical Preview running in our office for almost 4 months. There are numerous features with which we are already quite excited. What we learned this week is even more impressive.

Windows 10 is marking a shift in the Operating System world, and is slated to finally be a realization of what developers have been struggling with for years. Many of us are familiar and frustrated with the hassles of integration between our traditional computers and mobile devices. Windows 8 was a huge leap forward in that regard, being able to install an app on a Windows phone and having a similar app in the traditional Windows 8 computer. The process was far from perfect, and pretty clunky; if you did something inside a desktop program, it probably wouldn't transfer over to the mobile version, and vice-versa - then on top of that, for example, IE has a program version, as well as an app version --- and they won't work the same, and didn't really talk well with each other.

In Windows 10 we start to see a much more "cross platform" approach to computing. I use "cross platform" loosely as it is truly not the case. To be technically correct, it is planned to truly only be "cross device" as the operating system on each device will be the same and developer will only need to tweak code to allow for the specifics of each: screen size/resolution, processor, audio, accessories... There are still questions about how Windows 10 will work with ARM devices, but the hope is there.

Along the same lines, console and desktop gamers have been struggling with the separation of worlds as well for years. Gaming consoles have been separated across networks from each other and from computer gaming. With Windows 10, Xbox Live will help bridge the gap; not only giving access to your games from Windows as well as your Xbox, but also having the ability to use your computer as a direct DVR, or even stream your game directly from your Xbox One to your Windows 10 tablet or PC.

Besides the more "traditional" devices, Microsoft also unveiled two new devices: Microsoft Surface Hub and Microsoft HoloLens.

Have you ever wished your tablet was bigger? How does 55" or 84" sound? This is not a smart TV, the Microsoft Surface Hub is a fully integrated system with cameras, sensors, mics, and speakers, designed for ink and touch interaction. So much more than a digital whiteboard, the Surface Hub will turn basic business meeting slideshows into fully interactive presentations with Windows 10 at its core. We've seen similar ideas in TV shows for a while, this is one amazing practical application.I'm excited to see where this goes.




What would a new OS be without a flare for the futuristic? Demoed earlier this week was Microsoft HoloLens. Google recently announced the shuttering of the consumer-end project of Google Glass. Microsoft stepped in and more than filled that space. While a bit aesthetically undesirable, HoloLens could be a major step forward as well. Imagine a 3D computing experience where you can not only overlay hologram computing on top on the real world, but in HD, surround sound, and completely wireless. Interaction by hand and voice is just the beginning.

We also get to look forward to Cortana, Microsoft's personal digital assistant coming to PCs and tablets, and code-name "Project Spartan" the new web experience for Windows 10.

I would be greatly remiss if I didn't mention the biggest news unveiled this week. "Windows as a Service" will be getting a lot of attention as we approach the full release of Windows 10. 

Firstly, because it marks a shift in the PC operating system upgrade approach. Microsoft is looking to release new features and enhancements as soon as they're ready, not waiting for the next big release. This should make the question of "What version are you running?" a thing of the past.

Secondly, and possibly the biggest news, Windows 10 will be a free upgrade in the first year after launch, from not only Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Phone, but also from Windows 7, the most popular desktop operation system in the world (NetMarketShare). According to some studies, if everyone takes advantage of it, this could provide Windows 10 an almost 70% market share in the desktop market.

This is definitely some exciting news from Microsoft, and we will be watching it very closely. The big question is...
Is Microsoft now back in the game?