NEW YORK—The advent of Windows 10 took the press room at the Interop trade show here by storm. Partly because the show had reached an all-time level of boring, and partly because the news out of Microsoft was actually pretty important. But of course serious discussions didn’t start until we had our way with Microsoft.
“Windows 10,” one wag said thoughtfully. “If it was Apple it would be ‘Windows X’ wouldn’t it?” He thought for a minute. “Say, we should call it Wind – X!” he said, chuckling to himself.
I thought about the comparison between Microsoft’s major new announcement and a bottle of blue window cleaner. “It cleans Windows,” I said quietly, hoping no one would notice. Then more loudly, “I notice they skipped Windows 9.”
Microsoft likely made a smart move in taking an extra-large leap to Windows 10. At least it won’t seem like a natural follow-on. There’ll be some space to help customers forget about what a dismal a failure Windows 8 was.
Windows 10 (or should we call it Wind–X?) may be Microsoft’s most important Windows update at least since Windows 7. The company suffered a significant black eye when enterprise users found that Windows 8 was such a huge productivity sink that most of them simply refused to buy it.
It got so bad that major enterprise computer vendors continued to offer Windows 7 long after the time Microsoft originally wanted to stop selling it, harking back to the days when PC makers keep shipping their products with the venerable Windows XP long after the disappointing Windows Vista arrived on the market.
In fact, I was able to order Windows 7 instead of Windows 8 when I bought an HP Professional Workstation just a few months ago. It should have been obvious to Microsoft that enterprise users weren’t going to suddenly change their installed base of computers to touch-screen devices just for the sake of doing what Microsoft thought was the next big thing.
But now at least you can get a look at Windows 10. It’ll be a preliminary, very early beta version, but you can see what Microsoft has in mind. It’s important to be aware that this is very much a work in progress. Microsoft can change its corporate mind about what it wants Windows 10 to be any time it wishes.
eWEEK’s Pedro Hernandez gives you an early look at what Microsoft is letting out the door now, but to actually get your hands on the code to try it out, you first have to join the Windows Insider Program to get started.
But before you rush headlong into installing Windows 10, take a few minutes to read the FAQ that Microsoft has produced. You’ll notice that this is the part where the Windows team should have brought out Adam and Jamie from Mythbusters to tell you about only doing this with experts. Yes, Microsoft wants you to be an expert before you try Windows 10.
Microsoft Hopes Customers Forget the Past by Skipping to Windows 10
Just to shorten things a little, you should only attempt to run the Windows 10 Preview on a computer that’s being used strictly for that purpose. It should not be used on anything even remotely resembling a production machine. That could rule out a lot of casual techies who can’t afford a spare machine just to beta test an operating system.
The only tech support will be community based, the changes and updates may happen frequently and right now nobody knows if you’ll be able to update the test machine to the released version of Windows 10.
Microsoft also has set out a list of requirements for the machine on which you plan to test Windows 10. They’re in the FAQ, and you should read them, but in general most computers with Windows 7 or 8.1 should be able to run Windows 10.
This may also be an indication that Microsoft isn’t going to repeat the earlier blunder of not allowing updates for earlier versions of Windows, such as when the company wouldn’t allow updates from Windows XP to Windows 8, which certainly held back any move upwards for many computer owners.
Of course there are plenty of reasons why you should welcome Windows 10, including the return of the much-missed Start Menu and a return to an interface that will support a keyboard and mouse seamlessly. You will no longer be required to have a touch-screen to use Windows productively. This time, the goal is to create a version of Windows that will work well with either interface.
But there’s one other thing that’s going on that’s perhaps more important. Microsoft is asking that users of the Preview software provide feedback, lots of it. This means if it’s not working in your enterprise, they want to know about it. This time, Microsoft is going out of its way to court its business users, including setting up a page to explain how it’s all going to work this time.
Microsoft says that Windows 10 is designed for business and the enterprise from the ground up, including enterprise-grade security. The company is also saying that it’s creating a unified Windows across all platforms, including Mobile. Windows Phone will get Windows 10 as well, although it’s unclear whether existing phones will be upgraded, although I’m betting they won’t be.
Over all, this is good news for the enterprise. Finally there’s an upgrade path that should lead to stability and security, but which doesn’t leave your installed base behind. Microsoft is finally listening to its enterprise users. It’s about time.