The wait for Windows 10 is almost over. According to a Microsoft spokesperson, “Windows 10 will be made available later this summer.” Unfortunately, I was unable to convince the spokesperson to be more specific, so that means the big update will happen before Sept. 23, since that’s the first day of autumn. If I were a betting man, I would bet on the last half of August or the first few days of September.
But in reality, the specific day hardly matters. What does matter is that Microsoft appears to be working hard to make Windows 10 palatable to business users of all sizes. This is different from the release of Windows 8, which was optimized for touch screens but which left longtime keyboard-and-mouse users out in the cold.
A key indication of the seriousness with which Microsoft is approaching Windows 10 for business can be seen in the company’s description of the six different editions that are being released, with three of them—Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise—designed for different classes of business users. Microsoft is also releasing editions of Windows 10 for education, home and mobile use.
Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Windows and Search Marketing Tony Prophet said in a blog entry that there will be versions of Windows for ATMs, point-of-sale devices, handheld terminals and industrial robotics, as well as a version called Windows IoT Core for devices such as gateways and others that will run on the Internet of things.
The good news for users of Windows 10 Pro, which Microsoft aims at smaller businesses and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) customers, is the update to Windows 10 will be free. While Microsoft hasn’t said exactly how it will happen, Prophet did say that it’s being delivered as a service, which probably means that all updates, including major updates, will be delivered online.
This probably means that current users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 will be able to move to Windows 10 in much the same way that they invoke Windows Update.
It’s important to note that Windows Update is going to be fundamentally changed for business users with the launch of Windows 10. The new version of Windows Update for Business is designed to give companies much more control over where, when and how updates are applied.
IT managers will be able to designate computers that will get updates first. They can also control what computers should not be interrupted by updates until management decides to do so as well as set times when updates should take place.
In addition, Microsoft has added a new set of security features to business versions of Windows, including something called “Device Guard,” which can be set so that only trusted applications are allowed to run.
Microsoft Tries to Make Business Users Comfortable With Windows 10
Device Guard also works with hardware-based Hyper-V isolation to contain malware. There will also be a Windows Store for Business that will contain only certified and trusted applications.
Other enhanced security features include Identity Protection, which among other things supports biometric authentication, and Application Protection, which supports application certification and can limit execution to certified applications.
The most pressing question for most businesses is how much the update will require in terms of the learning curve, new hardware and support complexity. As you might expect, Microsoft says all will be hunky-dory, but being a suspicious sort of guy, I decided to see for myself.
To do this, I first installed Windows 10 on a 64-bit PC with an AMD processor, which is the one I used for my first look at Windows 10 back in the fall. Then, just to confirm that the new OS will also run on the old, decrepit PCs some companies keep around, I installed Windows 10 on an ancient 32-bit HP workstation that originally ran Windows Vista.
Windows 10 Pro, which is the version being released as a part of the Windows Insider program, worked perfectly on both machines. To my surprise, it readily handled the dual, high-resolution monitors on the ancient HP workstation, and it runs all of the existing applications. This machine had previously been running Windows 8.1, and Windows 10 proved to be a dramatic improvement in terms of ease of use and performance.
Right now, the initial installation of Windows 10 requires that you create a DVD using the ISO file that you download from Microsoft. It would appear that Microsoft plans to perform the upgrade to Windows 10 by downloading the software as it does with updates. Already, major updates to Windows 10, even to the point of reinstalling the operating system, are handled this way.
There are some things that don’t really make the transition to a business environment, however. One of those is Cortana, the digital assistant. To work well, Cortana requires a microphone and speaker, both of which are fairly rare in corporate environments. You can use Cortana by typing in commands or questions, but if you’re going to do that, you might as well just type in your search terms in a search engine without Cortana’s help.
The Start button is back, and it’s enhanced by giving it a menu that’s a combination of the start menu from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. The good news is that you now have the items you use frequently in one place.
What this all means for business users is that while there will be a learning curve, it won’t be steep. But your support staff must be trained to deal with it while they’re also learning to use Windows 10 themselves. It’s not an impossible task, but it will require work, so you’ll need to plan on it.