Microsoft Windows 10 is officially launched: Here is all you need to know.
Today, July 29th 2015, Microsoft Windows 10 begins its official rollout to the masses; however we won’t find it at physical retailers right away. The release of Windows 10, with the exception of sporadic sightings of it being available in USB form, is largely an online-based affair, at least for the moment, and it will occur in waves, with a priority on enterprise customers, for whom the rollout began yesterday.
As promised, Windows 10 is now available as a free upgrade to new and existing customers who own PCs running Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, and Microsoft has gone through lengths, to ensure a smooth upgrade process for all qualifying devices.
For home users, the upgrade will occur automatically. Windows 8.1 users can reserve Windows 10 through the “Get Windows 10” app, available in the Windows Store. Users of Windows 7 will also be able to follow a straightforward path to upgrading to Windows 10 by clicking on a balloon notification from the Windows 10 system tray, which was pushed to Windows 7 users earlier this year as a reminder that they too will be able to get the free upgrade.
Microsoft has published a range of Windows 8.1 devices that users can purchase now, and then upgrade to Windows 10, through the app provided, or through the store the new laptop, tablet, 2-in-1 or desktop PC has been purchased.
Among the devices listed, we can find hardware that definitely caters to budget users, such as the Acer Iconia, and HP Stream 8 inch tablets, aside from Microsoft Surface 3.
The 2-in-1 selection by Microsoft follows the same budget-conscious trend, with a number of name brand devices including Asus Transformer Book, Dell Inspiron, Lenovo YOGA, Toshiba Satellite and, of course, Microsoft Surface Pro 3.
Moving onto more powerful and mission-focused laptops, Asus is once again grabbing the spotlight, with its EeeBook and ZenBook models.
Of course, it would be outlandish of Microsoft not to offer some desktop options as well, and the Lenovo B50 Touch doesn’t fall short, powered by an Intel Core i7 processor, and shipped with 16GB or RAM in its entry-level configuration.
The gaming PC selection curated by Microsoft includes Dell’s iconic Alienware brand, and Lenovo Y50.
Alienware comes in its 15 inch configuration, featuring nVidia GeForce GTX 965M 2GB GDDR5 graphics, Intel Core i7 processor, 1TB hard drive and 16GB of memory. The Lenovo Y50 has a similar configuration, but with a 256GB SSD hard drive.
User experience and learning curve
To most users, Windows 10 offers a familiar experience, especially to those users who are still using Windows 7. As a matter of fact, those who have not participated in the Windows Insider program will be surprised at how similar Windows 10 and Windows 7 are, at least concerning user experience.
The integration of Cortana in Windows 10 adds a new level of interactivity, not only with Windows 10’s system functions, but also with apps, installed software and the Web. In Windows 10, users will be able to do everything they are already accustomed to do on the smartphones, such as using voice commands to compose and send email, perform web searches, and set reminders and calendar entries. By the same token, as mentioned earlier, Cortana has also knowledge of what resides locally on the PC, which means that opening installed applications no longer requires scouring through the Taskbar menu, although that option is still available.
Opening an application, whether it’s a Windows Store app, or a locally installed software application, is as easy as typing the first few letters of that application’s name in Cortana’s search box, or simply telling Cortana the name of the application, which will automatically output a list of options, including existing applications, or related web search results, if the name of that application can’t be found.
Windows 10’s interface allows to organize application windows on the desktop a lot easier, using window-snap to automatically arrange open applications by simply dragging them to the side, or to a corner of the screen. When doing that, up to four windows will re-size and position themselves automatically.
One of the biggest news about Windows 10 is Microsoft Edge, the brand new browser set to push Internet Explorer into the limelight, and replace it with a lightning-fast, fully featured browser that is light-weight, and secure.
With Microsoft Edge, many of the features that used to make Internet Explorer a less secure browser are gone. Support for extensions and plugins has been scrapped, eliminating all dangerous aspects of introducing third-party code with the malicious potential of interfering with the browsing experience, as well as destabilizing the operating system.
Microsoft Edge also packs extra features, like offline browsing capabilities, a reading mode that allows to isolate the main content of a website for easier reading, and note-taking features capable of grabbing snippets of web content that can be saved offline or shared, with the addition of over-layed notes that can be handwritten, or drawn over the snippets.
Cortana integration in Microsoft Edge also adds a new dimension to browsing, with the ability to display local information about websites, such as driving directions to a restaurant, or store.
Windows users are no strangers to pre-installed apps, such as Outlook Express and Windows Media Player. Nearly all legacy apps have been scrapped, with a number of them rebuilt completely, re-branded or replaced to create a cohesive experience within the new operating system. Built-in apps are a huge selling point, because they provide users with a range of uses, out of the box, and are capable of extend their functionality across all devices, under the umbrella definition of “Universal Apps”.
These apps can be set up and loaded quickly, and integrate well with Cortana, to a level where many of those functions can be accessed through simple voice commands.
These include “Maps”, which is the equivalent of Google Maps, but built to work with Cortana. Maps has the ability to download map information and store them locally, to be used through a tablet or a Windows 10 Phone, when needing to use GPS navigation.
The Photos app also replaces the stock image preview application that used to be the default. Photos offers an experience that is a lot closer to that of a mobile device, with easily accessible options and editing tools.
Mail is the official stock replacement for Outlook Express, which enabled users to setup multiple email accounts with many popular web mail providers, including Gmail and Yahoo.
With Windows Media Player and Media Center being retired, Movies and TV is now the go-to app to watch video content in Windows 10.
Windows Media Player used to double as both video and music player, but with an industry-wide renowned focus on music apps, such as Apple Music and Google Play Music, Microsoft is now following suit with Music, a universal app that features many characteristics common to what users are looking for in a music app, such as online streaming stations, alongside their own personalized music library.
All Universal apps, and many upcoming ones available in the new Windows Store, are designed to work with OneDrive, which makes the experience uniform across devices, in such a way that users can find the same experience from desktop to laptop to phone.
Microsoft is focused on eliminating the need for passwords with Windows Hello, a security feature designed to work with specific hardware, such as Intel RealSense 3D cameras, capable of recognizing the owner of a PC by analyzing information from a real-time 3D scan, which makes it nearly impossible to fool, for instance through the use of a 2D photograph.
Of course, Windows Hello is also designed to work with more conventional biometrics methods, such as fingerprint readers and iris scanners, both built into new devices, as well as external ones.
Windows 10 Phone
Microsoft is not about leaving Windows Phone users out of the loop, and upcoming, as well as a number of existing Windows phones, are set to blur the line between smartphone and PC. Windows 10 Phones will be able to connect to external displays, the same way laptops can, and support a range of accessories, including wireless keyboards and mice, to allow for a PC-like experience.