There were some surprises in Microsoft's announcement on Tuesday about its next operating system update, the biggest one being that it will be called Windows 10, and not, as many might have expected, Windows 9.
As many observers noted after the news came out, the new name certainly suggests that Microsoft wants to create as much distance as possible between the latest OS and its not-so-popular predecessors, Windows 8 and 8.1.
Still, there are several months to go before Windows 10 is available to the mainstream consumer market. While we all await that release -- expected sometime in mid-2015, after Microsoft's next Build developer conference -- here are 10 things you should know about Windows 10:
1. The Start Menu Returns
While it's no surprise -- the return of the Start menu was announced during this year's Build conference in April -- it's still welcome news to many. The lack of a Start menu on Windows 8 and 8.1 was one of several features that caused many business users, in particular, to avoid the current OS. Windows 10 will bring back an extended Start menu with one-click access to most commonly used functions, and that can be personalized with other apps and sites.
2. The Community Has a Say
Microsoft has also announced a new Windows Insider Program that will allow computer-savvy users to test-drive early builds of the new OS and offer direct feedback to Microsoft's engineers. We reached out to IDC analyst Al Gillen to ask about the Insider program. He said it signals that Microsoft has recognized that its past approach in releasing Windows 8/8.1 was "probably not the right thing to do." Getting feedback from the user of the community is really standard, Gillen said.
3. Windows Means Business
The touchscreen-focused design of Windows 8 and 8.1 turned off many business users with devices that don’t run touchscreens. That has led to slow adoption rates, with just under 15 percent of all Windows-based desktops and notebooks running Windows 8/8.1 as of August 2014, according to recent figures from the Web analytics firm Net Applications. With 10, Microsoft is putting the focus back on enterprise customers.
The business-focused features of Windows 10 will include enterprise-grade security, identity and information protection as well as simplified management and deployment to help lower costs, including in-place upgrades from Windows 7 or 8 that are focused on making device wipe-and-reload scenarios obsolete," according to Microsoft's announcement.
4. Eyeing the Internet of Things
Windows 10 will be designed to work across whatever devices it might eventually be deployed on, whether they're PCs, tablets, XBox systems or phones. With that in mind, Microsoft is building the OS on a "converged application platform," which means "(d)evelopers will be able to write an application once and deploy it easily across multiple device types, making discovery, purchase and updating easier than ever."
5. Back to Resizable Windows
Unlike with Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10 will open apps from the Windows Store just like any other desktop program . . . in a resizable, movable window topped with a title bar. This will make it easier for users to minimize, maximize and close apps with a single click.
6. Oh Snap
Windows 10's snap enhancements will make it "easier and more intuitive" to use multiple apps at once, according to Microsoft.
"A new quadrant layout allows up to four apps to be snapped on the same screen," according to the company. "Windows will also show other apps and programs running for additional snapping, and it will even make smart suggestions on filling available screen space with other open apps."
7. A Desktop for Every Season
Depending on what you use your device for, Windows 10 will allow you to create different desktops for different reasons. The multiple desktop option will help avoid the problem of "too many appls and files overlapping on a single desktop."
8. Welcome to the 'Continuum'
That's the tentative name of a Windows 10 feature designed for users of two-in-one devices. That feature will enable users to, for instance, switch to tablet mode when they detach their screens from their keyboards.
9. Room with a New Task View
Windows 10 will include a new Task view button, providing a single view of all open apps and files. That will make it easier for users to quickly switch back and forth to whichever apps, desktops or files they want to use.
10. It’s Definitely not Windows 8
As Computerworld noted, Windows 10 is "two louder" than 8/8.1. Or, as Microsoft executives Terry Myerson and Joe Belfiore noted when they announced the new OS, it’s Windows 10 because "7 ate 9."
Image credit: Product shot by Microsoft; iStock Artist's concept.