It’s been a busy year at Microsoft. In February Satya Nadella took over the CEO reins from Steve Ballmer. A few months later they completed the purchase of Nokia, followed by the introduction of Windows 10 at the Build Conference in April.
Each of these announcements is important to the future of the world’s largest software company. Nadella has been quietly steering Microsoft towards a future that’s heavily invested in the cloud, mobile and the enterprise. Even the harshest Microsoft critic must tip his hat to Nadella, given the results in such a short period of time. While Nokia looks to be a good fit, it will be a few more years before we can determine if that $7 billion investment was a success.
On the horizon, however, is Windows 10, which is a fascinating product for a lot of reasons, but none more so than it comes on the heels of Windows 8 which has been criticized for its drastic departure from Windows 7 and XP. Many consumers were turned off by the new design. Add in the fact that Microsoft had also recently pulled the plug on support for Windows XP and forced many businesses to upgrade their aging XP machines to Windows 7 (Some simply didn’t upgrade), and you have a situation where many users and businesses decided to pass on Windows 8.
I created the chart below to show what Puget Systems customers are selecting when they are given a choice between Windows 8, Windows 7, and Ubuntu Linux. Over 60% of our customers are sticking with Windows 7, which is now five years old. Our customer base is a nice mix between consumer and businesses.
With Windows 10, Microsoft hopes to convince its consumer and business customers that it’s a worthy upgrade. After spending the past week with the Windows 10 Technical Preview, I’m convinced Microsoft has fixed many Windows 8 annoyances, and is well on their way to delivering a solid product to its millions of customers.
This week I want to take a look at few features in Windows 10 that Microsoft has added that IT professionals will appreciate. Although it looks a lot like Windows 8, there’s a lot going on under the skin that IT staff will appreciate.
Microsoft wants to make it easy for anyone to install Windows 10, but this is often a laborious task that falls in the lap of IT. Traditionally, IT has used the Wipe and Load process which basically builds the OS from scratch using tools such as Assessment & Deployment Kit and the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. It’s a reliable, fairly straight-forwards process for deploying Windows, but it’s often very time-consuming. (Of course, for a brand new install on a new machine, some will simply restore a backup image to the new machine).
With Windows 10, Microsoft is encouraging an In-Place upgrade that will preserve all data, settings, applications, and drivers. It will basically restore everything, but is only recommended for existing devices running Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1. Lack of XP support is unfortunate, but understandable, at this point in the game.
Windows 10 also introduces a third deployment option called Provisioning. Many organizations encourage the practice of BYOD, but don’t like the hassle that comes with making those devices enterprise-ready. The provisioning option in Windows 10 will allow the IT staff to use the OEM version of Windows already on the device and make it enterprise-ready by removing unwanted programs and installing organizational apps.
Wipe and Load will still be required if you’re upgrading the environment, say from a 32 bit to a 64 bit OS, but these two new features of Windows 10 will give IT staff new deployment options.
While Windows 7/8 focused on adding more layers of security defense, Windows 10 aims to eliminate threats by updating the architecture of Windows. I know we’ve heard this before from Microsoft, but they understand this is one of the most compelling reasons to invest in a Windows upgrade.
Windows 10 promises that users will be able to use their mobile phones and biometric devices as secondary authentication devices in order to login to their computers. I expect Microsoft to push Azure Active Directory to help secure data that moves from device to device much like how consumers use a Microsoft Account today.
Microsoft also wants to keep malware off your devices by utilizing an isolation architecture which makes the system more resilient against attacks. Windows 10 is still a work in progress, but Microsoft is certainly making security a priority in Windows 10.
Laugh if you must, but Windows 10 introduces keyboard shortcuts to the Windows 10 command prompt. Yep, it’s about time! This is a feature many admins have requested for many years, and it looks like it’s finally going to happen.
Not only can you Ctrl-V, but right-click on the title bar of the command prompt and you’ll see several new features to enable. My favorite is the ability to wrap test to the edge of the windows, even on resize.
I will admit that I’m excited for Windows 10. I like the direction Microsoft is heading with 10. Maybe the old adage that “every other version of Windows is great” has been overplayed in the light of the Windows 8 controversy, but it appears to be true this time around.
Note: If you’re interested in running Windows 10 in VirtualBox, here’s the guide I used from Betanews. I wasn’t able to get the 64-bit version running inside a VM, but the 32-bit version worked like a charm.
Photo credit: Jon Jordan via Flickr