Microsoft has surprised industry observers by announcing the next version of its mainstream operating system will be called Windows 10, and a technical preview will be available to download from October 1.
Announcing the platform at an event in San Francisco, Microsoft said that Windows 10 represents the first step of a whole new generation of Windows. It will also run across an incredibly broad set of devices, from the Internet of Things to servers in enterprise data centres, on devices with 4in screens to 80in screens, and some that won't have screens at all.
Starting October 1, Microsoft is to open up the Windows Insider Programme, making available a technical preview of Windows 10 for participants. Through this, customers and technical partners will be able to to experience new builds as soon as they're available and have an opportunity to influence product development decisions for the platform via a built-in Windows Feedback app.
As expected, Microsoft has more of an eye on its enterprise customers with Windows 10, previously codenamed Threshold, saying it will be more familiar from a user experience standpoint, with enterprise-grade security, identity and information protection features, plus simplified management and deployment.
"Windows 10 will be our greatest platform ever for organisations and their employees," said Jim Alkove, of the Windows enterprise programme management team, writing on Microsoft's Windows For Your Business blog.
Also as predicted, Windows 10 sees a return of the Start menu from previous Windows releases (see image above), but with a customisable space for favourite apps and the Live Tiles of Windows 8. All applications, including "Metro-style" apps from the Windows Store now run inside a window once more.
Perhaps with a nod to smartphones and tablets, Windows 10 features multiple desktops (see image below), which users can switch between, and File Explorer now displays recent files and frequently visited folders to make it easier for users to find their files.
Windows 10 also delivers one universal app platform, one security model, and one deployment and management approach, Microsoft said.
However, this does not mean that there will be a single Windows platform that runs across all devices, according to Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Operating Systems group.
"We're not talking about one UI to rule them all - we're talking about one product family, with a tailored experience for each device," he said.
However Windows 10 shapes up, there is an awful lot riding on this version of Windows, after the mistakes Microsoft made with Windows 8.
"Microsoft must show that it will be much easier to upgrade and update Windows, that the new OS will be easier to learn and use for traditional PC users than Windows 8, and that they've preserved mobile capabilities," said Frank Gillett, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research.
"It's a very tall order for Microsoft, but they have to reinvigorate Windows in order to remain relevant in the mobile- and cloud-first world that it is aiming for," he added.
For more information on the cloud, visit the Intel IT Center.
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