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Windows 10 will include the multiple desktop feature and see the return of the Start button.
Windows 10 will include the multiple desktop feature and see the return of the Start button.

The last Windows, as we know it

There will not be any traditional operating system releases after Windows 10thereafter, Microsoft will shift to a live update model

Without a doubt, Windows 8 didn’t do as well as Microsoft had hoped. After years of familiarity with the interface across its operating system (OS), since Windows 95 released in 1995, Windows 8 upset the apple cart—the addition of a supposedly touch-friendly, tile-based interface confused users.

Companies didn’t upgrade from the tried and tested Windows 7. Things seem to be returning to the pre-Windows 8 days as Windows 10 brings back the Start button and the tile interface can now be turned off, among other things. We had a chance to try the next OS, and understand what the big changes are.

Windows 10 is the successor to Windows 8.1, and will be released in the second half of 2015. The Redmond giant doesn’t say much about why “9" was skipped. But if a self-claimed Microsoft developer, who goes by the username cranborne, is to be believed (on the social news site Reddit), it is because of Windows 95 and Windows 98. Basically, software developers used the shorthand method all along to check the version name of Windows (Windows 9x) for software installs. An OS with the name Windows 9 would now have created a problem with legacy apps such as MS Paint.

First time for everything:“For the previous eight Windows OS releases, there was a two- to three-year gap, with the exception of XP, which was around for five-six years," says Vineet Durani, director—Windows, Microsoft India. Along the way, developers got their first feel of an in-development OS at the beta stage, a few months before release. There was usually no difference between the beta and final versions in terms of the look and features, except for routine bug fixes and stability updates.

This is the first time (with Windows 10) that Microsoft has released a technical preview (a stage prior to beta) of an OS in development, to get software developers and enterprises involved in the building process.

Walking into the sunset: “Windows 10 is the last major release of Windows," says Durani. He describes the shift to the “live, constantly innovated platform", which means that new feature sets, updates and patches will be rolled out and get downloaded on the machine the OS is installed on. In a nutshell, you will get to version 10.1, 10.2 and beyond via the automatic online update method.

One OS for all devices: Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 started the process of the “converged Windows", with the same software structure ensuring the same apps can run on all devices and versions. So just the visual element requires tweaks. “But only 20% of the software components were common between the two operating systems, and even lesser on the Xbox, Microsoft’s gaming console," Durani says.

With Windows 10, Microsoft says it is literally the same OS on the desktop, laptop, tablet, hybrid, phone and gaming console. “From the smallest to the largest devices, Windows 10 is the same. Build an app for the phone, it will also run on the Xbox One," says Durani.

Learning from past mistakes: Microsoft admits that the Windows 8 experience turned out to be jarring, particularly if the user’s machine didn’t support touch. With Windows 10, the touch-optimized Modern UI becomes optional, and the user can turn it off.

Return to the ‘Start’:At the time of the preview, Durani clarified that “the Windows 10 interface seen at the moment is not the final version". But the Start button is back, with the redone menu. An interesting add-on is the ability to pin the favourite apps on one side. If someone is also using a Windows Phone, it will be very helpful to pin app tiles here in the same order (and size) as on your phone’s home screen.

Continuity:Hybrid devices (with detachable keyboards) are becoming popular. Windows 10 automatically understands when you are using one. If the keyboard is in place, the OS works in the desktop mode. The moment it’s detached, a prompt asks if the user wants to shift to the touch-optimized tablet mode.

Multiple desktops: With Windows 10, Microsoft is adding the multiple desktop screen feature. Users can either set certain apps to a particular desktop screen, or simply sort on the basis of apps (for instance, productivity apps on one desktop, games on another, media playback on another, etc.). Incidentally, this feature has been available on Apple’s Mac OS X for quite some time.

Windows Store gets a boost: As many as 700,000 or more Windows apps from third-party developers will be consolidated on the app store. “The idea is to list every single Windows application—Modern, WinRT, Win32," says Durani. “There will be more than 1.2 million apps, in time for the Windows 10 release," he adds.

Upgrading to Windows 10:Microsoft confirms that anyone upgrading from Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 will get an “in-place" install, which means that the new OS will install without changing, moving or deleting data. The update will install seamlessly, while the files, data and applications will remain untouched.

Pricing:Microsoft isn’t saying much about the pricing at the moment. But the indications are that post roll-out updates to Windows 10 could be free, in much the same way as Windows 8.1 is for Windows 8.

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