Windows 10 one year on, the reality


Windows 10 launched a year ago as a free download from Microsoft,  it is now running on some 350 million devices. Microsoft's  target was something like a billion devices by 2018, the likely shortfall can be attributed to the slower uptake of Windows 10 smartphone devices. The free upgrade path for Windows concluded on 29 July 2016, Windows 7 and 8 users support will run through to mid 2018. Whilst the free upgrade path has "officially" ended, users with valid earlier version product keys are able to access the free upgrade, so there must exist an informal grace period.

Whilst security updates and "bug fixes" euphemistically called "enhancements" have appeared since original Windows 10 release, early August saw the release of the anniversary update which featured more comprehensive tweaks and improvements.  This should be considered in the context of a continuous evolution, when you dig behind the more aesthetic streamlined menus, elements such as the control panel have not changed materially in look and functionality through several iterations of Windows software. You are still able to access the legacy command prompt that traces its origins to the pre-Windows 95 days of the MS-DOS operating systems. The continuous software improvement process enables the software to benefit from faster and more capable hardware that make applications like voice recognition and control a reality rather than a promise. 

Disappointingly for New Zealand users is the unavailability of Cortana Microsoft's equivalent to Apple's Siri voice assistant. The interoperability of Cortana to bridge the gap between your phone and PC should hopefully arrive this year in New Zealand. The horror stories of installing updates such as the Windows's Anniversary edition always seems to receive a disproportionate degree of coverage than the vast majority of users who have a basically trouble free experience. On a current model Dell notebook the installation was trouble free, other than reporting a superseded unused WiDi (WiFi display utility) was not compatible and iCloud contacts and calendars disappearing in Outlook 2016. Reinstalling the iCloud Windows client software solved this inconvenience. Delving into this problem iCloud is not officially supported for Outlook by Microsoft, it is reminiscent of having to specifically grant access to Outlook for Google Gmail integration as it may be deemed an "unsafe" application. This is more reflective of the major industry players not always playing nicely with each other.

The useful upgrade enhancements include; managing multiple desktops, integration of Microsoft's calendar app with the taskbar,  tidy up of Windows's action centre, scheduling of updates outside of "active" hours, Edge supporting chrome like extensions, start menu tweaks, and logging in with companion devices and for tablet or 2 in 1 devices the Windows ink workspace is a welcome feature enabling handwriting with a stylus. 

In a business environment due to the the deployment of standardised group policies supporting specific custom software some organisations recognise there is no inherent benefit in deploying Windows 10, particularly on older hardware. We can provide specific advice on appropriate technology upgrade decisions.  Where the more evolved Windows 10 excels is on notebooks and 2 in 1 tablet devices with the software factory pre installed. Sometimes installing Windows 10 on older devices may give them a new lease of life, however the economics of this having to pay for the upgrade may now not make it worthwhile.

These Windows 10 improvements are incremental not revolutionary in their own right,  after a week of use it has been business as usual, I have appreciated the finesse of the menus/taskbars and have found nothing unexpected, as it should be, business as usual.

Gavin Bennett