Thomas G. Stephens, Jr., CPA, CGMA, CITP
Birthdays and anniversaries are always a good time to step back and take stock of where we are and where we will likely be in the upcoming year. With Windows 10 turning one-year-old, now is probably a good time to examine just where this operating system is and where it is heading over the foreseeable future.
Until now, Windows 10 adoption has been largely in line with Microsoft’s expectations and guidance. Consider the following adoption numbers.
- 14 million copies installed in first 24 hours
- 53 million copies installed in the first 20 days
- 200 million copies installed in the first 6 months, surpassing the number of Mac users
- 350 million copies installed as of June 29, 2016
In general, most analysts agree that these numbers are impressive. However, Microsoft recently indicated that upgrades and new adoptions are slowing and, as a result, the company will likely not hit its target of having 1 billion devices running Windows 10 within the first three years following its general release.
In general, most users seem to be very pleased with the stability, speed, and performance of Windows 10, even in situations where it is running on “legacy” hardware that some might consider to be under-powered. While there are no doubt exceptions, most peripheral devices that ran on Windows 7 or Windows 8 run fine when connected to a Windows 10 computer. Likewise, most software titles that ran on Windows 7 or Windows 8 run fine on a Windows 10-based computer. One potential area of concern in this regard is technical support. While many “mainstream” software applications are now supported by their publisher in a Windows 10 environment, you should verify that technical support is available for your critical applications before migrating to Windows 10. Additionally, be sure to conduct thorough testing before making the upgrade.
Key New Features
With so many users running Windows 10, there is now some clarity regarding which features are being widely used and which are languishing. Following is a listing of five of the more popular new features in Windows 10.
- Cortana. Cortana is the voice-capable digital assistant in Windows 10. Among other things, you can use Cortana to help manage your calendar, retrieve a weather report, provide traffic alerts, track flights and packages, get directions, and, of course, search the web.
- Start Menu. In a nod to those who will likely continue to use a mouse for some period time – instead of a touch-enabled interface – perhaps the single most popular feature in Windows 10 is the Start Menu, something that’s not really new at all. By bringing back the Start Menu, Microsoft enables Windows 10 users to work the way that they want to work – in a traditional, mouse-and-keyboard environment, in a touch-enabled environment, or in a hybrid environment that combines the best of both worlds.
- Notification Center. Windows 10 sports a centralized Notification Center. In one location, you have access to all system notifications, instead of having to navigate to multiple places to stay up-to-date on your notifications.
- Synchronization Across Multiple Devices. If you use a Microsoft account to log-in to Windows 10, the operating system synchronizes key pieces of information – such as some settings and recently-used files – across all devices. Additionally, if you use a Windows phone and associate that phone with a Microsoft account, Windows 10 will notify you of missed calls.
- Windows Hello. If your Windows 10 equipped computer has the right type of camera in it, you can use your picture to log-in to your device, instead of using a password. This feature – Windows Hello – should make it easier to get your system up and running every day because it frees you from the tedious task of creating and managing long and complicated passwords as your primary means of authentication.
One of the more powerful and practical new tools in Windows 10 that is not yet widely adopted by most end users is Task View. Using Task View, you can create multiple virtual desktops, each with a different set of applications on it. Then, as you multi-task during the day, you can use Task View to quickly switch from one virtual desktop to another, so that you always have quick-and-ready access to the applications you need, at any point in time, without having to continually open and close applications during the day. If you are already running Windows 10 but are not using this feature, you may be missing out on one of Windows 10’s best tools.
What to Expect Moving Forward
If you are already using Windows 10, in the very near term you should look for the so-called Anniversary Update. Scheduled for release on August 2, this update will include improvements, such as, the following.
- The ability to use Cortana without logging in. For example, you could potentially direct Cortana to play music over your Windows 10 device, even though you are not logged in to that device.
- Better support for touch interface. Using Windows Ink, you will be able to take advantage of touch-enabled interfaces using your pen, your finger, or even both at the same time. You will also be able to use Windows Ink to record Sticky Notes, even if you are not yet logged in to your computer.
- The Action Center will receive a major facelift, making it more user-friendly and including content-rich tiles. You will even be able to customize the priority of Notifications that you receive in the Action Center.
- Edge – the new browser that debuted in Windows 10 – has been shunned by many users because it did not support extensions and, therefore, third-party tools such as password management software could not run in Edge. Beginning with the Anniversary Update, Edge will support extensions, making it a viable option for business professionals.
If You Have Not Yet Upgraded
Microsoft made Windows 10 a free upgrade for most users of Windows 7 and Windows 8. However, there is a catch to this free offer: you must complete your upgrade by July 29, 2016 – after that date, you will be required to pay for the upgrade. For most home users and those in small businesses, there is little risk to taking advantage of the free upgrade offer. As mentioned previously, most mainstream applications are now fully supported on Windows 10 and most hardware runs fine when connected to Windows 10 devices. Nonetheless, if you upgrade you have a thirty-day “grace period” whereby you can roll-back the upgrade if you find that Windows 10 is not a good solution for you. For more information on upgrading, visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows.
Many have been skeptical of Windows 10, perhaps rightfully so, after the initial poor start of Windows 8. But, on the whole and with one year of experience under our collective belts, most Windows 10 users appear to be quite happy with their choice of operating systems. The tool is fast, stable, and more secure than its predecessors and is free, at least for a few more days. Further, the forthcoming Anniversary Update promises to make Windows 10 even better. For individuals and small businesses, moving to Windows 10 sooner rather than later is likely the right call. For mid-size and larger organizations, ensure that adequate testing is done before making the decision to upgrade. Finally, pay particular attention to the improvements in the forthcoming Anniversary Update so that you will be able to take full advantage of what is about to be an even better version of Windows.