Windows 10: Does it Matter?

When Microsoft announced their new Windows 10 operating system on September 30th, most of the coverage focused on the return of the Windows Start Menu—as well as the fact that Microsoft seemed to have completely skipped over the Windows 9 moniker. Lost in much of that coverage was the indication that Windows 10 is aimed squarely at businesses.

Microsoft hasn’t had a lot of relative success with their recent operating system rollouts. Windows Vista, the successor to Windows XP, was widely panned by users when it arrived in 2006. Microsoft recovered with a fairly solid rollout of Windows 7, but stumbled again when it released Windows 8 in 2012.

While Windows 8 was technically solid and included many under-the-hood enhancements to system performance and security, it included several major changes to the user interface—including a new, dynamically updating Start Screen and an interaction model that seemed more suited to touch-screen tablets than desktop computers with mice and keyboards. As a result, corporate buyers remained on the sidelines, sticking with the familiar Windows 7 interface rather than incurring additional training expenses along with the cost of a new operating system.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has signaled that their adventurism into the consumer tablet market might be fleeting. While Microsoft is still aiming to have a single operating system for all of their device categories—desktop, mobile, tablet, and gaming—Windows 10 reverses many of the radical user interface changes that Windows 8 introduced.

For example, in addition to restoring the much-loved Start Menu, app applications running on Windows 10 will once again run in a windowed environment, eliminating the often confusing transition that occurred between Windows Store applications (which generally took up the entire screen) and traditional Windows applications (which ran in a separate, windowed environment called “desktop mode”). Microsoft has also included features to support multiple desktops, as well as including a new application switcher that makes it easier for users to move between applications.

For enterprise administrators, Microsoft promised an update to several of their configuration management and deployment frameworks—enterprise tools that allow systems administrators to easily deploy standard, pre-configured Windows 10 desktops to a large number of users—and also announced the Windows Insiders Program: a technical preview designed to allow customers to have early access to Windows 10 in order to “help shape the future of Windows development.”

Will it all matter? Probably. Despite the competitive environment that exists in the mobile space—where Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS fight for dominance across markets—the corporate world is largely still a Microsoft-only domain. By bringing the Windows 10 user interface back into familiar territory for business users, Microsoft will likely spur corporate CIOs—who generally like to maintain currency on mission-critical software such as operating systems—into upgrading.

Which is good news for Microsoft.

“Windows 10 represents the first step of a whole new generation of Windows, unlocking new experiences to give customers new ways to work, play and connect,” said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Operating Systems group at Microsoft. “This will be our most comprehensive operating system and the best release Microsoft has ever done for our business customers.”