Windows 10 launch is a ‘new era’, says Microsoft boss

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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NEW YORK (AP) — It took me just a weekend to get comfortable with Microsoft’s new Windows 10 operating system, something I never did with its predecessor, Windows 8, even after nearly three years. Following a hostile reception to Windows 8 in 2012, which was only placated in small part by the Windows 8.1 update in 2013, Microsoft is hoping that Windows 10 can help it regain favour among its 1.5billion daily users.

With a new edition of its operating software scheduled to launch on Wednesday, the company looks set to benefit from a long, hard effort to rebuild corporate goodwill. One of the things that people hated about Windows 8 was the feeling that they were constantly being pushed to use “live tiles”, which were designed for touch-based computing, even when they were using a traditional desktop set-up with a keyboard and mouse. The launch will be accompanied by a global marketing campaign for an event the company hopes will be pivotal – both for its own future and for a vast audience of computer users around the world. Windows 8, the previous version launched in 2012, alienated both corporate customers and their employees with a confusing mishmash of PC and tablet conventions.

This was replaced in Windows 8.1 with a Start button in the bottom left hand corner of the screen, but rather than opening up a navigation menu, it launched the tile-based touch user interface that most people were trying to escape. It has new features, a streamlined Web browser called Edge and a desktop version of Cortana, the online assistant that is Microsoft’s answer to Google Now and Apple’s Siri. Meanwhile, workers shifted to smartphones or other non-Windows devices for many tasks, prompting some corporate technology managers to let slide their desktop software and hardware updates. There are still separate desktop and tablet modes, but you largely stick with one or the other depending on whether you have a keyboard. (Microsoft skipped Windows 9, by the way, as though to distance itself from Windows 8 and its criticisms.) Apps for Windows 8 were designed to take up the full screen, just like tablets. When you open up the new Start menu, there is a panel of live tiles on the right, where people can “pin” their favourite apps, but there is also a traditional Windows 7-style Start menu on the left, that allows users to sort through all of their files and apps systematically.

For the better part of a year, it distributed in-progress versions to companies and gathered their feedback, and it sought input from developers of Windows-based business software that help sell its products to companies large and small. Although you could split the screen, apps could be placed only side by side, not top to bottom, as you’d probably want when having email and streaming video open at once. More importantly, clicking on a live tile does not result in you being transported to another virtual universe where the app takes over your entire screen and it feels impossible to escape, as it did in Windows 8.

So far, though, Microsoft’s corporate campaign appears to be working. “I’ve been pretty surprised by the aggressive stance many of our corporate customers are taking towards Windows 10,” said Gartner Inc. IT 0.49 % analyst Stephen Kleynhans. “We are seeing a much more positive attitude towards getting started earlier with the Windows 10 migration.” Keeping corporate customers happy is essential for Microsoft, which generates more than $42 billion, or more than two-thirds of its annual gross profit, from sales of Windows, the Office productivity-software bundle and other products and services sold to companies. The company is also offering Windows 10 as a free download, any time over the next year, to anyone who has the Home or Pro versions of Windows 7 or 8 (but not the Enterprise versions used by big organizations). Microsoft wants Windows 10 installed on as many business computers as possible, both to hold on to customers and to sell additional software down the line.

So if you’re working on an Office Word document at your desk and then have to go and catch a train, you can switch to tablet mode and carry on working on the same document in touchscreen mode as soon as you get a seat. Some people might not get it the first day; Microsoft says it will deliver downloads in waves, to ensure things go smoothly, but it hasn’t said how long that will take. Given that Windows 7 is now six years old, it inevitably feels a bit clunky, but it is really noticable that programs starts faster and run faster in Windows 10, and the whole system feels more slick. Some 30% of the roughly five million people who downloaded the test version identified themselves as information-technology workers at large companies, Microsoft said. It feels more like the Google Chrome browser, with a light, stripped-back user interface and a simple set of tools along the top, under the search bar.

Executives also believe that if people are exposed to the latest and best Windows, they’re more likely to try other Microsoft products on PCs and mobile devices. These early looks gave corporate buyers a head start on what typically is a lengthy period of evaluation before adopting new technology, company officials said. For example, “favourites” lets you bookmark a page and cache it for reading offline, “web note” lets you annotate live pages and then save a screenshot of the page, and “share page” lets you send a link to friends via email or social network. Microsoft assembled advisory panels of officials from large companies and met with them regularly, in person or on the phone, to discuss Microsoft’s confidential plans for Windows 10.

You get some functional improvements, such as a virtual marker to draw arrows or circle an entry on a Web page to share over email, Facebook and other means. Read mode is also great for people who like to read long articles online, allowing you to strip out all the ads, and sidebars, pop-ups and links, and scroll through a single column of text and pictures.

In a recent survey of information-technology managers, about 73% of respondents said their company planned to adopt Windows 10 within two years, according to the survey of more than 500 IT professionals conducted by Spiceworks, a professional network for information technology workers. Some websites, including those from Google, aren’t as smooth on Edge as they are on other browsers, but the problem might be limited to Microsoft’s Surface tablets. Woodin and other experts in corporate tech said the recent spate of highly public corporate data breaches have made companies particularly interested in Windows 10’s security features. The software segregates employees’ personal and corporate data, for example barring an employee from pasting into a Twitter TWTR 5.30 % post text copied from a confidential corporate document.

— An Action Center offers quick access to settings such as Wi-Fi, brightness and “quiet hours” — a way to suspend notifications and sounds if, say, you’re giving a presentation. A: Microsoft says Windows 10 is designed for the way people use computers today — with a faster Web browser and features that make it easier to start tasks on a PC and then switch to a hand-held device. (Apple and Google tout similar features in their software.) Windows 10 also lets users log in with their face, iris or thumbprint, instead of remembering passwords, though this works only with computers equipped with the right hardware. If you give her access to your email and calendar clients, for example, she can start to act more like a real personal assistant, extracting relevant information and proactively offering information. It can take at least a year to upgrade from one Windows version to another, as companies wait for Microsoft to work out bugs and make sure essential in-house software runs smoothly.

Because you might feel awkward talking to your computer, you have the option of typing in commands, such as “Remind me to get milk.” Cortana is integrated with the Edge browser, too. A: The growth in mobile devices has caused PC sales to decline for more than three years, hurting manufacturers like Hewlett-Packard and companies like Microsoft and Intel, whose products are used with PCs. Windows 10 won’t make people give up their hand-held gadgets, but it’s part of Nadella’s strategy to reposition Microsoft for a world where people use multiple devices. He wants to see how the operating software handles important applications used by the 43,000-person company, including the large design files its engineers like to share via email. Copies were grabbed from the Internet only when you needed them, which meant files weren’t always available when using laptops on the go, away from Wi-Fi.

As with any upgrades, make sure your favorite apps and accessories will work, as it might take time for outside developers and manufacturers to catch up. Microsoft has also competely revamped its entertainment offering, replacing Windows Media Center with modified versions of Xbox Music and Xbox Video, which have been renamed as ‘Groove’ and ‘Movies & TV’ respectively, and a built-in Xbox app, that offers a unified view of your games, the activity of your friends, and your own gaming activities. These days, technology should be intuitive enough that you can just pick it up and use it without any instructions or guidance, and Windows 10 just about achieves that, which – given the carcrash that was Windows 8 – is high praise indeed.

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