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Windows 10 upgrades will be available to Windows 7 and Windows 8 users starting on July 29th, 2015. People around the world are excited about the OS for it’s new features, and many are even more excited about the potentially free price tag.

There are lots of appealing new additions in Windows 10, and unless you’ve been paying close attention, you might have missed the full details on a feature or two.

Our approach to new software from Microsoft has always been to wait for Service Pack 1 (SP1) or at least 8-10 months before jumping in. Lets let other people find the bugs, we will jump on when the fixes are available.

  1. Free OS upgrades to Windows 10 for one year (restrictions apply) – The big news… Windows 10 upgrades will be free for many Windows 7 and Windows 8 users for one year after the launch date (until July 29th, 2016). And to make things easier, you can upgrade to Windows 10 through Windows Update if your OS is up to date. This enticing offer will surely speed up adoption, but free upgrades will not be available for the Enterprise editions of Windows that are common at businesses… so companies will likely wait a bit longer to make the jump than home users.
  2. The return of the start button – Yes, its back… If there’s one thing that IT departments disliked about Windows 8, it was the removal of the start button in favor of the Metro / Modern UI. This drastic change to the interface puzzled many end users and surely generated a lot of complaints and IT support tickets. Microsoft eventually heard this feedback and they brought a version start button back in Windows 8.1… but not the same one that everyone is used to. Therefore, the return of a more familiar start button experience in Windows 10 is highly anticipated indeed.
  3. Universal OS and apps + doc syncing – Microsoft promises that Windows 10 will be the same OS across PCs, supported tablets, and smartphones – all of which can run the same (select) universal applications. On top of that, Windows 10 device integration with OneDrive and Azure active directory will make it easier for IT to deliver a consistent experience to users (access to the same files, apps, and preferences) no matter where they are or what Windows 10 device they’re using. That’s big for IT from a manageability perspective.
  4. Enhanced Security – In this world of seemingly endless security breaches, Microsoft wants to better protect us against potential threats. With Windows 10, Microsoft will deliver security features including multi-factor authentication built into the OS, secure containers based on Hyper-V, integrated data loss prevention solutions, automatic encryption of sensitive data, improved policy based access control to specific information even after it’s left the network, better ways to separate personal and work data, granular control over which apps are allowed VPN access, and improved controls over which applications users can install.
  5. Faster update cycle + more options for delivery – With Windows 10, it’s time to say goodbye to Patch Tuesday. Updates and new features will be available more frequently than once a month, and patches will be pushed to home users as soon as they’re ready. Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise users will have more control over when updates are applied through either Windows Update, WSUS, or System Center. You can choose to keep pace with the latest through the current branch for business (CBB) program or wait longer for less frequent roll ups using the long-term servicing branch (LTSB) option.
  6. Multiple Desktops (AKA Virtual Desktops) – If you like to keep organized, Windows 10 offers a built in way to separate all of your running applications into multiple virtual desktop views.
  7. Facial, biometric, and voice recognition – Microsoft has stated that they are on a “journey to eliminate the use of single factor identity options like passwords. One big part of this strategy is Microsoft Hello, which can recognize your face, iris, or fingerprint as an authentication factor. Of course, a supported fingerprint reader or an infrared camera are required to use Hello. Windows 10 can also recognize your voice through Microsoft Cortana, a personal assistant that can do things like answer questions, set reminders and appointments, and take notes. Cortana has been on Windows Phones for a while now, and she’s now making the jump to PCs with Windows 10 (not to mention Android and iOS devices too).
  8. New Web browser – Microsoft Edge – After many years with Internet Explorer (the first release came out in 1995), Microsoft will launch with a brand new default web browser called Edge (formerly known as project Spartan) with Windows 10. Characteristics of Edge include a new rendering engine, dropping of legacy support that arguably held IE back, better adherence to HTML standards, faster page load times, support for 3rd party extensions, and the ability to write shareable notes on top of web pages.
  9. This is the last version of Windows, and it’s going to be huge – Microsoft has indicated that Windows 10 will be the last numbered version of the OS. Windows 10 will see a move towards an OS model that will provide more frequent, incremental feature rollouts to the same OS instead of the periodic OS launch cycle that we’ve known for more than two decades.
  10. Many questions around the operating system still remain – While Microsoft has made many things about Windows 10 clear, many questions are still unanswered. For example, Microsoft has not clearly defined what their stated “Windows as a Service” model will look like in the future, so IT pros are struggling to fill in the blanks and figure out what the implications are to their companies. For example, “as a service” implies a monthly fee for using a product to many, but at the same time, Microsoft employees have stated that Windows 10 will not require an annual fee. Also, Microsoft also muddied the waters when they said that they’ll continue to update Windows 10 for free for the “supported life” of a device, implying that updates might potentially stop at some point. Still more questions about OEM and volume licenses remain as well.

As always, we will update more on Windows 10 once information becomes available. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for any questions. Special thanks to Peter from Spiceworks for this article.

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