Windows 10

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Complete guide to Windows 10 migration
Contributor(s): Stephen Bigelow, Ivy Wigmore

Windows 10 is the version of Microsoft's flagship operating system that follows Windows 8; the OS was released in July 2015. 

Microsoft chose to skip Windows 9 as a way of suggesting discontinuity with earlier versions -- and Windows 8 in particular -- rather than incremental change. Windows 10 is designed to address common criticisms of Windows 8, such as a lack of enterprise-friendly features and poor integration of touch and keyboard interfaces.

Some Windows 10 features:

  • The familiar Start Menu (which had been replaced by Live Tiles in Windows 8) is back. 
  • The Metro interface, with its Live Tiles, is accessible from a panel to the right of the Start Menu.
  • Users can toggle between touchscreen and keyboard interfaces on devices that offer both.
  • The OS runs on desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets and embedded devices.
  • The final release is expected to detect touch or keyboard input and seamlessly switch apps from one to the other accordingly.
  • Integrated search makes it possible for users to search all local locations as well as the Web.
  • A virtual desktop feature enables the creation of multiple desktop environments, which the user can switch between through Task View.
  • Containerization capabilities allow administrators to manage and secure applications and data on both user-owned and company-owned devices.

Windows 10 is device-agnostic: It supports a full range of microdevices (such as Internet of Things chips) and mobile, tablet, embedded, laptop and desktop systems, along with a full spectrum of peripheral devices. The intention is to provide a universal OS for all user types. Microsoft developers have focused on three principal areas for Windows 10: interface, security and manageability.

The original release of Windows 8 offered a radical new user interface that proved to be a shock for many users. The touch-enabled, gesture-driven graphical user interface that works so well on mobile systems such as smartphones and tablets did not translate well to traditional desktop and laptop PCs; especially in enterprise settings.

As an enterprise computing OS, Microsoft Windows 10 should improve security features like user identities, making it easier to prevent data theft and phishing by integrating support for multifactor authentication schemes such as smartcards and tokens.

Support for BitLocker encryption is expanded to protect data anywhere as it moves between systems, storage devices, email or cloud services. The goal is to improve data security to help support a workforce using a proliferation of mobile devices in bring your own device (BYOD) programs.

Windows 10 is also touted as a more manageable OS, making it easier to upgrade legacy machines directly from Windows 7 or Windows 8 without re-imaging or performing intrusive and time-consuming system wipe and upgrade procedures. Businesses can pick and choose how Windows 10 is patched and upgraded, allowing adopters to balance the needs of new versions against the need for stable, disruption-free production environments. Microsoft Windows 10 should also cater to mobile and cloud devices, bringing mobile device management to traditional desktop and laptop PCs.

Microsoft announced Windows 10 in late September 2014 and soon thereafter made a technical preview of the OS available to a select group of users called "Windows Insiders." Reactions to the preview were largely positive. Overall, the OS is considered to be much more enterprise-friendly than Windows 8 and the integration of interfaces less clunky. However, many testers voiced concerns about privacy: In the privacy statement for the technical review, Microsoft announced that it might gather user voice and keystroke data. The company didn't comment on whether or not the market release will also have the capacity to gather user data. 

See a video introduction to Windows 10:

This was last updated in January 2016

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