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The Windows 10 preview shows enterprise features, limits

The Windows 10 preview was an olive branch to Windows 8 UI haters, but screen size issues and a separate Windows Server release could slow adoption.

Last month, Microsoft showed off the developments in its Windows 10 preview, which anybody could examine for themselves by downloading the latest technical preview build from the company's website.

Unlike some analysts and pundits predicted, the January release was more than a general description of the operating system. The Windows 10 technical preview was an olive branch to consumers, showing them that Microsoft heard their complaints about Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.

The preview also demonstrated that the software giant has not lost its mojo when it comes to developing new technology and releasing cool products -- the HoloLens was big evidence of that. But what can enterprises learn from the latest OS developments? Here are some key takeaways.

Back to the future with the Windows 10 interface

The changes to the overall user interface from last fall's technical preview to now are encouraging for users, particularly for enterprise workers. The desktop is the default location where a system boots, not the Start screen. This is a nod to the millions of users who do not care about using Windows on a tablet.

The Start menu has a new feel to it, but is still the essential location to launch apps and get things done. Its built-in design and construction should be simple for users of Windows XP and Windows 7 to get used to.

Virtual desktops extend the physical multi-monitor environment and should prove quite useful. In addition, Internet Explorer has been revamped to render pages more accurately, and a new Web browser is in the works.

The tablet and desktop converge in Continuum

This will be one of the most attractive features for enterprises, and it is truly a story of marrying the use styles of two very different devices into one distinct hardware unit.

Remember that this was the original aim of Windows 8 -- the Start screen and the full-screen Metro environment were for tablets, while the desktop was for those buttoned-down business applications. Most users thought that this was a failure for Windows 8, but the January 2015 technical preview showed how Continuum can solve these issues.

Many industry observers were hoping that when a user attaches a keyboard to the Surface, it would move over to the desktop, and when he or she removes it, it would automatically move to the Modern environment. Unfortunately, this did not happen, and it could limit the adoption of Windows 10 and touchscreen devices such as the Surface.

Size matters for host hardware screens

You might have been thinking of purchasing a fleet of small, inexpensive tablets instead of issuing more costly iPads or Android tablets because Windows 10 is free for these small devices. And, since it's Windows, you'd think it would plug in to your existing management and control infrastructure, right? Think again.

Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will run only Metro-style universal apps and the full-screen Start screen on smaller tablets. The traditional Windows desktop and all legacy apps won't work on devices smaller than 8 in.

As one analyst put it, you have to go above an 8-in. screen for Windows 10 to go all the way. This is similar to the limitations of the Windows RT. If an organization can't run its apps on a Windows 10 device and it cannot manage the device with existing infrastructure, why not get the iPads everyone already wants? For enterprises, there is no small tablet play, despite what Microsoft would like you to think.

Windows Server 2016 delayed

Microsoft recently announced that it will shelve its long-term plans for releasing the Windows 10 client and Windows Server 10 simultaneously, purportedly because of quality concerns. We don't how these concerns apply to Microsoft's "better together" interactions that were to be enabled when the next Windows client release was paired with its next Windows Server release.

Windows 10 is shaping up to be a solid OS, but enterprises have not yet had a chance to really feel out what is available from a management, control and administration perspective in Windows 10.

Although the picture around Windows Server 2016 is still murky, it's clear that the user interface in the client is erasing the mistakes of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, providing a valid destination for Windows 7 migrations.

Next Steps

How Windows 10 features compare with those of its predecessors

IT pros are wary of Windows 10 for the enterprise

What can we tell about Windows 10 (formerly Windows 9) from Windows 8.1?

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