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Comparing Windows 10 features with those in earlier OSes

IT got a glimpse of new Windows 10 features in the technical preview and updated build. See how they compare to Windows 7 and Windows 8 features.

The Windows 10 Technical Preview has now been out for a few months, and we can soon expect an updated build of Microsoft's flagship operating system. What can longtime Windows users expect? Let's look at some of the most interesting desktop- and enterprise-oriented Windows 10 features that users coming from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 will immediately notice and enjoy.

New browser

Alongside an upgrade (similar to a point release) to the venerable Internet Explorer, reports suggest that Windows 10 will include Spartan too. Spartan is a new Web browser that a special design team at Microsoft is putting together and that is now in its third iteration. While the goals of Spartan have not been publicly announced, industry observers expect it to have a couple of really interesting features (which, of course, may or may not make it to the final released builds):

  • Voice commands. When Spartan is loaded and active, users should be able to speak voice commands such as "Back," "Forward," "Make this my home page" and "Add to favorites" without having to reach for the screen or the keyboard. In fact, expect a lot more voice control to be available across the feature set of Windows 10.
  • Embedded sub-browsers. At this point, this Windows 10 feature is still a little unclear, but it appears that Web designers will especially like it because it will allow users to view a page in as many as four different miniature windows, each using a different rendering engine -- so you could see how your page looks in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari all at the same time, for example.

Meet Cortana

Microsoft's version of Siri is expected to make it into Windows 10, giving users the ability to control their computer, ask questions, conduct Web searches, set appointments and other reminders, and more by simply talking in a natural voice to their machine.

Cortana, named after a character in the Microsoft Xbox 360 game Halo, is decidedly more functional than Siri. It can interact with many applications and has an application programming interface that developers can use to expand functionality. Cortana could well be among users' favorite new Windows 10 features.

Enterprise IT shops will find that line-of-business applications and custom programs can all be modified to use Cortana. This could be a boon for field workers or others who need to multitask.

The Start menu returns in its classic look

Much to knowledge workers' joy, the Start menu returns in Windows 10. It is not currently identical to the Windows 7 start menu, mind you, but it does return a logical, non-full-screen place to launch applications and execute searches.

Perhaps most importantly, users will go to the Start menu to log off and turn off their PCs. This is probably the Windows 10 feature that will make Windows 7 users feel the most comfortable, and it was a key concession from Microsoft to win back enterprise customers and convince them to move off Windows 7.

Unifying the single device experience with Continuum

Windows 10, which Microsoft and pundits agree is likely the last major release of Windows, is being designed from the ground up to be a single operating system that will run on a variety of devices, from phones to tablets to laptops to desktops to servers.

As part of that convergence of platforms onto one OS, the company is designing a mode called at this point Continuum that shifts the user interface based on what type of device the user is currently running.

For example, on a Windows tablet or 2-in-1 laptop, when the user disconnects a keyboard or mouse, the machine will switch into Metro mode and get rid of the taskbar and other mouse and keyboard-oriented accouterments.

When you pop a keyboard back on -- for example, with the Surface or through a USB connection -- the Modern interface slides away and back comes the traditional Windows desktop. If Microsoft can get this right, this will be a sexy addition for the enterprise user -- one computer and experience for work, and the same computer but a different experience for travel, at-home and on-the-go use.

Next Steps

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Which Windows 10 features do you expect, and which ones do you really want?
I rather hope that Windows 10's new Start Menu will be comparable to (or better than) earlier versions of the same interface. Start8 (a Windows 8 modification for a custom Start Menu) in particular would be a good place to draw inspiration from.
In agreement with Chris, I'd like to see a better launch experience. Windows 8 was cool for a few people, but the majority of users I interacted with hate it. Making a better experience there will go a long way towards making Windows 10 much more compelling.
Missing a browser that can guess what I want to see. What news I am interested in etc.

Start menu returns is only for people who is stuck in the old stuff. It's nice to acknowledge that it just was to early to have an interface that was not focused on mouse and desktop. The Cortana move is a step towards the future. We will se much more of interfaces to computers that differes from the keyboard and mouse.
I have access to the Beta version of Windows 10 and it looks promising, but it is still not quite there yet.

Voice commands in Spartan?? No big deal. I do not use a head set or mic on my desktop.

Embedded sub browsers?? I already have multi monitor support so not a big plus here either.

Cortana ?? Same deal with the voice commands, no headset and mike.

Being a developer, I see no practical reason to upgrade my OS. 

I will need to possibly develop apps for it for MOBILE users. For now at home and work we are sticking with Win7.

My other concern will be compatibility with existing software. I'd hate to have to buy my applications all over because Microsoft has decided to stop support on some of it's features.
Spartan or Edge is just an older IE engine re-badged after an internal fork. It is still IE as far as I am concerned. Use it at your own peril.
What about upgrading a Vista system to windows 10?
Cortana is NOT a viable choice for the enterprise environment and, in fact is often disable for security purposes. However, it STILL runs in the background, using a huge amount of system resources. Every time I PHYSICALLY remove it, Windows update puts it right back and changes the registry, and I have to go thru the removal processes again. WE DONT WANT CORTANA in an Enterprise environment!!!!