Introducing Windows 10

Windows 10

Windows 10

This week saw the unveiling of the Windows 10 operating system (OS) by Microsoft. With so many PCs in existence and still a huge number being bought, this is big news. But is Windows 10 any good, and what are the features and keys to its success?

Why change Windows 8? Only 10% of computers are running Windows 8, so adoption has been slow – its emphasis was touch-screen which is a tough-sell for every day PC computing. And with tech in the 21st century, there needs to be excitement around the features and Windows 8 just didn’t capture the attention. This had an impact on development engagement which is crucial to any OS’s success.

What happened to Windows 9? Microsoft’s current operating system is called Windows 8 and the new one is Windows 10, so what happened to Windows 9? Feels like a marketing decision to me, as the company chose 10 ‘to emphasise a shift in focus towards mobile devices and the internet’.

What are the new features? Firstly, Microsoft have announced that the upgrade to 10 is free of charge from Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows Phone. This is a smart move and should encourage people to take the plunge, and soften the blow of having to learn a new Windows system.

As I mentioned earlier, new technology without excitement is not going to engage, but the boffins as Microsoft have been busy. The heavily-advertised Cortana personal assistant system will be moving from mobile to PC which I think is very interesting. I don’t think there is any chance of voice replacing typing and clicking (it is so much slower!), but being able to make a quick note or addition to your calendar at the touch of a button is a nice feature.

As well as being able to use the same OS on all devices (PC, tablet, mobile and X-Box), you will be able to play your X-Box games on any other Windows 10 tablet or PC – although there is a large community of gamers who would say why not play a PC game on a PC for a better experience?

But the most exciting feature by far is the HoloLens headset. Wearables are going to be huge this year and moving forward, and HoloLens takes them to the next level. When wearing the headset, the user will see a projected hologram integrating with the world around them. Very exciting!

Any improvements to Internet Explorer? Yes, because Internet Explorer is dead! The much maligned browser is finally being put out of its misery and is being replaced by a browser which at the moment is called Project Spartan. It will have Cortana deeply integrated and has a ‘noting mode’ which allows users to scribble on a web page and send it to a contact. Some would argue that the only way is up from IE, and more Spartan features will be released in due course.

Will it work? This is the (multi) billion dollar question. Will it help to kick-start the fight-back for Windows devices? Well, the initial signs are positive: Microsoft are actively encouraging adoption and have show-cased some pretty exciting features.

The two key questions, however, are can Microsoft deliver on these exciting features and will developers get engaged with Windows 10 – two yes answers will mean Windows 10 will be one to watch in 2015.

Project Prism

prism

The news story that has dominated the last week of technology has been the release of details of the US Government’s top secret project called Prism.  It is a program of in-depth surveillance of live communications and stored information including email, video, voice and VoIP chat, photos, file transfers and social networking. 

Information held on American citizens is kept to a minimum to ensure compliance with US legislation, but as most internet communications pass through the US, this offers a huge opportunity for the American intelligence services to monitor communications that involve foreign targets. 

In some PowerPoint slides released as part of the leak, some organisations were actually named – including Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, Facebook and Apple.  This led to these organisations releasing statements emphasising that they do provide information for legally transparent requests, but deny that they give the intelligence services direct access to their servers. 

With UK citizens being possibly monitored via Prism, this has led to consumers demanding clarity on not only the role of Prism, but also the role of GCHQ in electronic communications surveillance.

I think that the surveillance of the internet is completely unsurprising.  The volume of electronic communications, and their increasing role in criminal enterprises such as people trafficking and organised crime, makes it a very attractive to the security services.  Indeed, I think that if it is done ethically, it should be welcomed.  But the outstanding question is whether this wide-scale surveillance (up to 3 billion pieces of information being collected in just 30 days) has been done with government (and indirectly citizen) approval.

Initially, the controversy has been mainly from the US – if a foreign target has been conversing with a US citizen, then how can Prism collect information about the target and not the US citizen?  And in the UK, what surveillance are we being subjected to, and how is data collected via Prism being used?  More details are likely to be shared in the next couple of weeks, but we are still very much at the stage of more questions than answers.

This mix of internet communications, the dark world of surveillance and the role of trusted brands is a heady mix for journalists, and this story looks set to continue for some time to come. 

Windows 8

Windows-8

Windows-8

This week I am going to take a look at Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8.  You may have seen the TV adverts showing off some of its features, but should you believe the hype?

When you start using Windows 8, it becomes clear that the platform is designed for touch screen technology.  It has large icons which can be personalised, and responds pretty intuitively to finger movements.  However, the challenge for Windows 8 is to deliver an operating system which can cater for PC, tablet and mobile but without taking too much functionality away from any of these devices.  Developing a mobile and desktop operating system is not unique to Microsoft – the Mac OS and iOS are becoming increasingly blurred (and has attracted its fair share of criticism too!).

I have used the PC and mobile version of Windows 8, and it takes a little time to get the basics right without using touch, i.e. using a keyboard and mouse.  However, it must be remembered that humans are on the whole pretty wary of change.  Even if Windows 8 is better, it certainly is different so it will take some time for users to adjust.

What operating systems are hoping to achieve is the possibility to start a piece of work on one device, and for the user to change the device but still work on that piece of work with a seamless transition.  An uninterrupted experience would be a huge step forward from the user’s perspective and there is no doubt that Windows 8 is capable of doing that.

Windows 8 has been designed to be web developer friendly.  People are well aware of the benefits of apps on their mobile devices, but Windows 8 will allow apps to be developed for PCs too – if you use Google Chrome, you will know how handy apps can be on your computer.  This is a big deal – making Windows 8 easy to develop means that programmers will be keen to work on it, a key factor to the success of any operating system as it means a constant stream of new content.

So, what does the future hold for Windows 8?  I think that it will be a success – it has gimmicks such as facial recognition like the X-Box, and is easily developed by programmers.  Initially the success will come from consumers – it is much easier for consumers to adopt a new operating system but businesses will be a lot slower to take it up (due to the time, cost and complication of introducing new operating systems).

The challenge for Windows 8 will be how quickly it can persuade people to leave their current operating system behind – if they can do this, expect to see Windows 8 on a screen near you soon.

Have you used Windows 8 yet?  What did you think?