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Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 10, has today begun worldwide roll out and Softcat is looking forward to the exciting developments and features we’ve seen in public previews through the Insider Programme.
With the Release-to-Manufacturer version “build 10240” completed, the Softcat presales team take a look at some of the most definitive improvements and brand new features Windows 10 will bring to your workstation, PC, tablet, mobile phone and indeed, games console.
Windows 10 comes in 4 distinct editions (excluding mobile versions) which have been targeted at particular users, with related feature sets:
Windows Hello, Microsoft Passport, Secure Boot and Drive Guard come as standard with Pro, Enterprise and Education editions and ensures strong security features are in place from the get-go for Windows itself and your authentication data.
With the exception of Windows 10 Enterprise devices running Long Term Service Branch (LTSB) and Pro devices managed under Microsoft Update for Business, all Windows editions will automatically update to ensure the latest security patches and features are in place for your tablet, laptop and desktop devices. This marks a move away from customisable security options in previous versions and highlights Microsoft’s emphasis on security.
Native support for biometric and secured authentication is now in place with Windows 10 through Windows Hello and Microsoft Passport. Hello introduces authentication by way of iris scan, fingerprint or facial recognition with a supported webcam. Seen as being far more secure than traditional ASCII-based passwords, Hello presents a fresh perspective on securing end user devices.
Coupled with this introduction is Microsoft Passport which replaces traditional passwords with 2-factor authentication for device enrolment, be it a PIN or Hello “biometric gesture”. With this 2 step process, an employee can conveniently access a variety of resources in the workplace with greater ease. Seen as a major leap forward for security, brute-force attacks are negated, and phishing can be circumvented. Passport credentials are based on certificate or asymmetrical key pairs - generated in hardware (TPM 1.2 or 2.0) or software, dependant on the organisational security policies.
Cortana – the popular Windows Phone assistant is now included with all Windows editions. Featured on the desktop task bar next to the Start button, Cortana allows for the full range of voice and text based search terms through the Bing search engine, from finding weather reports to arranging meetings and composing emails straight out of the interactive app. Completely customisable, you can set Cortana into a scheduled do-not-disturb mode (Quiet Hours) and systems settings including battery, speech recognition and search criteria can also be configured.
Extending the features of Microsoft’s App Store, Microsoft Wi-Fi takes on from its predecessor, Skype Wi-Fi. This is a pay-as-you-go Wi-Fi client that allows the user to access Microsoft approved public hotspots in over 130 countries.
The Wi-Fi app is to be made available cross-platform on mobile devices, and at launch will be available to existing Skype Wi-Fi subscribers, Office 365 for Enterprise users, and customers with Wi-Fi special offers.
Dark and Light theming has been integrated into the browser and the menu bars are clean and refined – a particular example of this is the Favourites, Downloads, and the History Menu which now reside within the same side-panel. Edge works alongside Internet Explorer 11 for compatibility purposes.
Universal Apps is an amalgamation of the present Phone Store and Windows App store, with one unified solution. Utilising a common software core across all Windows 10 platforms, applications can be downloaded and run regardless of device, maintaining a consistent look and feel throughout.
Flexibility is at the heart of this development and enables users to work across devices, for example editing a spreadsheet or presentation on your smartphone over breakfast and then continuing to work document on your desktop PC once you’ve reached the office.
All of this seamless wizardry is powered through OneDrive - the cloud storage solution already familiar to Office 365 users. From launch there are a wide variety of apps available ranging from MS Office (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) to other popular titles such as Adobe Photoshop Express, VLC for Windows, Viber, Flipboard, Netflix and Facebook.
In an effort to simplify the backup and synchronisation of smartphones with contact lists and photo storage on desktops, Microsoft have developed Phone Companion – an easy to use synchronisation app compatible with iOS, Android and Windows Mobile/Phone. By simply plugging in a smartphone and selecting from a range of options, users can backup, synchronise or improve their mobile experience. Options to download apps such as Skype, Cortana, Office Mobile and Outlook are also available through the assistant.
Finally there’s the introduction to virtual (in essence, multiple) desktops with Windows 10. Any stickler for desktop real estate will know how valuable it is to have multiple screens in a Windows environment, in writing this review there are browser tabs to the left, word documents to the right and Outlook and Instant Messenger panes underneath on a docked laptop’s screen. But what if you could go one step further?
Virtual desktops, managed through the Task View interface from the taskbar, allow for the organisation of multiple windows for different, grouped purposes or tasks. For example, in one desktop you could have your core business tools and applications ready to go. In a second desktop, various photo galleries, webpages could be on standby providing resource material for a PowerPoint presentation.
The principle is simple, through either the Task View interface, or a set of WIN + CTRL sequences, the great advantage to virtual desktops is the significant time saved in finding *that* one application you had hiding somewhere, or reorganising everything from 1 task to the next. Windows 10 allows Apps to be organised as you see fit, without delay and confusion.
Windows 10 is packed with a significant number of exciting new features making this a great addition to Microsoft’s offering. The Microsoft Insider Program builds on customer feedback to deliver a number of features that users will really benefit from, as highlighted in this article. Increased security, productivity and mobility are central to these features and are themes that we expect to see carried forward in future Microsoft products.
For more information on Windows 10 and its features, please contact your Softcat account manager or call 01628 403403.
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