Windows 10 for PCs and Tablets Available on July 29 by Ira Wilsker


Earlier this year, I wrote about some of the potential features that were being considered to be included in the upcoming release of Windows 10. The release version of Windows 10 is now complete, with Microsoft already producing packaged software for the retail channels, while PC manufacturers are already producing machines with Windows 10 factory installed, to go on sale on July 29. Some of the big box stores and online sellers are already taking “presale” orders for Windows 10 software ($119 retail), and computers to be delivered or otherwise made available on the official release date. In the coming few weeks, watch for the inevitable media blitz promoting Windows 10.

For almost all users of Windows 7 and Windows 8 (8.1), Microsoft will be offering a free upgrade to Windows 10; contrary to some independent blog posts, the free copy downloaded and installed under this limited time offer will remain free, without any future annual fees. At a recent computer club meeting I was asked about the strange new icon that suddenly appeared in the system tray on Windows computers; this small icon looks like a window frame, with four quadrants, turned left at about a 45 degree angle. Moving the cursor over the icon, it simply says “Get Windows 10”. Clicking on the icon opens a small window, “How to get Windows 10 for free!” While some of those at the computer club meeting were suspicious about the offer, it is indeed legitimate, and is being made by Microsoft. The new Windows 10 release mentioned is a complete version, free for life (rather than the $119 for a boxed retail version), that will be available for download on or after July 29. I would not try downloading Windows 10 in the first few days, as it is a very large 3 GB download, and Microsoft and its partner servers will be hammered by the users trying to get the new software. In some published reports, Microsoft is predicting that up to a billion copies of Windows 10 will be downloaded and installed starting on July 29. Some internet pundits are also warning of a possible internet slowdown starting in late July as the digital “pipes” become “clogged” (overloaded) when many millions of users try to download a 3 GB file.

The release version of Windows 10 has incorporated many of the suggestions made by Windows 8 users, who missed some of the familiarity and ease of use that was available in Windows 7, but not incorporated in Windows 8. Among the most requested features that has been included in Windows 10, that was missing in Windows 8, is the traditional “Start” menu, which will help Windows 7 users become immediately familiar with Windows 10. Windows 10 has been designed to boot quickly, and be more secure than previous versions of Windows. According to Microsoft, Windows 10 will incorporate its own antimalware security software; Microsoft stated that Windows 10 will include, “… Windows Defender for free anti-malware protection, and being the only platform with a commitment to deliver free ongoing security updates for the supported lifetime of the device.”

Windows 10 was also designed to run on almost all computers capable of running Windows 7 and 8, without substantial hardware upgrades. According to an official Microsoft blog posting, “We designed Windows 10 to run our broadest device family ever, including Windows PCs, Windows tablets, Windows phones, Windows for the Internet of Things, Microsoft Surface Hub, Xbox One and Microsoft HoloLens—all working together to empower you to do great things.” Microsoft is obviously creating a seamless way for users to move between many different devices, using the same, familiar operating system.

Windows 10 will include the much discussed Cortana, which Microsoft describes as, “The world’s first truly personal digital assistant helps you get things done. Cortana learns your preferences to provide relevant recommendations, fast access to information, and important reminders. Interaction is natural and easy via talking or typing. And the Cortana experience works not just on your PC, but can notify and help you on your smartphone too.” The somewhat archaic Internet Explorer browser, which grew out of the old Mosaic browser, will be replaced by a leaner and more efficient new browser which Microsoft is calling “Edge”. Edge will be integrated with Cortana, allowing users to more efficiently interact with the internet with voice, keyboard, or other forms of input.

As is now common on smart devices running Google’s Android, and Apple’s iOS, the new Windows 10 will have its own “app store” where both paid and free apps (what we “used” to call software) can be downloaded directly from a Windows store. Also at the Windows store will be a huge collection of games, TV shows, music files, movies, and other content to download. Android and iOS users may notice a similarity with the Google Play Store or iTunes, and the new Microsoft store, as they will all function in a similar manner.

One of the most popular digital games of all time, Minecraft, will be available for Windows 10 on the official release date of July 29. Since Microsoft purchased Mojang, the Swedish authors of Minecraft for a reported $2.5 billion last year, and released builds of Minecraft for other Microsoft platforms and devices, it was inevitable that Microsoft would have a build of Minecraft optimized for Windows 10. Officially, the Windows 10 version of Minecraft released in a few weeks will be a “beta” or prerelease version of the popular game. Users of the current PC versions of Minecraft will get a free upgrade to the Window 10 build, and others may purchase a full version of Minecraft for $10, including free future updates.

One of the features touted by Microsoft with the new Windows 10 release is the ability to integrate Xbox gaming with the PC and tablets running Windows 10. Xbox Live and a new Xbox app will be incorporated in the new release, giving users access to the well established and popular Xbox Live gaming network.

Microsoft has announced a new Office suite, Office 2016, which has been specifically written “from the ground up” to run efficiently on any devices running Windows 10. The Office 2016 components Outlook (email program) and OneNote (digital note taking) will be included with Windows 10, while individual apps for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint will be available, presumably for sale, from the Windows Store. Microsoft said that all Office 2016 components will seamlessly run across a variety of devices. Using touch screen devices, Office components such as Excel will be touch enabled, and can be created or updated without using a mouse or a keyboard.

An improved security feature intended to restrict unauthorized access to a device running Windows 10 is “Windows Hello”, which will incorporate biometrics to verify authorized users. Windows Hello can use facial recognition, finger print scanning, and iris scanning to instantly verify users, instead of using the more traditional (and vulnerable) password method. Once a user is authenticated by the Windows Hello service, the user will be greeted by name, and with a graphical smile on the screen; while some beta users initially thought that this friendly response was cute, others found that it eventually became somewhat irritating.

Microsoft is also including a series of integral apps with Windows 10 to perform some of the users’ most common tasks. These apps will handle photos, videos, maps, email, calendar, music, contacts, and other functions that smart phone users are already somewhat familiar with. Since Windows 10 will also be incorporating Microsoft’s cloud storage service, OneDrive, content will also be securely stored in the cloud as well as on the device. Since Windows 10 is explicitly designed to run on multiple platforms, the appearance and functionality of these apps will be the same on all devices. Content created on any device will be securely stored in the cloud, and readily available on any other compatible device. Microsoft says, “You can start something on one device and continue it on another since your content is stored on and synched through OneDrive.”

If you have the Windows 10 icon in your system tray, open it and sign up to reserve a free copy of Windows 10 when it becomes available. Even if you do not have that Windows icon that recently appeared, you may still be eligible for a free upgrade. Once the mad rush of those who will clog the internet by being among the first few million to download and install Windows 10 is over, and the internet traffic jam subsides, I will be downloading and installing Windows 10 on my computers. Since “Murphy’s Laws” are endemic on computers of all types, I strongly recommend making both an image backup and a critical data backup of your current setup before installing Windows 10. If for some reason you don’t like Windows 10 after installing it, the image backup copy can be used to restore your earlier operating system. Backing up critical data files should always be done, “just in case”.

While I have been generally satisfied with my Windows 7 installation, and found Windows 8 to be not quite as user friendly, I look forward to the upcoming release of Windows 10 and the free upgrade offer.

Just to satisfy the curiosity of my readers who may have noticed the jump from Windows 8 to Windows 10, whatever happened to Windows 9? The truth is that there was no Windows 9, and Microsoft purposely skipped the moniker “9”. Some Microsoft pundits have alleged that the “9” was skipped to avoid confusion with those users still running the long obsolescent “legacy” Windows 95 and 98. Since “9” was skipped, “10” was the logical next version number; “Windows X” was considered, but there already was a Mac version “X”. Microsoft has been inconsistent with version names anyway, having used dates (95, 98, 2000), names (Vista, Bob, Millennium), and simple numbers (3.1, 7, 8, 8.1). There has been no consistent naming or numbering convention, so the Microsoft leadership decided that “10” would simply describe a totally new operating system. Whatever it is called, I suggest that eligible users download and install the free upgrade, and try it. The new release combines the best features of Windows 7 and 8 (without 8’s foibles), and adds a lot of new features and functionality, as well as seamless integration across multiple devices.

As the old cereal commercial said, “Try it … you’ll like it.”



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