Monday, June 1, 2015

The journey so far with Windows 10

We're nearly there!

Today's the day we've been waiting for ever since Microsoft announced the arrival of Windows 10 last October. Joe Belfiore went on Twitter to announce that July 29 will be the launch the date for Windows 10 and to get everyone ready, they're starting to push out reservation popups on compatible devices (Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 PCs). So, how did we get here? How did the name Windows Threshold become Windows 10?


From what I remember, the scene last year was that Microsoft was all set to unveil a new version of Windows codenamed Threshold but that certainly didn't happen and it was eventually announced in September 2014. At that time, Microsoft already shared their vision to create a universal operating system which spanned various devices and screens. Pretty much everything about the general plan for Windows 10 was revealed during the January event.

" Everyone was expecting to see Windows 9

Reclaiming traction in the desktop space was probably the number 1 priority Microsoft had when they envisioned this new version of Windows 10. After all, Bill Gates and Paul Allen started off Microsoft as a company and the Windows brand is synonymous with PCs in general. Introducing back the familiar Start menu was a crucial stepping stone in getting the attention of Windows 7 users which is still the bulk of the Windows user base.

After re-implementing the Start menu in Windows 10, Microsoft set out to redefine what it was supposed to be and built it around the concept of mobile. Truth be told but laptops are getting popular because they are not only portable but also powerful in a good way. With that vision, features like Continuum for the PC and phones were born. This feature set mainly plays around with the transition between a keyboard+mouse to a touchscreen.

In their latest move, Microsoft is targeting applications. The Windows Store is still pretty dead but with the help of some boosters like engines which help developers easily port Android and iOS apps into the Windows ecosystem and also the new Universal Windows Platform, Microsoft is able to gain developer interest by providing resources and listing out the incentives. The Universal Windows Platform is not just a fancy name for Windows 10 apps but it serves as the core building blocks for all Windows 10 devices whether it be the futuristic HoloLens or the gigantic Microsoft Surface Hub.

July 29

So, where are we at now? Realistically, speaking there is little over 60 days give or take before Microsoft puts Windows 10 in the hard drives and SSDs of computers all over the world. By now (if you're running Windows 7, 8 or 8.1) you should see a windows icon on your taskbar which will prompt you to reserve a spot for the free Windows 10 update. You might be asking why reserve when Windows 10 is already free for the first year?

Answer is simple, this exercise from Microsoft not only serves as a big announcement that Windows 10 is a free upgrade but by opting in with this, you won't need to fight over the server's bandwidth on July 29. They will most likely first reroute your PC to a specific server to receive the updates and on the day itself, the update will be able to download itself without facing any hiccups.
As to what version of Windows 10 you will receive, the answer is simple. Like Windows 8, there'll be a standard Windows 10 Home and a more nicer sounding Windows Pro. Windows 8.1 (non pro), Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Starter and Windows Home Basic will be upgraded to Windows 10 Home. Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate will go on to be Windows 10 Pro.

These upgrades will be licensed copies of Windows 10 and although Microsoft will also be updating pirated copies of Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 in the process, these copies of Windows will be labelled as non-genuine copies of Windows and a long lasting watermark will be present on the bottom right of the desktop. The pirated copies however will still be fully functional, you just have to live with the watermark or just buy a activation code.

Windows Insiders

Initially launched on Windows Phone 8.1 as the Phone Insider app which served to bring the latest Windows Phone 8.1 build to any phone without going through carriers nor regional services. The program soon evolved in to Windows Insider when Windows 10 came out and this program covers both the desktop and phone. By joining this program, users will be able to try out the buggy but functional (not fully) pre-release software which Microsoft is currently working on.
This program is uniquely different and is probably the biggest of it's kind. Through the Insider application pre-installed in the preview builds, Windows Insiders will be able to vote, report and recommend what they think is right. This approach means that Microsoft is actually building their software based on the users need and that redundant design choices will be avoided.

With nearly 4 million registered users in this program, Microsoft is on it's way to redefine how the industry creates software for the masses. That's why Microsoft says that the Windows Insider program will continue on even after Windows 10 is done and that registered users will be given an option to try out new updates coming to Windows 10 (next year's Windows 10 update codename Redstone?).

Windows 10

Windows 10 might not be the 10th version of Windows but it'll be the very last one as referred to by Microsoft employees. This means that in the future, Microsoft will go by the Windows 10 name and just push new version of Windows as an update to Windows 10. Also with this static name, Microsoft can confidently work on new features without thinking what to call it in the end. There'll always be internal codenames, so it's not so much a static name internally at Microsoft. 

With Windows 10 or maybe just Windows as the new of Microsoft's operating system for all devices, they're well on their way to stop marketing their products with version numbers. Other software giants like Google and Apple still ship their software as incrementing version numbers or in Apple's case, names of cats. 

There were rumors last year that Windows 10 would be introduced as a subscription service like how Office 365 works but that is still a forgone rumor at this point. Either way, it looks like Microsoft plans to give Windows 10 users continuous updates throughout the year as they plan to keep the Windows Insiders program active even after Windows 10 formally launches to the public on July 29. 

Insider Preview (formerly Technical Preview)

I am proud to say that I have been using Windows 10 since it first came out as Windows 10 Technical Preview last October. Going through updating all the 10 preview builds in the last 9 months have showed me that software moves at a very fast rate.

" 9841, 9860, 9879, 9926, 10041, 10049, 10061, 10074, 10122, 10130

From the initial Build 9841 released in late 2014, every version it seems that Microsoft is tweaking in on how the Start menu works. The general idea of the Start menu on Windows 10 didn't change much from Microsoft's original idea but over the course of 9 months, the aesthetics and functional parts of the Start menu was altered to the unanimous direction of Windows Insiders.

Although at times, it is extremely hard to update to the latest build due to an unresolved hex (0x0808…) error which requires constant retires, it was all worth it when the system booted up to a new build. Throughout the months, it was definitely fun to play around with new features first hand but being faced with a blue screen of death for several consecutive is not so fun.

But overall, as a tech savvy person, being able to try out new things is a joy and the error codes and random reboots every now and then is all part of the experience. I would hope that in the future, companies like Google and Apple will give users the power to influence the next version of a major software release. True, both Apple and Google provides Developer Previews of upcoming software but users don't have much say in what is right or wrong. (yeah, this last sentence does sound a little bias =p)

So, to wrap up this article, below is various screenshots I've compiled from various Windows 10 preview builds. From these images, you will clearly see how significant a simple change will bring.

Build 9841: The Start menu back then looked way different compared to what it looks today 
Build 9860: The notification center was introduced
Build 9926: Cortana finally arrives on the desktop with style
Build 9926: Action center gets formally introduced and replaces the charms menu on Windows 8
Build 10041: The start menu finally gains transparency
Build 10049: Project Spartan AKA Microsoft Edge is finally included
Build 10061: Microsoft introduces new MSN apps which feature the new Windows 10 design language
Build 10074: The new tablet mode Start menu gets introduced
Build 10122: The Insider Hub finally gets a refresh
Build 10130: The padding for notifications get modified, looks more roomy now
Build 10130: The mini-cortana window gets introduced, can be invoked anywhere with the WIN+C command

Insider talk (out of topic)

While writing this article, I thought of this concept of writing what's in my mind when writing an article. Things under this mini-section will vary from related to completely unrelated. So, I'll give it a try and see how this goes, do give me some feedback on this new segment. Also, I'm not assuring that this will be included in every article but I'll try my best to if the feedback is positive.

This article is actually titled 'We're nearly there' on my OneNote notebook. Usually, I write up my drafts on OneNote and when it's complete only will I copy+paste it into blogger and do the rest of the editing there. I'm still not sure what to name this article at this point, also I have been planning for a long time to review OneNote and it should come by the end of July if procrastination does not take me head on.

While compiling up the past articles i also notice that my blog is becoming a Microsoft blog already. 6 out of the past 20 articles i've written in the past year is related to Microsoft. Planning to crop up with more computer hardware.

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