About two weeks ago, Microsoft promised that it would unveil the enterprise features that will differentiate the next Windows version from both Windows 7 and Windows 8. Oddly, the announcement event for what is now called Windows 10 was actually pretty light on enterprise information. So here's a more complete look at what you can expect.
First, the name. Microsoft has been working on the next Windows version since early this year under the codename Threshold. The firm originally intended to call it Windows 9, as it is the follow-up to Windows 8 logically and technologically. But in a bid to further distance itself from that train wreck, Microsoft decided recently to brand the release as Windows 10. See? It's a big deal.
That naming is part understandable, part fanciful. Windows lead Terry Myerson noted at the announcement event Tuesday in San Francisco that Windows 10—really, the core, underlying part of the platform—would run on a vast array of device types, from Internet of Things-type gadgets and sensors to phones, tablets, PCs and even the Xbox. Which sounds impressive. But Windows already does that, really.
Myerson and his cohort, user experience lead Joe Belfiore, provided a lot of information about Windows 10 at the event. But there were two problems. Thanks to leaks, we had heard about most of these features previously. And as noted, contrary to the aim of the event, few of the features they showed off were really enterprise focused in any way.
But that shouldn't undercut the central message, which is this: Windows 10 will be a natural and obvious upgrade for both Windows 7 and Windows 8. And if Microsoft is able to pull off that seemingly impossible feat—and I think they will—then Windows 10 will deserve its I-just-skipped-a-grade moniker.
Please check out my article Microsoft Announces Windows 10 for a rundown of the Windows 10 features Messrs. Myerson and Belfiore did show off. Here, I'd like to focus instead on the enterprise stuff. Here are some of the advances coming in Windows 10:
Unified, customizable app store. With Windows 10, the now-separate Windows and Windows Phone online stores will be unified into a single Windows Store. But the big deal for enterprises is that they will be able to control which apps their users see in this Store, making it finally relevant to businesses. Today, all businesses can do in Windows 8 is side-load their own apps. With Windows 10, you'll get a much richer experience.
Better management. One of the unique things about Windows 8 is that offers both traditional, powerful and complex Active Directory/Group Policy-based management capabilities and modern, simpler Mobile Device Management (MDM) capabilities, but only on mobile devices. With Windows 10 for the first time, you will be able to choose between Group Policy and advanced MDM on any device, including traditional PCs. And thanks to the new capabilities in Microsoft's MDM stack, which I'll be writing about very soon, you will be able to control not just the devices, but also the user's ID, apps and data. This is an advantage its MDM competitors will never meet.
Updates when you want them. One of the central disconnects between the enterprise and Microsoft's rapid release mantra today is that enterprises don't necessarily want to instantly provide updates to their users. With Windows 10, enterprises can choose how their users's PCs and devices are updated. They can opt into a fast track updating schedule—the norm for consumers—or they can lock down their environments and manage the schedule themselves. Or they can mix and match, segmenting their user base and providing updates on the schedules that make the most sense.
Faster, more reliable in-place upgrades. Today, the worst thing about upgrading Windows is ... upgrading Windows. That is, the unreliability of upgrading from one version of Windows to the next is one of the major reasons many enterprises don't do so. With Windows 10, this will be greatly resolved thanks to improvements to the in-place upgrade process, which has been designed to work with your existing management infrastructure.
Data separation and protection. As we sometimes see on modern mobile platforms, Windows 10 will support separating personal and business data so that enterprises can wipe data remotely without impacting a user's baby photos or vacation shots too. Windows 10 will also take data protection technologies like BitLocker to the next level, providing container-based data file protection even for files that leave the PC or device.
As I write this, these descriptions are just words. I've not had a chance to experience Windows 10 or see how—or whether—these features work in the real world. But that's about to change: Starting on Wednesday, October 1, you can download and install the Windows Technical Preview on any Intel-type Windows 7 or 8 PC or device and see for yourself. I'll be doing so as quickly as possible. I recommend you do so as well.