RECENTLY, it was Microsoft’s turn to redefine the world of work and communication. Days after Apple released iOS 8, the new version of its operating system for iPhone, iPad and iPod, its mortal adversary lifted the veil on the next version of Windows, due out in 2015.

Unlike Apple, Microsoft was still able to spring a surprise. Instead of calling it Windows 9, which most observers regarded as the only certainty from the announcement in San Francisco on Tuesday, it skipped an entire generation.

The Windows 10 name symbolises not only Microsoft’s fresh start in crossing the gulf between the requirements of different devices, but also a giant leap from the ambivalence exuded by Windows 8. While that was a fine piece of software for mobile devices, it did not take to the computer desktop, and left the business world reverting to the more work-friendly Windows 7. An interim update, 8.1, resolved a few basic issues but remained fundamentally flawed.

Windows 10 feels like the cavalry riding to the rescue. It’s specifically designed for business, not only with enhanced management capabilities, but also with a customer feedback initiative that will take into account the needs and criticisms of its likely users.

Microsoft’s Windows Insider Programme is described as the “largest ever open collaborative development effort to change the way Windows is built and delivered”. It offers participants a “technical preview” of the new Windows, along with continual updates — or “builds” — during the development process.

The same software will run on desktop computers, notebooks, touch-screen laptops, tablets and large display screens. Each device will adapt dynamically, based both on the hardware in use and the context in which it’s used. It will, for example, recognise the presence of a mouse and keyboard and change to a touch-screen interface if a detachable screen is removed.

Key changes demonstrated this week included:

• An expanded start menu, with new space for personalisation;

• Apps from the Windows Store opening in the same format that desktop programs do, with the user able to resize and move them around;

• Working in multiple apps at once with up to four apps “snapped” on the same screen in a quadrant layout;

• A task view button that enables one view for all open apps and files, allowing for quick switching; and

• Multiple, distinct desktops for different purposes and projects.

“We’re announcing not a product launch, but a change in the way we’re doing things,” declared Anthony Doherty, Windows business group lead at Microsoft South Africa. “It’s a new approach in planning and developing the platform. For the past year we have been listening to customers, but now we’re doing that earlier in the cycle and exposing early code to them.”

The same software will run on desktop computers, notebooks, touch-screen laptops, tablets and large display screens. Each device will adapt dynamically, based both on the hardware in use and the context in which it’s used. It will, for example, recognise the presence of a mouse and keyboard and change to a touch-screen interface if a detachable screen is removed.

“We will also drive a single security model and a single management experience of devices, from smartphone to tablet to PC to TV,” said Doherty. As a result, deployment of the operating system, updates and applications across an organisation will also be simplified.

A new Windows Store will allow for corporate credentials and volume licensing, which means a company can now own the apps it buys for employees.

“This is the start of the business chapter of the Windows 10 story,” said Doherty. “In early 2015 we’ll start the consumer chapter.”

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Tue Dec 06 04:52:56 SAST 2016