This week has been an incredibly exciting one if you follow the products and fortunes of Microsoft Corporation.
On Wednesday Microsoft launched their Windows Technical Preview for the next version of the Windows operating system. This is available to anyone signed up to their Windows Insider Program and it appears they are making a real effort to engage customers, particularly business customers, very early on in the development process.
As a Windows Insider I downloaded the 64bit (non enterprise) version on launch day and currently have it installed on a Dell Inspiron 7000 series (shown in the picture). So what are my initial thoughts?
Windows 8.1 Update (the “almost” service pack for Windows 8.1) is really where Windows 8 became a quality product for me. At the time I was using a Surface Pro 2 as my “day to day” and with 8.1 Update it was a genuinely enjoyable experience. Sure the jump between the “Modern Windows UI” and the traditional desktop was jarring at first but I quickly came to ignore it and actually enjoyed the start screen interface on the Surface. It was however obvious that corporate enterprise would be put off by the sheer sight of it. What consumers fail to realise is the sheer number of old fashioned programs, quite often using old server technology deployed in businesses today. Microsoft are currently preparing to move beyond SQL Server 2012 R2 and yet I still see software which is designed to run on 2008, and in some cases the vendor may not actually support a later version! Somehow Microsoft needed to appeal to the “business tradition” of sitting down and working on the desktop whilst also having something visually appealing and crucially supporting both touch and Apps.
Ah yes touch and Apps, crucial parts of the business model in this post iPad world. Well my initial thoughts are that Microsoft have hit a nice compromise. My Inspiron (handily sporting a touchscreen) logs on straight to the desktop. The “Start” menu has become a mixture of old school Windows 7 and the Modern UI of touch based Windows 8. You will see from the photo’s how the Modern UI Apps appear alongside the traditional looking Start menu structure. You can resize and re-arrange the Modern UI Apps exactly as you would in Windows 8 or Windows Phone and what’s really nice if you’re a phone user is that the size and layout on the desktop kind of echoes your phone screen giving a complimentary experience. The Modern UI Apps now run on the desktop with the option to go full screen but they work perfectly well in the windowed environment of the desktop and there is no deterioration of the touch experience. Overall it’s nice to look at it seems logical, it should appeal to both Windows 7 and 8 users.
I’ll do a more comprehensive review in a future post once I’ve spent some significant time with the shiny new OS, in the meantime here are some of my other immediate observations.
- The file structure appears to be the same as Windows 8. In fact the whole installation process and core OS basically comes across as Windows 8 with a new look.
- Windows 10 supports multiple desktops (much like Mac OSX with it’s spaces). This is the most obvious “new” functionality.
- Icons for well known Windows utilities have had a stylish make over.
- The Technical Preview ships with Internet Explorer 11.
- The Modern UI start screen is still available if you’re sporting a tablet only. You can re-enable it using the Taskbar applet in Control Panel.
- Sadly PC settings still exist in two places, the Control Panel and the PC Settings App. This is something I am dead against and was my first feedback through the included Microsoft Feedback App.
- I was able to install onto the Inspiron with no problems and network drivers worked out of the box. I needed to download the hard disk freefall driver and the Realtek card reader drivers from Dell’s website and then the Intel chipset drivers direct from Intel’s site in order to install the SM bus controller. It’s worth noting that once the SM bus driver installed I lost Bluetooth completely and had to then add the Intel Proset drivers for the wireless and Bluetooth choosing the latest Windows 8.1 driver in both cases.
- All my Windows 8 Apps work so far! Mail, Contacts, People, all work exactly as expected.
- You can make a bootable USB key to install from by using Microsoft’s Windows 7 USB/DVD tool.
I hope that gives you a flavour of the experience so far. I’m excited, I find Apple products very stale at the moment and the iOS 8 upgrade to my iPad was a massive anti-climax. It’s nice to have a genuinely new feeling OS to play with, now how long before I dare put it on my Surface Pro 3!
This was written on Windows Technical Preview Build 9841. If you’ve any questions about the installation process feel free to comment.