WINDOWS 10: Hands-on highlights
ITP.net gets up close and personal with the final build ahead of Microsoft’s evening launch party
ITP.net today got a look at the polished version of Windows 10 that has been released to consumer markets in 190 countries, including the UAE.
Biometric credentials (hardware permitting), Microsoft Edge and dynamic interfaces were the main highlights, but as of now Microsoft's much-hyped personal assistant Cortana is only available in seven markets.
Windows 10 looks like Windows with a gloss. The overhaul in the kernel will not be apparent until we have had a chance to take the system on a proper test-drive, but changes to the interface were immediately evident.
When logging on, the authentication system, Windows Hello, presents the user with a number of options. Classic password or ATM-style PIN may not appeal to those cyber-security advocates who have been crying out for more innovative credential-handling, but the OS supports fingerprint scanners, and if you run Windows 10 on a machine with an integrated Intel RealSense camera, you have access to facial recognition.
A further option is to connect through Microsoft's unified communications platform Azure, which offers a one-time-password (OTP) option for two-factor authentication.
Dynamic interfaces work better than we have seen in the past. In switching from laptop to tablet mode on a Lenovo Yoga Pro 3, Windows 10 asks if you want to switch to tablet mode. If you choose "yes" you also have the option of never being asked again, but all such options are stored in the system's Notification Centre, so you can change your mind later. We felt that the transition showed genuine thought as to the different interfaces required in working with laptops and tablets - something that reflected early promises made by Microsoft regarding its intentions for Windows 10. The Live Tiles for tablets, and the classic interface for keyboard-and-mouse use, is a dual concept that the first release of Windows 8 missed.
Microsoft Edge is another feature that seems great while in a demo environment, but Internet Explorer became a bloated beast over time and so that is what we must give Edge. We viewed this very website on the new browser and performance looked just fine. Users can draw on webpages and annotate them before sending them to a shared community. And that is great. Reading mode turns text pages into pure text on a parchment-coloured plain background, devoid of ads and other page elements and elegantly formatted for ease of reading. That, also, is great. What we can only hope is that Microsoft leaves Project Spartan alone and free from the plugin system that plagued IE.
Windows 10 was built by committee (our demonstrator preferred the phrase "guided by committee"). Some 5m volunteers gave endless feedback, both significant and trivial. The end result, as with all Windows versions needs to be poked and prodded to see if it is a long-term prospect. Microsoft intends to feed updates Windows 10 as with versions before it, but perhaps the largest departure in strategy from past iterations is Redmond's plan to release not only patches, but additional features, growing the functionality of the OS over time.
Already reports of the Windows 10 launch (it is free to Windows 7 and 8.x users) "breaking the Internet" are starting to appear. If they are even partially accurate, they suggest a lot of users are willing to give Windows 10 an airing. We will be putting the OS through its proper paces in the days and weeks ahead. Keep checking with us for updates.