Windows 10: This is a Game-Changer
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Microsoft is kinda cool again, Apple is boring, Google is going after Yahoo on Firefox, and calculator watches are back. Wtf is going on.
— Alex (@alex) January 22, 2015
Microsoft is cool? What’s next? Blackberry release something good?
The last time Microsoft was cool was in the 1990s, having dared to challenge the likes of IBM. Apple became cool in the 2000s for similar reasons – it dared to challenge Microsoft.
Strong Innovation - showing what you’re made of - is what popularises technology brands.
Microsoft have been accused of ‘sleeping on the job’ for at least the last decade. And whilst they slept (letting the mobile and tablet trend smile and wave at them from a distance) Apple went hell for leather and came up with an era defining device. Leaving Microsoft with a hefty amount of catching up to do.
How do you catch up? Do you take Blackberry’s stance and declare, “I know what the world wants. Square phones.”
— Hazel Burton (@hazeburton) September 25, 2014
No. You bring out something so completely bonkers and simultaneously genius, it just might work…
Enter Microsoft HoloLens.
I was expecting to write a blog today about all the new features of Windows 10 for the PC, tablet and phone. And I’ll get onto that because there’s a lot to get excited about here (not to mention the fact that it’s going to be free for a year). But I have to start with the HoloLens because, well, holograms…
Essentially, this is Windows 10 on steroids. It might not matter that Microsoft hasn’t ever known what they were doing with screen sizes. Where they’re going, they don’t need screens.
Imagine architects being able to walk around their creations, whilst simultaneously broadcasting the experience to their customers. NASA scientists driving the Curiosity Mars Rover as if they were actually on the red planet.
The HoloLens, which kind of makes you look a bit like RoboCop when you put it on, can achieve this.
Have a watch of this video to give you an indication - it goes 10 steps further than Google Glass. If you don’t have time to watch it, picture Tony Stark in his genius, playboy, billionaire, philanthropist loft creating the Iron Man outfit and you’ll be there too.
You can also see the connection with 3D printing. Imagine what you want virtually, and then create it physically.
What would you do create? It’s a difficult question, kind of like ‘What would you do if you won the lottery?’
From a business perspective, it would be great to create a virtual boardroom with participants who are beaming in from multiple locations. As a national company that would be ideal for us.
Then again, it takes a certain amount of bandwidth to transmit a photo over the internet. I don’t even want to think about how much it would take to send a person.
And this is one of the things that is likely to hold back HoloLens – our current infrastructure. We need a revolution in connectivity. It’s getting better, but it’s nowhere near the pace we need it to be in order to video conference a hologram. Let’s hope everyone ‘bands’ (geddit) together so we can achieve what’s possible with HoloLens.
Onto the differentiating features of Windows 10. Here’s a run down of the major stuff:
- It’s free. If you’ve got Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.1, you can upgrade to Windows 10 for no cost at all, as long as you do so within the first year Windows 10 is released (likely to be this autumn)
- We’ll never see Windows 11. This is it. Windows 10 can also be described as ‘Windows As A Service’ which means that anybody running it will always have the most up to date and secure version, for the duration of the device you’re using it on. This is a massive move from Microsoft who previously only released major updates, years apart. It will be continually improved with new features and updates on a regular basis.
- Cortana comes to the PC. Microsoft’s answer to Siri is currently only available on Windows Phone 8.1. Now she can be on your desktop, where you can dictate emails to her, she can look stuff up for you from multiple data sources, track flights, and she can tell you if you’ll need to wear a coat tomorrow. There’s a lot more things she can do, and the best thing is that Cortana gets more intelligent the more you use her. Shockingly, this is brand new ground for Microsoft. There’s no Siri on OS X yet, and, compared to Cortana, would you really want it to be?
- Continuum looks pretty decent. This a mode that works with 2-in-1 devices so that you’ll be using an interface that’s familiar, whether you’re using it as a tablet or a laptop. Say you have a Microsoft Surface and you’re in the office - you’re probably more comfortable using a mouse and keyboard with it. The interface will reflect this. Pop the keyboard off and it will enter ‘tablet’ mode, making all the fiddly stuff touch friendly. Plus, your recent files will be the same no matter what device you’re using. You can pick up straight where you left off.
- Speaking of the Surface, Microsoft also introduced a new system called the Surface Hub. This is a giant screen with built in sensors, microphones, WiFi and Bluetooth. You can use it to call people, you can use it as a whiteboard, and you can connect your personal devices to it. It’s designed to come into its own within meetings where colleagues in different locations can join the meeting instantly, and participate in brainstroms using the whiteboard. All that data is then stored in the Cloud, so no more taking photos of your flipchart. This is Skype for Business in action, and looks like a bit of a gamechanger. We’re not just talking platform innovation here. We’re talking hardware innovation. Microsoft have created a brand new category
- There’s a new internet browser. Internet Explorer, long the butt of almost every web joke, is to be retired. In its place comes ‘Project Spartan’: a codename for now. What’s new? There’s a new ‘reading mode’ for when you’re looking at articles on the web, you can annotate content and share it, plus Cortana is built right into it. Say you’re looking for a restaurant, Cortana can pop up and give you directions to it from your current location, book a reservation for you, and even check if the menu is suitable for your January detox (based on prior knowledge).
I’ve heard Windows 10 being referred to as the ‘Sincere Apologies’ edition. Microsoft are definitely making up for some of Windows 8’s shortcomings, but they could have done this by introducing the new Start menu (and perhaps Continuum) alone. That would have appeased a lot.
This is way beyond an apology. Windows 10 is the best thing from Microsoft in a long, long time and certainly isn’t just a new rehashed version of what we’ve had before, a la iDevices.
When Satya Nadella closed off Wednesday’s event, he said Microsoft have a new goal to live by:
“We want to go from people needing Windows, to choosing Windows, to loving Windows’.
People have always needed Windows. We chose it because that’s what the guy before chose and it was easier not to rock the boat.
We have never loved it. Not like people love Apple or Disney.
I will of course need to have a go at the HoloLens and start building my own pub before I can offer a definitive answer. But this is all very, very encouraging stuff from Microsoft.
Next week my colleague Paul Burns and I will be recording a ‘chat show’ style video to drill into the detail of Windows 10 and what this means for you guys, so please do keep an eye out for that when it hits the blog.
In the meantime, what’s your opinion on what’s been revealed about Windows 10 so far?