Changes Ahead for Windows: A First Look

May 13th, 2015 by admin

Graphic of an old-style, black CRT monitor with 'Microsoft Windows XP' prominently displayed

It was about a year ago that Microsoft officially ended support (most importantly, automatic security patches) for Windows XP. Particularly for business users, running a computer on XP after April 8, 2014, became about as wise as leaving keys dangling from the front door.

Many XP die-hards stuck it out until the very end, refusing to "upgrade" to the notorious nightmare that was Windows Vista or the radical changes in Windows 8—an operating system that was aimed primarily at the notebook/tablet market, yet made nobody particularly happy.

When Microsoft finally pulled the plug on XP, most of the remaining XP users settled on Windows 7 (even downgrading new computers from Windows 8), with its familiar Start menu and minus the "tile" interface which most longtime Windows users simply found too confusing.

But if you were one of the last XP refugees to settle upon 7, don't get too comfortable—Microsoft has announced the final cutoff date for extended support of Windows 7: January 14, 2020. Generally, Microsoft commits about ten years of support for every version of Windows (as opposed to Apple, which follows no fixed timetable and may halt OS X support in as little as 4 1/2 years). While 2020 is still just under five years away, we know how time flies by.

It's not too early to plan your next OS migration and look at a few of the changes Microsoft has in store.

From Windows 8 to … 10?

Oddly enough, Microsoft has decided there will be no Windows 9, skipping directly to Windows 10. Scheduled for release midway through 2015, Microsoft touts Windows 10 as a "ground up" reinvention of Windows, optimized for a traditional keyboard-and-mouse as well as touchscreen devices. The revamped user interface includes the welcome return of the Start menu ( YES!!), as well as the addition of Cortana, Microsoft's answer to Apple's voice-activated "digital assistant" Siri (we wonder, though, how comfortably business users will verbally communicate with their PC in the middle of a workgroup).

Another major advancement in Windows 10 is biometric authorization—replacing typed passwords with users' fingerprints or iris patterns. Though enterprise-level biometric security will likely require upgraded cameras or scanning peripherals, we see this as quite possibly a strong line of defense against password-hacking and the pandemic of cybercrime we've talked about.

Free for You … but Not Your Company

In an obvious break with tradition, Microsoft intends to initially offer Windows 10 as a free upgrade for current users of Windows 7 or 8—most likely as a "make-good" for the poor reception of Windows 8. However, business users of Windows Enterprise editions can still expect to be charged for upgrade licenses and support during the "transition" period to 10. Perhaps the good news here is that legions of home users will uncover Windows 10's inherent early bugs before most business customers choose install it.

Windows 10 remains in beta testing and we won't fully know its overall pros and cons until its official release. Let's hope Microsoft learns from past mistakes and delivers a product that leaves customers thinking "change is good." In the meantime, look ahead to your company's next OS upgrade and avoid the last-minute headaches that came with the end of XP.

Posted in: Hardware and Software