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  1. Hardware
August 1, 2016

Windows 10 Anniversary Update: Get ready for big improvements to Cortana, Edge, and security

Analysis: Is there any reason for you not to update?

By James Nunns

Windows 10 is celebrating its one year anniversary and as a little gift to its users there is a major update.

Different from a standard small rolling update, the Anniversary Update, which comes out on the 2nd of August, will weigh in at about 3Gb and offer numerous improvements to security, Cortana integration, the digital pen and improvements to the Edge browser.

One of the main developments to the OS is on the security front, many are under the hood, but developments to Windows Hello, the biometric login system that allows users to sign into a computer with a selfie or fingerprint scan, will now support websites on the Edge browser in addition to some apps.

What this means is that users won’t have to constantly be entering in passwords to various sites.

On the security front, Rob Epstein, Microsoft UK Windows Marketing Lead, told CBR: “Think about Windows 7, it was designed nearly 10 years ago so there’s been lots of enhancements, 3rd party add-ons, but the nature of security threats has radically shifted in 10 years.”

Ransomware for example “happens not necessarily because of malware specifically so that idea of just keep your anti-virus up to date and you’ll be safe is no longer valid.”

So Windows 10 will continue to offer Credential Guard and the company is continuing its move to try and get rid of passwords with updates to Windows Hello.

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Enhancements made to Edge are another important feature of the update with the company attempting to move away from the likes of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

Epstein said that in benchmark tests against Chrome and Firefox the Edge browser comes out as being a lot faster and much friendlier to the battery life of devices. The browser is 70% more battery efficient than competitors according to the company.

The company has been slow in adding extensions but Epstein said that this is to make sure that they are all safe and work properly.

“We’ve been working hard to ensure that but are really keen to ensure that it doesn’t impact on performance, battery, or security and so have been quite slow and steady on extensions,” said Epstein.

The company already offers a number of extensions such as AdBlocker and Evernote with more to be made available through the Windows Store once they have been vetted.

Further updates see the inclusion of Dark theme, the option to use the PC or laptop in dark mode, this will feature a black background with white text.

Those users that have been disappointed with the functionality of Cortana, myself included, will be happy to see that the assistant has been given a lot more capabilities.

Epstein said that some of the problems that users have had with Cortana have come from not knowing what commands can actually be used with it and said that the company has work to do in this area.

But for now Cortana is being updated to speak more languages such as Spanish, French, and Portuguese. It can now also scan the users email and calendar prompt users if they need to do something. Cortana can also now send text messages to Android and iOS devices.

One concern for users might be the amount of information that Cortana, and therefore Microsoft, has, especially as users won’t be able to turn Cortana off after the update. So it is advisable that the assistant’s memory is wiped periodically if this is of concern.

Numerous improvements have also been made to Windows Ink so that it now includes Sticky Notes, Sketchpad and a Screen Sketch.

One of the improved integrations with Cortana sees the assistant capable of understanding things that are handwritten on a sticky note so that they can be added to the calendar.

So far Windows 10 has been the most popular OS from the company to date, the fastest adopted, and now the biggest version of Windows that is deployed in the UK.

According to Epstein the quick adoption has been aided by the lengthy free upgrade period, which has now ended, the user experience, and the ease of upgrading.

Epstein said: “I think a lot of people in the past were very put off by ‘how do I get a disk, how do I install, what happens, when I get there do I have to reinstall everything?’”

With a large number of updates there is always a chance that some customers will be upset by changes, just think back to the backlash created by the disappearance of the start menu.

The company is now hoping to avoid a repeat of that kind of backlash by more heavily relying on data and customer feedback through the use of Windows Insider program and a built in user interface.

The company has received 75 million pieces of feedback and has made 5,000 updates and improvements as a result.

Over the past year numerous complaints have been made my customers about the persistency of requests made by the company to get people to upgrade, including some forced upgrades despite the user saying no.

For the Windows 10 Anniversary Update it is possible to decline it if auto update is switched off, but they don’t advise that.

“Fundamentally you will get pushed this update and we can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t want it. There are enhancements like battery life, certainly Edge browser updates will provide real improvements to impact the battery.

“It’s added features so there is nothing we are taking away, nothing major we are going to change that will prevent someone from wanting to upgrade,” said Epstein.

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