Microsoft’s Windows 10 is finally here, the first ever free release of a Windows upgrade that the company hopes to be widely adopted.
The release has brought a number of security upgrades with enhancements that will enable companies to begin to replace passwords with more secure options, such as biometrics and hardware-based multi-factor credentials.
Using Microsoft Passport and Windows Hello, users will be able to long into their Windows 10 device or line of business app without a password. Additional security features include Credential Guard, which protects identities by placing them in a hardware-based secure execution environment.
While the new features look good on paper, Matthew Aldridge, Solutions Architect at Webroot, advises careful planning: "It is advisable that organisations carefully plan any upgrades. Thorough testing of all applications and use cases will help mitigate compatibility issues and allow time for the inevitable bugs to be fixed, therefore reducing the risk to the organisation.
"The Identity Protection and Access Control feature is likely to make a big difference to all users as it brings two-factor authentication to the masses. This update means that attackers would need access to a user’s device as well as the user’s password or even fingerprint to achieve successful authentication."
The company’s inclusion of a Data Loss Prevention feature highlights that the company has considered the rise in BYOD. By enabling the containerisation of applications and encrypting data as it arrives on a device, it is less likely that sensitive data could fall into the wrong hands.
Security is a big focus in a release that Paul Veitch, Head of Application Development and Cloud, Avanade UK, say’s is: "a leap forward towards the era of personalised computing and in helping businesses in their journey toward a high-performance digital workplace."
The release will aim to deliver deeper integration along with a more seamless experience across devices. A move to enable digitalisation in the workplace is key to Windows 10, as it integrates social, mobile, analytics and cloud computing.
Veitch, said: "Windows 10 acts as building blocks towards a smarter way of working that allows users to focus on their tasks instead of working to get information and their applications onto a plethora of devices, this ultimately allows them to be more productive."
The more integrated and connected approach can be seen with its unified Mobile Device Management platform. The company also hopes to boost adoption of its Azure Cloud by making it easier to join devices to its Azure Active Directory, via Azure AD Join.
The Cloud integration represents a significant element of the Windows 10 release, which will be the final numbered version. This will lead the way for more a more fluid process of updating, companies may be able to look forward to an end to traumatic OS migration.
Jes Breslaw, director of marketing and strategy, Delphix, said: "Microsoft’s move to continuous updates is a fundamental change. Most significantly, those components traditionally shipped as part of a major release will now be available as independent apps.
"This means innovations within these apps can be made available when they are ready, not held up for the next big operating systems (OS) update."
Although the continuous updates may be welcomed by many, they also present a potential risk for companies that are not ready to transition due to some perceived risks. The risks include potentially destabilising platforms with endless updates. Breslaw expects there to be a branched version which only updates every five years.
Breslaw, said: "However, by taking the branch option these cautious organisations will largely fail to benefit from the huge investment Microsoft is making in innovation.
"Enterprises should be moving their own Windows applications to continuous delivery, and through their own continuous integration and testing, ensure updates are successful.
"This requires development and testing environments that can be provisioned at speed, and with quality data. In a world where evolution is a rapid and constant ascent, rather than the stepped jumps of days past, enterprises must adapt to take advantage of the investment technologists are making.
"The likes of Apple and Android OS are all ready steaming ahead with a continuous delivery model. Organisations need to accept Microsoft’s latest change and jump in with both feet to avoid missing the boat."
Helen Lamb, Executive Director, Managed Infrastructure Services, UK & I, Fujitsu, said: "It means the end of large scale desktop migrations. Customers want to take an ‘evergreen’ approach to their workplace technologies and with Windows 10, this vision can be fully realised. Windows 10 promises to blend the ease of use associated with consumer IT with Enterprise management offering an ongoing ‘evergreen’ experience."
Users will no doubt be happy to see the full return of the Start Menu, while Live Tiles will remain, the move comes after much despair and frustration was vented at the removal of the menu in Windows 8.
Additional features that’ll keep the user interested will be the integration of Cortana, which will sit next to the Start button. Cortana will be able to learn and improve the service it provides.
Cortana isn’t the only major advance that should please users; people can celebrate at the news that the much maligned Internet Explorer is gone. The new web browser, Edge, has been built with interoperability in mind. It will offer a reading mode and the ability to annotate with a keyboard, pen or finger.
The Cloud and Mobile first strategy reveals a clear priority for Microsoft, with ramped up integration and functionality for both.
Chris Sayer, Go To Market Director Modern Workplace, Insight, said: "Newly developed features like the Universal Apps platform and Continuum will enable the modern business worker to be more productive both inside and outside the office.
"At the same time, being built with enterprise mobility in mind means less of a headache for IT departments who can more easily and rapidly deliver secure access to applications and content from anywhere and on multiple devices.
"Windows 10 is without a doubt demonstrating Microsoft’s philosophy of Mobile First, Cloud First strategy – and for good reason. It supports the shift of power from organisations to people, allowing them to interact and conduct work with others the way they want to."
Only time will tell whether the new features and capabilities such as business store, windows update for business and the many others will actually give businesses what they want.
This huge release will require organisations to be aware of the cost of migration, with it being more than just about the OS license. While the company promises high compatibility with Windows 7, many organisations will need to plan and budget for the effort involved with the compatibility of key applications.