Update: It looks like the next major update to Windows 10 could be pushed back well into next year – to make room for some new friends. Read on into the “Latest news” section to find out more.
Windows 10 is an entirely fresh version of Microsoft’s veteran Windows operating system (OS) – a version that is make-or-break for the Redmond, Wash. company.
It was released on July 29, 2015 in seven versions, which I’ll tell you much more about below, as well as give you techradar’s final verdict on all aspects of the new OS. Note that there is a distinct Windows 10 Mobile review, which we’ve recently given a full grade.
Even though Windows 8.1 did improve a lot, there’s no escaping that, with Windows 8, Microsoft was hugely complacent, riding on the coattails of Windows 7. It drastically misread its audience with a fundamentally different interface that didn’t make any reasonable sense and was hard to learn. It failed us. It failed itself.
Thankfully, 2016 Microsoft is starkly different from 2012 Microsoft. The key management of the company has shuffled. It has realized that people can choose other OSes. It’s been creating software for Mac OS X, Linux, iOS and Android. As you’ll see, it’s allowing apps from other systems to be easily ported to Windows, too.
Now more than seven months after release, Microsoft hasn’t stopped improving the OS, nor has news revolving around the new OS stopped roiling in early 2016.
Following the first major update for Windows 10 that landed in November, Microsoft touted over 200 million Windows 10 installs as of early January.
However, shortly after that moment, Windows and Devices Group Corporate VP Yusuf Mehdi made a celebratory announcement that implies Microsoft may gather more data about its Windows 10 users than it’s letting on about.
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s efforts to boost Windows 10’s market share have only grown more dire. First, the company said that Windows 10 is the only Microsoft OS supported by the newest Intel CPUs and beyond, looking to cut resources spent coding the OS to support dated hardware.
Plus, Windows 10 recently became a “recommended download” for Windows 7 and 8.1, meaning that – for most of you – the OS has already tried to automatically install itself on your PC. Granted, if your Windows Update settings allow for automatic installs.
That said, Microsoft has made clear attempts to pull some of the thorns out of our sides. It’s been recently found that Windows 10 is going down really well with PC gamers, accounting for 34.05% of the Steam (developer Valve’s online gaming service) user base in January.
Short after that report, Redmond published a website showing the superior security of its latest OS for businesses in an effort to convince IT managers to upgrade. Then, just weeks ago, Microsoft issued a patch for the OS and released truly transparent patch notes for the first time.
Plus, if you want to test out new Windows 10 features before the rest with the least amount of risk, there’s a new “Release Preview” Ring in the Windows Insider Program. And now, Microsoft made it so much clearer which apps on its Windows Store are built for Windows 10.
However, if you’re waiting on some major changes to Windows 10 before you take on that free upgrade this year, you might not want to hold your breath. ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley reports that the second wave of Redstone, the codename for the next big update to the OS, will be pushed back to Spring 2017 to release alongside new hardware.
Now, on with the review…
Windows is more than just an OS
Microsoft believes the future of Windows is as a platform for all. Like Android, the strength of Windows is in the thousands of companies that develop for it (see the section about Universal apps for more on the relationship with developers) and use it in their products.
That’s why Windows 10 is no longer just an operating system for 32 and 64-bit PCs. It will also run on the ARM platform for smaller tablets and smartphones. Windows 10 is going to run on phones – it’s the new version of Windows Phone, but it’s not that clear whether Microsoft will brand new Windows Phones as ‘Windows 10’ or not. If you know what Windows RT was, then don’t worry, because it’s nothing like that.
Universal apps will run not only on PCs, but on Windows 10 phones, Windows 10 for IoT devices and Xbox as well.
Like Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8 before it, Windows 10 is part of the Windows NT family.
From the Windows 10 Preview to RTM
We are part of the Windows Insider program, which gives people early access to Windows 10 updates through various phases of its development, even after release. The majority of this critique is based on build 10240, made available on July 15. It is the RTM – or Release to Manufacturing – version. RTM will also be on Windows 10 PCs you buy in-store or online.
RTM doesn’t have the usual ‘Windows 10 Insider Preview’ text on the desktop, and it has also been released to everybody in the Windows Insider program – even those who didn’t want the latest updates (the “slow” ring as opposed to the “fast” ring).
Even now Windows 10 is released, the Windows Insider program will continue, and Microsoft will release Windows 10 updates to members of the program first.
While it’s natural that Windows 10 is considered as “finished” by reviewers (us) and consumers, Microsoft doesn’t subscribe to this point of view, and says it will carry on developing the OS with additional tweaks.
Joe Osborne contributed to this review