Windows 10: What does the enterprise want?

Peter Gothard
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Cross-device functionality, flexible licences or a dependable 'virtual secretary'? We hope it'll all come together

Computing's been fiddling with the Windows 10 Technical Preview on and off for the past couple of months and, right before today's long-awaited public reveal of the new operating system, we thought we'd summarise what we're expecting.

You can read about the basic functionality of the Technical Preview from our earlier coverage, so below is a rundown of what we believe enterprise IT leaders will be most interested in.

OneCore

This hasn't been flagged up by the preview edition at all, but for us is potentially the single most important element of Windows 10 to make it pop for the enterprise.

With around 90 per cent of APIs already allegedly shared between Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and even Xbox One, the suggestion that the Windows ecosystem is becoming friendly across different hardware has always been a tantalising prospect.

With an apparent leak suggesting that Microsoft will rebrand "Windows Phone" as simply "Windows 10" (with a suggestion the Windows experience will be more seamless between phone and desktop), the idea of a device-agnostic Windows environment could be unveiled today - and it won't be a moment too soon.

Price

The next crucial element is the price. There have been long, largely unfounded rumours circulating as to whether Microsoft will set its licensing rules in more modern ways this time around, possibly even with certain levels of functionality coming free. The company has, after all, already made full Windows 8 licences free for mobile devices under nine inches, opening the door for all manner of interesting BYOD set-ups.

If Windows starts free and steps up its costs depending on need, enterprises could find themselves able to buy into far more ubiquitous Windows ecosystems that may be less threatened by the likes of Chrome or Linux-based OSs, which are becoming ever-more popular due in no small part to their lower cost.

Cortana

All right, Microsoft's decision to copy Apple's Siri by borrowing a character from a series of video games that stopped being cool about four years ago might not seem hugely important, but if this "virtual assistant" becomes an integral part of Windows, it could make a considerable difference to the way the operating system works.

By all accounts, Cortana - which really isn't just Mr Clippit with a female voice, and a wider range of anger-inducing powers, honest - is a much more intelligent service than Siri or Google Now. It integrates with calendars to set reminders for your life, integrates with web search (sadly only the frustratingly under-developed Bing for now) to learn more about your behaviour, and Microsoft reckons it can recognise natural speech rather than relying on pre-defined commands.

And Cortana is "always listening", without needing to be activated. Whether that's good or bad we can't yet say. But imagine a Windows 10 experience driven with Cortana at the centre. A bit "2001" perhaps, except reminding you about crucial meetings rather than plotting to kill you.

Windows 8: a new lease of life?

Finally, when Microsoft first dropped the bombshell that there would be no Windows 9, it said that Windows 10's "more appropriate name" would start to make more sense as we learned more about the OS. That, hopefully, will be today. Apart from one or two spurious blogs from questionable sources, there's been no clear suggestion that a Windows 9 may ever appear.

But what if it's a patch for Windows 8 that remedies some of its peculiarities? For example, like placing Modern apps in the desktop environment and stopping two sessions of Office running concurrently between the two different Windows interfaces.

Such a compromise would definitely be palatable to those who, say, might have signed their life away on several thousand Windows 8 licences shortly before its successor was announced - such as Nottingham County Council's ICT service director, Ivor Nicholson, who we interviewed just weeks after Windows 10's announcement, and who regarded it as "a surprise" to them.

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