Microsoft’s new Windows 10 platform launches on the 29th July. Smart businesses need to think ahead and ensure they know just how they will respond to the upgrade. Malcolm Newdick, MD and founder at Riverbank IT Management, has mapped a Windows 10 101 on the key things you need to know. New features and capabilities coming with the Windows upgrade are set to create better ways of working, against the inevitable buzz created by media – speculation around new capabilities, how successful it will be, what this means for the company’s future.

Windows 7 and 8 support ends sooner than you think

Windows 7 support ended in January and Microsoft has extended support for Windows 8.1 to 2023; its policy is to support products for two years after the release of its successor. The industry expectation is therefore that general support for Windows 8 will wrap up by July 2017.

A key thrust for Windows 10 is for Microsoft to move with its customers to the future. Terry Myserson, Microsoft’s VP of Operating Systems, said: “We designed Windows 10 to run our broadest device family ever, including Windows PCs, Windows tablets, Windows phones, Windows for the Internet of Things, Microsoft Surface Hub, Xbox One and Microsoft HoloLens—all working together to empower you to do great things.”

The future is not Windows 8. Or seemingly Windows 9 as Microsoft decided to skip this version altogether.

There’s a year to upgrade for free

Most businesses will find themselves with a mix of Windows 7 and Windows 8 PCs and devices. This requires a plan within the next year to capitalise on the free Microsoft upgrade. Work with your IT team and partners to plan your upgrades, schedule them for the least active times and upgrade in phases, starting with your least critical devices. Which brings me to…

Click happy?

It’s wise to take a little caution when it comes to your IT network. As with all upgrades there will be the inevitable period of bug fixes and updated drivers. In the meantime businesses face teething problems like a printer not being recognised or, more critical, a major application not working.

With that in mind, we’re advising our clients to hold fire on clicking the “Reserve your upgrade” icon that’s appeared in your system tray. It’s essential to communicate this across all teams. Our suggestion is to review this around six months from release. This allows bugs and glitches to be resolved. Once the first service pack is released, outstanding OS issues should – in theory – be addressed. This is the time for your upgrade to kick in as planned by your IT team.

Hey Cortana?

Cortana is Microsoft’s much-hyped personal digital assistant – a star attraction for Windows 10. Cortana is about enabling businesses to interact in a more “human” way, talking or typing simple phrases to do things like book meetings, find information and set reminders. The jury’s out as to how readily this feature will be adopted by businesses. PAs and assistants probably don’t need to panic just yet.

Edge is the second major new feature. As Microsoft’s new web browser, it replaces the ageing Internet Explorer. Edge is set to be faster, more streamlined and more personal, with the ability to write notes on web pages, which you’ll see every time you access it.

Windows 10 – ROI is what you make it

With Windows 10, it’s a case of what you put in is what you’ll get out. Standardising the Windows 10 platform across all your business’ devices will create a unified, simplified and integrated experience for managing data, communication and collaboration tools. Embrace Cortana as a way to get things done faster and benefit from the enhanced security features Edge offers. You may want to consider workshops with your team to help them maximise the new features enabling them to work faster, easier and become more productive.

The hope is that Windows 10 will win hearts and minds, bringing a seamless multi-platform experience as customers swap between fixed and mobile computers and use different software and Cloud services. With a test-base of over four million people, we’re hoping for an operating system that’s more user-friendly and not so reliant as Windows 8 on touchscreen functionality.

Is this the start of Microsoft reclaiming its stake as a software innovator, driving customers to do things quicker, better, smarter? And will your business be taking the first steps towards that on July 29th?

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