The first major Windows 10 update rolls out today, with a bevy of feature improvements, bug fixes, and new enterprise capabilities meant to ease the transition to Microsoft’s latest operating system. The new update is expected to add a new Xbox Experience application, improve visual consistency across menus, and fix a troublesome bug in the Start Menu structure.
Under the current iteration of Windows 10, the Start Menu was limited to roughly 500 items, including all Readme’s, shortcuts, and uninstall links. Above the 500-item mark, these items vanished — they weren’t accessible by searching, and they weren’t populated in the Start Menu list. This 500-item limit has now been bumped to 2,048 — a method that gives users some breathing room, though it doesn’t explain why Windows can’t hold an arbitrary amount of information.
One of the major updates today is to Cortana, Microsoft’s personal assistant software. Microsoft notes that Cortana can now recognize phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses to set reminders, as well as keeping track of event and movie bookings. She can also book Uber to take you to a destination, tell you about missed calls (if you have Windows Phone), and understands movie bookings. Ars Technica adds that Cortana can set your PC to sleep if she knows that you’re out of the office.
Edge, Microsoft’s new browser, also gets some new features in this updated version of Windows, including the ability to synchronize Favorites and Reading list items across multiple devices. Cortana will now tell you about coupons for retailers if you visit their websites, and you can now Miracast from Edge tabs. Unfortunately, Edge won’t support extensions until 2016. There are a number of small improvements to a variety of applications, including Mail, Calendar, Groove, the Windows Store, and OneNote. Start menu advertising is also implemented in this new version of Windows, though users have the option to disable it.
This new version of Windows will also allow users to upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 to a clean install of Windows 10 without having to double-install the OS first. Users who haven’t upgraded yet will be able to activate Windows 10 using pre-existing licenses for Windows 7 and 8.1.
The enterprise improvements to Windows 10 mostly give companies and businesses the ability to defer certain types of updates or cease all telemetry collection by Windows. Microsoft is rolling out two new features — Windows Update for Business and Windows Store for Business, to allow companies to defer certain updates, stagger update cycles within device groups, customize application distribution to specific devices within the Windows Store, or even distribute custom applications.
Windows Update for Business (WU4B) allows companies to defer updates and upgrades by a set amount of time. Upgrades can be pushed back for up to eight months, updates can be delayed up to four weeks, and both features can be paused during mission critical intervals. A business that’s handling huge amounts of inventory for Christmas, for example, could delay updating or upgrading by up to 35 days. Windows is also giving companies the option to prevent all telemetry collection, but will not extend this feature to home or professional users.
Businesses also have the option to use the Current Branch (Build 10586) or the Current Branch For Business (10240, the original RTM build). Companies that choose to remain on the CB4B will still receive security updates.
Is this the must-have Windows upgrade? Microsoft is certainly claiming so, arguing that if you held back until some bugs were ironed out of Windows 10, this is the time to switch. In the past, of course, those bug fixes typically arrived a year or more after the OS had been in-market, not a mere four months. On the other hand, if miscellaneous menu bugs and weak applications held you back, this may be a great time to jump.
If, on the other hand, you held off because of privacy concerns, this update really doesn’t offer anything to address the issues and there’s no sign Microsoft intends to address them at all, at any point in the future. The ability to turn off telemetry gathering will continue to be reserved for enterprise customers, and you’ll still need to lock the OS down to keep it from relaying data to Microsoft.
This puts users who want to upgrade to DX12 but aren’t thrilled with other aspects of the operating system in a difficult position. There’s not much we can recommend at this point beyond “Watch and wait.” Microsoft’s huge success with Windows 10’s rollout suggests the company will not be particularly interested in tweaking its aggressive plans to win greater customer engagement or win over the users that have been holding off with various concerns.
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