Microsoft is releasing a technical preview of Windows 10, the next version of the Windows desktop operating system, later today.
The company aims to start with a clean sheet, forgetting the past two years following a somewhat disappointing release of Windows 8 which, in many ways, missed the mark for enterprise users.
Businesses have said they prefer the look and feel of Windows 7 on laptop devices, but Microsoft has not yet released a proper Start menu. It is expected to appear in Update 2 of Windows 8.1 later this year.
Windows 10 will offer a more flexible user interface, with touch, pen, gesture and mouse support, which can be configured as a default setting based on how the device is being used.
Microsoft senior vice-president Terry Myerson wrote on the Windows blog: "This new Windows must be built from the ground up for a mobile-first, cloud-first world. This new Windows must help our customers be productive in both their digital work and their digital life. That new Windows is Windows 10.
Significantly, the latest operating system (OS) is being designed to run across a broad set of devices – from the internet of things to servers in enterprise.
Myerson said the user interface would operate across devices such as smart TVs, where the user may be 10ft away.
"Some of these devices you primarily use touch/pen, others mouse/keyboard, others controller/gesture – and some devices can switch between input types," wrote Myerson in the blog post.
Another difference is a single application platform for developers. "Whether you’re building a game or a line-of-business application, there will be one way to write a universal app that targets the entire family," he stated.
Microsoft will also offer "one store, one way" for applications to be discovered, purchased and updated across all devices.
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Jim Alkove, general manager for security at Microsoft, highlighted the enterprise features in the new operating system in a blog post.
"Windows 10 is designed with enterprise customers in mind. We have built so much of what businesses need right into the core of this product – including enterprise-grade security, identity and information protection features, reducing complexity and providing a better experience for the modern needs of business," he wrote.
Alkove said Windows 10 enables IT administrators to create user identities for accessing devices, apps and sites, thereby improving resistance to breach, theft or phishing.
"This approach is important because it takes the concept of multi-factor solutions such as smartcards or token-based systems and builds it right into the operating system, in turn also eliminating the need for extra security hardware peripherals," he said.
Building on BitLocker device-level encryption, Alkove said Windows 10 provides an additional layer of protection using containers and data separation at the application and file level.
"Whether the data moves from a tablet or PC to a USB drive, email or the cloud, it maintains the same level of protection. Users won’t need to change behaviour, use special apps or move to a separate, locked-down environment to keep corporate data secure," he said.
Enterprise app store
Windows 10 will also offer a unified app store, which Microsoft said would enable businesses to make volume app purchases based on existing organisational identity.
He said this would support flexible distribution and the ability for organisations to reclaim or re-use licences.
Organisations will also be able to create a customised store, curating store experiences that can include their choice of generally available apps alongside company-owned apps into a separate employee store experience.