Windows 10 is on its way—it's free and kind of exciting

Well it's more exciting than Windows 8 was/is.

Late last year Microsoft formally announced the next major version of Windows: Windows 10. Despite the numbering, Windows 10 is the next version of Windows after Windows 8.1. It seems Microsoft just didn't like the idea of having a Windows 9.

I think that Windows 10 is actually somewhat exciting; well compared to Windows 8 anyway but probably not as exciting as Windows 2000 or Windows XP were back in thier day. Unlike the rather boring and disappointing Windows 8 version the release of Windows 10 is a bit of game changer for Windows in that it is possible that Windows 10 could be the last ever major release of the Windows operating system.

So what interesting things do we know so far about Windows 10? This post deals with what you might refer to as the front-facing upgrades and improvements. There are obviously many engine room changes in Windows 10 as well and, if I remember, I will do a post on some of those later on. But for now . . .

Firstly, for the first time in the history of Windows, upgrading your desktop PC to Windows 10 will be free for non-enterprise users—as long as you do the upgrade within the first year of Windows 10 being released, and providing you are already running Window 7 or Windows 8.1. So this is another good reason to get your pre-Windows 7 computers upgraded to Windows 7 or Windows 8.

Windows 10 will have (more or less) the same interface on desktop PCs, Windows tablets, and Windows Phones. In fact, as far as the hardware will allow, Windows 10 on desktop PCs, tablets, and phones is the same operating system core. This will allow application developers to—up to a point—develop once and then have the application run on PCs, Windows tablets, and Windows Phones without (much) recoding.

While the boot-up on Windows 8 is much fast than for Windows 7 (about a third the time it takes Windows 7 to boot), the boot-up on Windows 10 is even faster. On a desktop computer it will typically be five seconds (or less) from power on to logon with Windows 10.

While I have not seen it in action I understand that Windows 10 provides support for virtual screens built in. So those of us who love working with virtual screens (or virtual desktops, if you prefer that terminology but to me virtual desktop means something very different) won't have to use a third-party application to do this. To switch between virtual screens you will use Win+Tab, which makes perfect sense because Alt+Tab is used for switching between applications.

With Windows 10 Microsoft brings back the Start Menu. The interface is not the same as it was in Windows 7 but it sort of works the same.

Windows 10 will also come with a completely new Web browser that has the working name Spartan. This is a working name and it might change by the time Windows 10 is released later this year. Spartan will fully support the very new 'faster and more efficient' HTTP/2 page rendering standard which, in theory, will allow for compliant Web pages to be opened and displayed using only about a third of the packet traffic that is required by HTTP 1.1 (which is currently used). This decrease in the number of packets of data that need to go back and forth to open a Web page should result in Web pages opening and displaying faster however I am not aware of any real-world metrics on this yet—probably because none of the existing Web browsers are HTTP/2 ready, plus about 99 percent of all Web sites are still rendering in HTTP 1.1. Spartan and HTTP/2 incorporate other Web page performance enhancements but I won't go into them here.

The last thing I will cover, but there are many other enhancements in Windows 10 that I have not covered, is that the touch interface is improved. Touch has been improved in a number of areas. Microsoft has improved the usability of many of their desktop applications when using the touch interface—desktop applications like Spartan, OneNote, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. In addition to this touch has been overhauled and improved when it comes to using and navigating the operating system interface.

Windows 10 is due for release late in 2015. Most likely Microsoft will release it in time for the OEMs (companies who make and sell computers) to put it on the computers, tablets, and Windows Phones in the stores for Christmas.