Windows 10 - What is it? by Sam C. Chan

August 5, 2015

It is the scheduled 2nd "wave" of Windows 8 revision (8.2, if you will). It continues with the UI tweaks, where 8.1 left off... plus app refresh & new bundle: Edge browser, Candy Crush Saga, Cortana & Microsoft Hello, etc.

In addition, various platform packages are updated in parallel: e.g. Direct-X, WDDM, dotnet Framework, etc. Some are announced (and distributed along) with O.S. revisions. Some are also available as discrete upgrades to older O.S. versions.

End-of-Story - Geeky details below

A Brief History

Version No. Codename Workstation Edition Product Name
3.1~3.51 Daytonna
Windows NT Workstation 3.x
4.0    Cairo Windows NT Workstation 4.0
5.0   none/complicated Windows 2000 Professional SP4
5.1  Whistler Windows XP Professional/Home SP3
5.2   Anvil
Windows XP Professional x64 SP2
6.0    Longhorn Windows Vista Business/Home/Ultimate SP2
6.1    Vienna aka Blackcomb Windows 7  SP1 Pro/Home/Ultimate/Enterprise
6.2    Jupiter Windows 8
6.3    Blue Windows 8.1 with Update 1
6.4*    Threshold** Windows 10

Note: During the 80s and 90s, OS versions were part of the product names: DOS 1.1, 6.2, Windows 1/2/3, NT3.1/3.5/4.0, etc. until 5.0, which was marketed as "2000."  5.1 was promoted as "XP" which stands for "Xperience!" and 6 as Vista. Then, the trend returned to numeric product names, but have nothing to do with the actual version no.

IMPORTANT:  Windows 10 is being released as a new product (purely administrative decision, not technical). The real significance is that it will have its own Product Lifecycles and associated EOL schedule--unlike Windows 8.1, which shares that of Windows 8, as it is officially considered a Service Pack (SP).

*During development, the internal beta version number was 6.4. It was initially destined to become "8.2" but later rumored be 9.0, when the codename Threshold was established. Later, it was abruptly changed to 10.0 to coincide with the newly chosen product name.

**In early June 2015, because the release date was unexpectedly pushed up by 2~3 months (for strategic business reasons)...  it was decided that several features will be pulled, or frozen in unfinished state, to be fixed/re-added in post-release patches. The original form of Threshold is still scheduled for formal release in Sep/Oct 2015, currently known as "Threshold II" wave.


Analysis of New Features

"Windows 10" has gone through some very significant and rapid last-minute changes. There were 3 major builds within 10 days leading up to build 10240. The following is based on a few days of experience dissecting systems built from the offcial "RTM" version OEM ISO I received on launch date.


  • Free upgrade for 1 year, to legally licensed users of Windows 7 and 8.1 (but not 8)
  • Windows-as-a-Service model is still an evolving mystery, and there is plenty of misconception floating around
  • 10-year support: Standard product life-cycle just like all other versions - 5 years of mainstream support period, followed by 5 years of extended support, where product enhancement (beyond security patches) ceases, and only paid support is available. In the case of XP, it was unprecedentedly extended twice, and ended up being 14 years total.
  • 4 Editions: Home, Professional, Enterprise and Education
  • Hardware requirements: Same as all Win6.x (Vista, 7, 8, 8.1)
  • Modern Apps ("Metro") mixed with desktop: generally ill-advised, actually a hindrance, and severe corruption of navigation, for all but the most simplistic app in monitoring-only mode (no interaction)
  • Start Menu: Notice I didn't say "returns..."? It never left! I (and many enterprises) have been deploying them for 2.7 years. Hello?? The accurate description would be: This 3rd incarnation defaults to hybrid layout, with cascaded 1-dimensional menu side-by-side with a cropped Start Screen with the same old live tiles.  This topic warrants its own article.
  • Multi-Desktop: previously (for 20 years) from Microsoft and 3rd-party as add-on, now pre-installed. Only good for 2 very narrow scenarios. I recommend against it in general. NOTE: This is completely unrelated to multi-screen
  • Action Center: expanded & streamlined system notification center
  • Continuum: auto-switch between tablet mode & desktop mode, for transformers/convertibles
  • no more Charms: they killed it entirely, to quell the vocal critics, who didn't realize it's merely 1 right-click + 1 checkbox away from being disabled. Now it harms tablet usage. Within a few months, 3rd-party vendors will be shipping  app to provide that.
  • Edge browser:  Metro browser is now re-branded as Edge. The same rewritten "browser lite" in Windows 8, which has only a small subset of features, now has a new rendering engine, and gets yet another wave of tweak to its script engine. Still sports the same Reading Mode, which I've been recommending (almost as good as text reflow in Dolphin mobile browser HD in fact—better when you're stuck in horizontal screens).  Newly added: annotation & sharing button on toolbar (same as other screen capture apps, or OneNote). Of course, IE11 is still there, same codebase, same build as 7 and 8.1 before.  AND, it's actually the only browser available to Enterprise Edition on LTSB.
  • Unified Search: Windows Search of local hard drive via File Explorer will now incorporate web results for your seach terms. NOTICE: This implies that all local search queries will be reported to and logged at MS HQ in realtime. 
  • Microsoft Hello: biometrics--which means fingerprint scanner and webcam face recognition in this context. I've been deploying them since 2006 (standard equipment on Acer TravelMate high-end line), and have been stressing that it weakens (not strengthen) security, but provides convenience.
  • Candy Crush Saga - bundled & preinstalled (PUP). Yes, that famous one from King
  • Cortana: now integrated with Windows desktop, just like Windows Phone
  • Wifi Sense
    • allows automatic sharing of your wifi with all your FaceBook friends, contacts and Skype contacts. Yes, your WPA key will be disclosed to their device via MS Server as agent, but not directly to your friends in a readable form. It's the same feature that has been available in Windows Phone 8.1 
    • lets you automatically use open wifi hotspots, as reported via crowdsourcing.
    • requirements:
      • both you & your visiting friend are using portable Windows 10 notebook/tablet and/or Windows Phone 8.1. 
      • both of you signed in to your respective Microsoft Accounts
      • you have enabled (default=off) wifi sharing with friends feature
  • Media Center edition has been discontinued. 3rd-party solutions exist for DVD playing and 10-foot user-interface.
  • Forced Update: the rumor is only partly true...
    • Home edition will be on "Current  Branch" and indeed have no choice
    • Pro edition users may opt for ("Current Branch for Business") and defer updates for up to 8 months.
    • Enterprise edition users will be on "Long-Term-Service Branch." Admins can block "indefinitely" (technically up to 10 years) with full control. See official Microsoft notice.
  • Xbox streaming on PC monitor, play multi-user Xbox games cross-platform
  • Direct-X 12.0 (higher game/animation frame rate) and WDDM
  • Universal Apps: A universally misunderstood buzz phrase--it doesn't mean a single executable (binary code) can run on all platforms! It's merely a Microsoft initiative of common APIs & dev tools suites, for software developers to create multiple apps (Arm, x86 & x64) for Windows desktop, Windows mobile, Windows Phone, Xbox platforms... with "relative ease using mostly common source code." It wasn't even introduced with Win10. It's been in-place since 8.1 (Blue) wave.


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