There is now less than a month until Microsoft releases the next major update to Windows, known as Windows 10, to PCs and tablets.
This past week, Microsoft announced its release date for PCs and Windows tablets will roll out on July 29, with a version for the company’s Lumia smartphones coming this year.
If your business relies on some combination of Windows, Office and Outlook/Exchange to get things done, the update is potentially a factor in whether or when you upgrade your computers or work phones.
So even if you’re planning to take a “wait and see” approach to upgrading, if your business runs on Windows, here are six details that are worth being aware of:
1. Will it work on our current computers and tablets?
The good news, if you recently bought yourself a shiny new Surface 3 or Surface Pro 3, is that Windows 10 should work with every Windows 8.1 laptop, tablet or desktop PCs that are currently on sale.
Microsoft lists the minimum specs for Windows 10 as being a 1 GHz processor, 1 GB RAM for 32-bit or 2 GB RAM for 64-bit, a 16 GB hard disk for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit, a graphics card supporting DirectX 9 or later and a 1024×600 display.
That said, if you have an old PC that barely scrapes by those minimum specs, you will probably find you have a much better experience if you upgrade your computer to the latest version of Windows 10. While Windows 10 might run with those specs, you’ll need something a bit better for it to run well.
The other potential issue is that some third party-accessories will need the manufacturer to update their device drivers in order to work with Windows 10. In most cases this won’t be an issue, unless you have a highly customised PC with usual expansion cards or accessories hooked up to it.
Finally, you will need to be running Windows 7 or higher if you want a free upgrade.
2. What about my Lumia 930?
Microsoft has allowed owners of a number of recent Windows Phones to preview Windows 10. Handsets able to trial the upgrade include the Lumia 630, 640, 640XL, 635, 636, 638, 730, 830, 930, as well as HTC’s One M8. It’s fairly safe to assume that these smartphones will get the Windows 10 upgrade when it’s released for phones.
However, it’s worth noting that Windows won’t be updated on smartphones until later this year, and we’ll know more details then.
3. What will be the big changes on my PC or tablet?
The big relief for Windows 8 and 8.1 users is that the Start Menu is back.
For people who have had a run-in with Internet Explorer, or given up on it and switched to Firefox or Chrome, the good news is that IE is dead. It’s been replaced with a new web browser, known as Edge.
A feature new called Continuum will be able to detect how you have your device set up, and adjust its setup accordingly. So if you plug a monitor, keyboard and mouse into your smartphone, it will switch to the desktop PC version of Windows. Likewise, if you have a Surface tablet, it will switch between the tile or desktop interface depending on whether or not you’ve attached a keyboard.
You will be able to use biometric authentication to log in to your computer, including fingerprint and facial recognition.
There are updated apps covering photos, videos, music, maps, people, mail and calendar.
4. What about the smartphone version?
On smartphones, key new features include the ability to set a full-size background image for the Start screen, along with up to three rows of quick actions in the action centre. Notifications in Windows 10 are now interactive, meaning users can, for example, reply to a text message directly from a notification.
The release also improves text-to-speech, with a new Photos app that aggregates all photos both on a user’s smartphone and on OneDrive.
5. We’re app developers – what does this mean for us?
For developers, it features universal apps. This means you will be able to write an app once and run it on smartphones, tablets, PCs, Xboxes, servers and – at some point in the not-too-distant future – HoloLenses. There will also be one Windows Store for all these devices.
The other news, if you already have an app for Android or iOS – is that you should be able to get it running on Windows 10 with minimal changes.
6. How much will all this cost?
Here’s the good news. Assuming you already have a compatible device, and run at least Windows 7, the upgrade is free if you make the jump in the first year.
Users looking for more information on how to upgrade can do so on this page.