Interview: Windows 10: Get the answers to the your questions
The Windows 10 launch event concentrated on the enterprise audience Microsoft wants to win over to the next release of its operating system and in particular on the desktop tools and shortcuts the Windows team has designed for those productivity users.
But it also gave us a chance to talk to members of the Windows team from Terry Myerson and Joe Belfiore to the product managers who look after features like the taskbar to technical experts like Dave Treadwell (a long-time developer on the Windows team who’s now a corporate vice president).
In between talking up the Windows Insider program, they told us about how Windows 10 will stay fresh, what’s happening to Internet Explorer, the different ways universal applications can work across devices and what the deal is with Microsoft’s research OS programs.
What does having the same Windows on PCs and phones and Xbox and Internet of Things sensors really mean? How far is it really the same?
Dave Treadwell explained that at one level, it’s all one Windows already; “having a common kernel is something we’ve been embracing for years; Xbox One has the same kernel as Windows and Windows Phone. We’ve been carefully expanding that and now the idea of a Universal App provides a common developer platform across different devices.” But a universal app isn’t exactly the same everywhere either, because “you use these devices differently. Your interface to a phone is a little different to a laptop where you have a keyboard and a mouse so it’s not one interface to rule them all, it’s a family of products. We also have the ability to tailor experience to the different devices; you can use shape writing on a phone, you can use a pen on a tablet, I can open my laptop and type into it. The more of the experience is tailored to the device. It’s not appropriate to have the exact same interface across all devices because it doesn’t fit well.”
And that idea of a continuum of Windows across different devices goes down to the features and the programming interfaces, Treadwell explained to TechRadar. “Some things like how you access the file system are exactly the same across all the different devices, but again, that doesn’t mean you’ll have the same user interface for doing that. We have two techniques we use; they’re called adaptive and tailored. With adaptive, the interface is automatically scaled to the device; when you move the Mail app in Windows 10 back and forth, that’s written for all the different sizes of the application. A tailored app is one where the developer has thought specifically, ‘hey, I’m going to do something different on a mouse and keyboard, than I’ll do on a tablet, than I’ll do on a games console.” On a tailored app, there’s active thought by the developer to make sure their experience works very well on the devices they’re targeting. It goes down to the hardware; they can know whether there’s a Kinect attached to the machine, and say ‘if there is a Kinect, provide this kind of experience’.”
Is Windows 10 going to be around for as long as Windows 7 or XP? How is it going to stay fresh and up to date?
There’s a tension between keeping Windows up to date and keeping Windows stable, Terry Myerson told us, because of the wide range of devices it runs on, from tiny sensors to servers – to the machines that control factory lines for companies (including Apple, ironically). “There are these different personas; there are these different devices in the Windows world. One of the things we offer for enterprise is a mission critical level of support and when mission-critical system have been built using Windows 10 Microsoft will support them for a long time. We have ways of supporting our products for well north of ten years for enterprise customers; they expect that. If you’re going to build a factory floor and put a system on there, you want to know how that system will work and you want it to stay that way so that factory floor works. But there is this tension; there are a lot of productivity workers – like myself – and we are in some ways consumerised. We want an experience that’s fresh and always up to date.
“When enteprise customers deploy Windows 10 we will engage with them about how they might think about what is the right level of consumerisation they might take on with each of their devices, so they have the right level of freshness, the right level of stability. But we will continue to offer that mission critical level of support, the long term commitment – whether that be for servers or industrial Internet of Things or emergency rooms where they want to deploy and not change. And then there are all of these productivity workers that want the latest and the greatest but they’re not Insiders; they don’t have time for that. They say ‘I want the latest but go fix your stuff. Make it high quality before you give it to us’. That full continuum of Windows users is what we’re trying to reason against.”
Joe Belfiore explained that there will be different options that businesses can choose for keeping Windows 10 updated. “One of the things we’re being intentional about is designing this system In a way that an enteprise that wants to have a slower upgrade cycle can have that option; or if they want they can go at a faster speed – or they can be an Insider and get ahead of the line.”
How often will Windows 10 technical preview get updated?
“We’re aiming at roughly monthly, it could be 6 weekly,” Belfiore told us, but he pointed out “there are bunch of things that are core apps and we can work on those [separately]”. That’s happened on Windows Phone already, where the calendar became a separate app.” We don’t know how far we can get breaking things into individual parts but it is definitely accurate to say we recognise the value of having components and we’re hunting around for what works. There’s already the music app, videos, mail; we expect to add more to that list but we’re not really quite sure of exactly what yet.”
What’s happening to Internet Explorer?
“In Windows 10 there’s only one Internet Explorer and the one Internet Explorer is integrated into the desktop,” Belfiore said. “We don’t want to have two distinct behaviours, separate feeds… people don’t want that. We want to simplify it for people; we want people to choose IE and get a simple IE and get all the benefits of the work that went into the modern one in a way that makes sense. Some of those are tricky like sandboxing and plugins, the questions of the benefits of performance and reliability, it’s tricky to figure out.” So what you see in technical preview is far from the final look of IE: “there’s more coming later,” he promised.
What will you be able to run Windows 10 on?
“We are building the software so we can update the vast majority of devices out there,” Belfiore told us. “We have experience both from PCs and phones so we know sometimes you need hardware vendors to be engaged with you to sure the support is there. We’re doing that as much as we can and our general intent is to make this available as an update for the vast majority of devices.”
What about Windows Phone and Windows RT?
“We’re building it all at the same time,” Terry Myerson told us, “but we don’t have all the answers for how it will all be released.” Partly that’s because releasing new phones or updating existing ones means working with the mobile operators, but he also admitted that because it’s so early in the Windows 10 cycle “For devices where we do control the release, frankly we don’t have all he answers yet either.” Joe Belfiore was also coy about the next Windows Phone interface, beyond it being part of the Windows 10 family, but he promised it would be “a natural step forward in evolution from Windows 8.1 today”.
When we asked him how many of the features in Windows Phone we might see in Windows 10 by the end he told us “it’s definitely the philosophy and the architecture of having a common core really helps”. But when we pressed him for details – perhaps the Shape keyboard? – he only said “yes, but without saying which items!”
What’s happening about Microsoft’s research OS projects now they’re part of the Windows team, and now Rick Rashid – a veteran OS researcher – has moved from running Microsoft Research to be in Windows?
Mostly, it’s been an organisational change, Treadwell told us. “We are integrating all of the company’s OS product engineering work into the OS Group; it was very dispersed before so having technologies like Midori and Drawbridge and all the rest of them within the OSG means we can look at those concepts and see if we can make them part of the platform and we’re looking at those.” Indeed, he said, “there’s a lot of that functionality that is now part of Windows.”
And it turns out that Rick Rashid has moved on inside Microsoft. “Rick was in Windows until about a month ago,” Treadwell told us, “and now he’s with the application services group. He spent about a year with us; he did good work, he did a great job – but the company needed him in the Office area a little bit more!” Microsoft has had plenty of small experimental apps come out from the Office team already, like Mix and Sway; perhaps Rashid is working on how those kind of projects will develop to help Microsoft compete with all the startups trying to replace Office.
- Is the new OS any good? Read our hands on Windows 10 review to find out
Via: Software feed