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The State of Windows 10 – April 2016

To upgrade now, or to upgrade now? That is the question

No – you didn’t read that wrong. This, of course, refers to that famous quote which deals with a fundamental question about the human ‘operating system’. As far as your computer’s operating system, Microsoft is trying to take away the question and make it a given.

In late 2015, I was still advising our customers to refrain from upgrading to Windows 10 until at least early 2016. I still stick to this advice and extend that timeframe out.

Windows 10 started off its life as Windows reborn… it came out with a start menu. As you probably know, with the Windows 8 launch, there was much talk – and anger – at the removal of the start menu.

Personally, I thought dumping the start window was the right move, and the new system actually worked better. The problem, though, which has always been an issue for Microsoft, was the way they went about informing customers on how to use the new Windows without a start menu. By that, I mean they virtually didn’t advise anyone at all. This left Windows 8 in a very confused state. Was Windows 8 a tablet operating system? A desktop operating system? Or something else?

Windows 8.1 fixed this. If you can remember Windows 98, you might remember some of the issues it had from its release. So a year later, Microsoft put out Windows 98 SE (Second Edition) to fix things. Well, they did the same thing for Windows 8 with Windows 8.1 to fix the main issues with Windows 8 and including the old trusty start menu. Fast forward to 2015 and we have Windows 10, which is essentially a mix of Windows 8 and 8.1, supposedly perfected. However, that’s not quite the case.

Now, Microsoft has recently changed the way Windows 10 is being pushed out to Windows 7 and 8 computers

Before the end of 2015, Windows 10 was originally just marked as an optional update within Windows Update, and so was not automatically installed by the current operating system. Microsoft has changed this, though, and Windows 10 is now marked as a recommended update. This means that most computers will install this update without telling you as part of its automatic updates.

This poses a problem for business customers. By default, administrators and IT support companies like Layer3 can block this update. Indeed, we can still do this. However, Microsoft re-releases the patch which upgrades computers to Windows 10 every month, which overwrites our rules and inhibits the administrator’s ability to manage the update process.

Why is this an issue?

Besides the fundamental problem of having Microsoft forcing you to do what it thinks is best for you, this is a practical issue because Windows 10 still has many flaws. From sleep and hibernation issues on laptops and tablets to dual monitors not working, application incompatibility, and of course, driver issues, Windows 10 clearly has some leaks to plug. On top of that, some of the recent Windows Updates have even been recalled, almost on a monthly basis.

To be fair, some major issues were fixed early February 2016, but many remain. So when you add all that up, it doesn’t equate for network administrators to blindly take every Windows update that comes down the pipe.

What you should do (or not do)

The free Windows upgrade expires on the 28th of July, 2016. While this puts a bit of urgency into the upgrade discussion, in my opinion, Microsoft will extend that deadline.

The majority of Layer3’s desktop support tickets raised are related to upgrades to Windows 10 and issues that have come about from doing this. So as of now, we still advise customers not to upgrade to Windows 10 unless you really, really have to. We will review this again next month, but for now, sit tight.

If you have any questions surrounding the upgrade to Windows 10, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Microsoft Office 365/Azure Price Increases

You may not be aware, but Microsoft’s online services are increasing in price from the 1st of April 2016. Specifically, in the New Zealand market, prices of Office 365 and Azure services are to rise by 22% across the board.

Microsoft periodically assesses the impact of its pricing to ensure there is a reasonable alignment with the needs its customers, partners, and the marketplace, and may make changes in response to its assessment and feedback. As part of our regular business practices in light of the rapid evolution of cloud services and evolving local market dynamics, Microsoft will adjust prices for cloud services in New Zealand to more closely align with the marketplace.

As part of their regular business practices in light of the rapid evolution of cloud services and evolving local market dynamics, Microsoft will adjust prices for cloud services in New Zealand to more closely align with the marketplace.

What products are impacted by the price change?

  • Office365
  • Microsoft Azure
  • CRM-Online
  • Enterprise Mobility Suite
  • Microsoft Intune and other enterprise Online Services are included in this price change.

Customers that are currently billed by Layer3 will not be affected until their current term is up for renewal.

If you are not billed by Layer3 for Microsoft Cloud services, you can change to Layer3 in March to receive the old pricing which will be locked in for a year. Changing is easy, and only takes about 10 minutes.

For more information, or to change, please email contact Layer3.

Windows8 Preview

Microsoft is planning to release their next generation operating system, Windows 8 by year end. I don’t think many will argue that Windows7 was a fantastic operating system. It’s going to be a hard task for Microsoft to out do themselves this time around.

Lets start with the Consumer Preview video.

As you can see from the video, Microsoft is taking a new approach to the user interface. Touch has come and gone, and now it seems, it’s back (just like 3d movies eh?).

Windows8 has been designed to run on slates (tablets), laptops, desktops and low powered devices such as the ARM processor. Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 have been a great success at helping Microsoft back in the mobile phone market. Microsoft ditched Windows Mobile and started fresh. Their new phone operating systems has influenced the design on Windows8. If you have used a Windows Phone before, then you will feel right at home with Windows8.

We’ve had a quick play with Windows8 over the last few months, and currently have a Toshiba Slate on order to fully test Windows8 with touch functionality. Once we have this, I will post an update. But for now, we have been running Windows8 on our desktops, without touch support.

What we like so far…

Metro – It’s a great step forward for User Interface Design. The UI is very smooth and live tiles display a lot of relevant data.

User Sync – Windows8 now syncs all your data across many devices (Documents with Skydrive). What this means is that you can log in to other computers, either at home, in the office or a public computer and have all your user profile settings downloaded and applied to that computer. This includes Internet Explorer settings and bookmarks, browser history, desktop preferences, desktop backgrounds, application settings and much more. After using Google Chrome for some time and loving the sync features, it’s very exciting to see this sort of functionality come to Windows.

Setup – Is a breeze. If you don’t already have a Windows Live account, Windows8 will create one for you. If you do already have a Windows Live account, Windows8 will automatically link you to it. One thing I personally loved was that Windows8 Mail application supports Microsoft Exchange. Upon clicking the mail icon, Windows8 configured my connection to Exchange just by entering my email address. This was very surprising and very refreshing. I’m sure many IT admins will be jumping in joy.

I am waiting for Microsoft to release a beta version of Microsoft Office v15. This version of Office integrates with the Metro interface and looks very slick.

If you want to have a play with Windows8 Consumer Preview, download it here.