3. The universal app platform
Windows 10 is the first version of the OS with a unified code base and APIs, meaning that apps built for it can run -- with minor modifications -- on different devices supported by the OS: smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktop PCs, the Xbox console, Internet of Things wares.
This is great news for end users, and for commercial and enterprise developers, who will have a much easier time at creating tools, applications and integrations for the OS, without having to re-write them from scratch for different devices.
"The platform enables a new class of Windows universal apps -- apps that are truly written once, with one set of business logic and one UI," said Kevin Gallo, Microsoft's technical lead for the Windows Developer Platform, in a recent blog post.
For Microsoft, it's also a way to spur the number of apps available for Windows mobile devices, since mobile developers had been less than enthused about spending time and resources creating apps for Windows Phone, given its tiny user base -- 2.7 percent of the global smartphone OS market in 2014, according to IDC.
IDC's Gillen calls the universal app platform "perhaps the most important technology included in Windows 10."
"The demonstrations I have seen indicate that this is a real solution that will really improve the experience on Windows 10," he said.
4. Windows 10 also brings some surprises
While Microsoft's priority with Windows 10 was to reverse the Windows 8 missteps, and to include advances in areas like security, the company is also delivering some glitzy, whiz-bang features with the new OS. For example, Windows 10 will include the following:
Hologram technology: Windows 10 provides what Microsoft calls a "holographic computing platform" with APIs for developers to create 3D apps and with a HoloLens, a head-mounted holographic computer for viewing holograms in high definition and hearing them in surround sound.
Cortana: Microsoft's answer to Apple's Siri, Cortana is being ported from Windows Phone 8.1 to Windows 10, so users of the new OS can interact with their computers and applications using voice commands.
Two browsers: A new browser code-named Project Spartan will make its debut with Windows 10. It will be powered by a new rendering engine and provide what Microsoft calls "a more interoperable, reliable, and discoverable experience." Advanced features include web-page annotation, clutter-free reading mode and Cortana integration.
Project Spartan is being designed as a "universal" browser that will work across the different devices Windows 10 runs on, and will be kept constantly updated as a service with security and feature enhancements.
The new browser is backwards compatible with existing sites designed for IE, but to make sure Windows 10 plays well with legacy websites that require support for older technologies, the OS will also ship with IE 11.
5. Windows 10 looks good so far, but ...
While early reviews of Windows 10 preview versions have been mostly positive, CIOs should have a detailed, strategic plan to evaluate the OS internally, not only to make sure it's stable but also to see how it performs specifically in their organisation, with specific commercial and custom apps, hardware devices, and the like.
"We think it will be vital for CIOs to familiarise themselves with Windows 10. Forrester believes that unlike Windows 8 and 8.1, Windows 10 will be adopted as an enterprise IT standar," Forrester's Johnson said.
At L.A. Fitness, a group within the IT department has been testing Windows 10, and they haven't yet identified any concerns, but Bedar isn't taking any chances. He has decided the OS won't be rolled out until Microsoft comes out with the first service pack update.
"We won’t deploy this when it first comes out. We'll wait a while. We don't have any pressing reason to upgrade to it at this point," he said. "We have time to let it settle down, and let the early issues work themselves out. Then we'll proceed with it."