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11/13/2014
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Windows 10 Update: 6 Facts

Microsoft's latest Windows 10 build includes more user-inspired tweaks, more desktop refinement -- and more bugs. Is Microsoft reassuring its desktop user base?

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Microsoft on Wednesday released the third build in its Windows 10 Technical Preview, which launched in October and quickly attracted more than 1 million users to the company's Windows Insider program. Feedback from those users drove several of the changes in the newest iteration, named Build 9879. Other new features range from improved OneDrive integration to a trackpad emphasis somewhat evocative of Apple's OS X.

Like the earlier builds, 9879 focuses on the desktop experience. The final version of Windows 10 isn't expected until this summer, and Microsoft doesn't plan to preview the touch-oriented side of the OS until early next year. With that later preview, the company will have a lot to prove in the tablet and smartphone spaces, where it remains a marginal player.

In the meantime, Microsoft hopes to position Windows 10 as attractive option for the mouse-and-keyboard crowd. In recent weeks, most commentary has explored whether Win 10's desktop experience will persuade Windows 7 users to upgrade. Those users constitute more than half the active PC user base and are still growing in number. The OS's popularity testifies to how many existing Windows users had no interest in Windows 8 and its touch-oriented UI. But for all the emphasis on the expectations of Windows 7 users, it turns out Windows 10's non-touch UI could be equally important to Win 8.1 users, many of whom evidently aren't buying devices with touchscreens.

[What are some of the best new features in Windows 10? Read Windows 10: 11 Big Changes.]

Last month, Windows 8.1 posted its largest user share gains to date; Win 8 and 8.1's combined share of nearly 17% trails Windows XP share slightly and Windows 7 share by more than 30 percentage points but is up from only 12.26% in September. But recent data from the NPD Group indicates that as sales of Windows 8.1 devices have recently increased, the average sales price has decreased. The implication, according to NPD, is that cheaper Windows devices are responsible for the sales surge. Many of these devices lack touchscreens, which would have increased prices.

According to NPD, pricier 2-in-1 devices that can serve as both laptops and tablets constitute only a niche slice of the market. As a result, even though Windows 8.1 is finally gaining share, user investment in touch PCs isn't necessarily increasing. Consequently, Microsoft faces more pressure than ever to ensure Windows 10 offers a first-class desktop experience.

In the initial Preview release, Microsoft revealed a new Start menu, virtual desktops, Modern apps that behave like legacy applications, and a variety of other changes aimed at desktop users. The second build added a Windows Phone-like notification center and new keyboard shortcuts, as well as 7,000 code improvements, including some inspired by Preview user feedback. Microsoft has also shared information about some of Windows 10's security and management tools, and even its potential role in the Internet of Things.

What does the newest release add to these previously announced features? Here are six facts about Windows 10 Build 9879.

1. Build 9879 is available only to those in the Windows Insider fast track
With its second Preview build, Microsoft introduced two release paths: a fast track that receives builds only slightly behind Microsoft's internal teams, and a slow one that receives less frequent, more stable updates, each of which is composed of several "fast" releases. Essentially, the tracks allow users to

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/13/2014 | 8:01:07 PM
Re: touchscreen
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that user investment in a PC touch UI like the one in Windows 8 or 8.1 isn't necessarily making mainstream progress. I agree that touchscreens have some appeal on PCs; I'm typing this message on a Surface Pro 3, and I often use its touchscreen even in laptop mode to scroll up and down through websites-- so much so that if I switch over to a Mac or my Windows 7 PC, I find myself tapping at the screen before realizing it's futile. So I don't mean to indicate that touch is absolutely useless on PCs;rather, I mean to indicate that touch, as realized in Windows 8 and 8.1, hasn't swayed the majority of the PC market, most of which continues to invest in mouse-and-keyboard UI. I'm glad that Microsoft continues to invest in touchscreens, but it's clear a large portion of the Windows user base demands a first-class non-touch experience, in addition to however the touch side pans out. Personally, I think Windows 8.1 isn't bad, but it's clear that for many users, there's demand for a Start menu and a UI designed for mice and keyboards.
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