Windows 10 may just seem like the next major release of an old-time standard desktop operating system, but there is a lot more at play.

Windows 10 is an entirely new version of Microsoft's standard desktop operating system. It’s also a bit of a microcosm of the greater Microsoft ecosystem. Microsoft is a very different company than when it released Windows 8. A new CEO and management team lead the company and it is now embracing open standards, providing seamless integration into Cloud services, and creating better mobile computing capabilities.

Windows 8 came as a bit of a disappointment following the successful Windows 7 platform. The dramatic changes to the user interface were meant to be innovative and serve as an introduction into a new interface paradigm. Instead the changes proved to be too dramatic and difficult for users to learn, leaving many people extremely frustrated.

So a lot of people are watching to see how successful (or not) Windows 10 will be. This is a make-or-break time for Microsoft. In an era where global PC shipments continue to decline, and mobile phone sales soar, Microsoft needed a shift in strategy to generate more interest from developers to write apps that run across a variety of devices. Success would reinforce Microsoft’s position as a major player in not just the desktop, but also the mobile operating system game. However, lack of adoption could set them back even further behind Apple iOS and Google Android.

Windows 10 delivers a refined, simplified and well-integrated operating system that works across mobile, tablet, PC and Xbox devices, helping to streamline business processes across an entire organization, making the upgrade a serious option for business owners. And best of all, the price is right — it's a free upgrade for most users.

Here are the top new and improved Windows 10 features that can help improve business processes:

1. The Start Menu

After a three year hiatus, it’s finally back! And looks better than ever. 

The new Start menu is a bit of a hybrid between the classic Windows 7 menu and the full screen menu that first appeared in Windows 8. The good news is that it can be highly customized to fit individual and/or company needs. And third party customization tools like Start10 from Stardock provide additional styles for users to explore.

2. Your Own Personal Assistant

The Cortana personal virtual assistant takes a page out of Apple’s Siri playbook. It provides a natural language speech capability to do anything from setting reminders, looking up files, identifying music, searching the web, performing calculations and a host of other capabilities aimed at providing a more productive user experience. It remains to be seen however if Cortana has a Siri-like sense of humor.

3. Browsing in Style

Finally recognizing that there is life beyond Internet Explorer, Microsoft has introduced a new lightweight browser called Edge (previously codenamed project Spartan). It’s the default browser for Windows 10 and delivers on its promise of providing fast page rendering times. Edge has comes with some cool annotation and note taking capabilities.

4. More Productivity Applications

Windows 10 embraces apps outside the traditional Microsoft Office suite by providing integration with Google applications like Calendar and Cards. And even the applications in Office offer a fresh, stripped down version that focuses on core tasks rather than overwhelming the user with seemingly infinite, yet non-critical functions. There is also integration of the Acompli mail application which Microsoft acquired a few years ago.

Windows 10 makes a bigger push in terms of redesigned app store resources in an effort to better promote both built-in and third-party applications. Microsoft is going big on the so-called Universal App in the hope that developers will create apps that work across PC, Windows 10 on mobile and Xbox. The goal is to have bundles of apps including Photos, Videos, Music, Maps, Messaging, Mail and Calendar, with a similar look and feel across different devices and screen sizes. 

5. Immerse Yourself

HoloLens provides a glimpse into what the future interaction model might be for Windows. HoloLens offers an immersive, virtual reality experience. It’s designed as a set of two rings that you wear much like a halo. While it is still early days for this technology, it has the potential to transform how we interact with computers and the world around us. Beam me up!

6. Enhanced Style

The Windows 10 user interface evolved the Windows 8 “tiles” to provide a modern appearance and bold styling. Performance is also improved. The infamous “chimes” have been retired in favor of the new notification panel called the Action Center. Quiet Hours is a new feature, which banishes notifications when you don't want to be disturbed.

There are plenty of reasons to embrace Windows 10. The operating system is more familiar and intuitive than its predecessor, Windows 8, and many of the new features are capabilities you will actually want to use.

Deciding the best time to upgrade requires careful consideration and planning for ensure successful enterprise rollout. Even companies with capable IT teams can easily be overwhelmed with a massive upgrade program. Recognizing this, Microsoft announced a new service called Windows Update for Business (WUB) to help enterprises manage and accelerate Windows 10 upgrades. While WUB sounds promising in theory, the service has yet to be released and some analysts believe it could be another four months before we see anything concrete.

There are the usual early release adoption challenges such as defects, beta quality software components, privacy concerns, hardware compatibility, etc. As with all upgrades, the decision of if and when to upgrade will require research and planning in your organization, as clearly there will be some trade-offs. My advice would be to act now while the price is right — jump into Windows 10.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Ding Yuin Shan