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Windows 10 Breaks Traditional PC Windows 10 Breaks Traditional PC Hardware and OS Upgrade LinksHardware and OS Upgrade Links

With figures (Gartner) showing Windows 10 predicted to represent 75% of the professional PC market by 2021, continued PC sales and improved Windows 10  back-end management, Windows 10 is making (historically) time and resource consuming Windows OS and hardware upgrade projects a thing of the past, and is breaking the link between the two.

Mobile PCs A Popular Business Choice For Content Creation

Even though the whole global PC market is in decline, traditional PCs are set to decline by 3% in 2019 to total 189 million units, and smartphones are users’ primary mobile devices, mobile PCs look set to remain popular purchases for businesses because they are needed for content creation.

With laptop PCs running Windows 10, this is a key reason why Windows 10 represents such a large share of the professional PC market.

The SaaS model with its automatic bi-annual automatic upgrades is, therefore, the step to making teams responsible for OS upgrades in businesses a thing of the past.

Left Behind and At Risk

The growth, popularity, and general effectiveness of Windows10, coupled with the ending of support for older versions is making businesses still running older platforms (e.g. Windows 7) and thinking of putting off the upgrade to Windows 10 until 2020 look likely to be left behind in IT effectiveness terms, and at risk in security terms (support for Windows 7 is scheduled to end in January 2020).

Businesses are also realising that:

  • They can’t skip a version i.e. waiting and skipping to Windows 11 is not an option – migration to Windows 10 may as well happen sooner rather than later.
  • Windows 10 is a modern operating system that allows organisations to run cloud applications and provide security much more effectively.
  • Microsoft has aligned upgrades of its cloud productivity suite, Office 365, to Windows 10, so not switching to Windows 10 could mean a competitive disadvantage.
  • Windows 10 enables businesses to automatically receive new, potentially value-adding features every six months.

Changing The Nature of Upgrades

With most businesses using Windows 10 and receiving automatic software upgrades every month, and more enterprise applications being consumed as software as a service (SaaS), hardware upgrades are more likely to be driven by wear and tear in future rather than by the availability of a new PC operating system from Microsoft.  This is the reason why Windows 10 has effectively disconnected the link between PC hardware and Windows operating system upgrades.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Figures show that laptop PCs with Windows 10 loaded on them are (and will continue to be for the near future) an important tool for many businesses, and that the automatic bi-annual upgrade and SaaS model of Windows 10 has disconnected the traditional link between PC hardware and Windows operating system upgrades.  The migration to Windows 10 can also not only free up resources once needed just to ensure OS upgrades, but can also improve security, competitiveness and operational effectiveness. 

Windows 10’s successes and the weaknesses and threats of holding out until 2020 before upgrading are presenting strong arguments for businesses to take the plunge sooner and move to Windows 10.

Serious Windows 7 Bug Reported

Google has warned those who are still using Windows 7 that they are at risk of hackers being able to take over their computer by exploiting the combination of a flaw in the Window 7 OS and Google’s Chrome Browser.

Google Alert

The threat to Windows 7 comes from combined flaws in its OS, and a flaw in Google Chrome.  It was Google that announced the discovery of the zero-day vulnerability CVE-2019-5786 in Chrome.

A zero-day vulnerability is one that gives Google, for example, zero days to find a fix because it is already being exploited.  In this case, Clement Lecigne, a security researcher at Google, discovered the vulnerability which resides the Chrome web browsing software and could impact upon all major operating systems, not just Windows 7, although Windows 7 is vulnerable because it’s a 10-year-old OS in its final year of official support from Microsoft.

Details of the exact nature of the flaw in Googles’ Chrome are not abundantly clear at this point, but it has been described as a use-after-free vulnerability in the FileReader component of the Chrome browser. The FileReader is a standard API that enables web applications to asynchronously read the contents of files stored on a computer.  This essentially means that the flaw in Google’s Chrome provides a way in for hackers who can use it to transfer attack code from Chrome into other applications to help them compromise a machine.

The Windows 7 Side

The flaw in Windows 7 is reported to be in the very core elements that are supposed to stop the data in one program interacting with anything outside that application.

Combined

The combination of these two flaws means that hackers could use Google’s Chrome Browser to take over a computer running Windows 7.

What Can You Do?

The advice from security commentators is (unsurprisingly) to upgrade to Windows 10.  The advice from Google is to make sure that Google Chrome is up to date. You can do this by clicking on the three stacked dots (top right) in Chrome, selecting ‘Help’ and ‘About Google Chrome’, which takes you to the settings page chrome://settings/help.  If it says that you’re running Version 72.0.3626.121 (Official Build) you have the updated version.  If not, you need to update Chrome to the latest version.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

According to Mr Lecigne, the Google security researcher, there is only evidence of active exploitation against Windows 7 32-bit systems, but it is alarming that a security flaw exists in the core elements of the OS. Since the real risk comes from the combination of a flaw in both Chrome and Windows 7, updating Chrome, which only takes a matter of minutes should provide protection (for the time being) from this risk, although it’s not possible to know what other zero-day bugs are waiting to be discovered.

This story shows the importance of keeping software up to date and patched and is likely to put more pressure on those businesses still using Windows 7 to make the switch to Windows 10.  The fact is though that Windows 7 is still a popular operating system with 37% market share and switching to Windows 10 has cost and time implications in terms of identifying any issues in individual environments and project planning.  The 14th Jan 2020 end of official support date for Windows 7 and the discovery of this kind of OS flaw being made public may now mean that businesses that have been holding out may simply feel that it’s time to bite the bullet and start the shift to Windows 10.

New, Free Windows 10 Microsoft Office App Launched

Microsoft has announced the launch of its new “Office” app for Windows 10 which is an update to the former My Office app, will come preinstalled on Windows 10 machines and will provide access to an online version of Office for those who don’t have a subscription for Office 365.

Simply “Office”

The new, free app simply named “Office” can be used with ‘almost’ any version of Microsoft Office means that those who do have a 365 subscription and have Microsoft’s apps installed on their device can open Office from the Office app, and those who don’t have a subscription will be automatically directed to the online version.  Like Google Drive, this online version features the user’s recent documents on the home screen, which is in keeping with the idea that users should be able to find what they want quickly. Users can also share files with each other and can find content relevant to them but created by colleagues within their organisation.

Features

The new app includes helpful features such as tutorials and tricks for Microsoft’s apps and services, and users can see every Office app available to them by clicking on “Explore all your apps”.

Office also allows customisation so that businesses can brand it. Users also have access to third-party apps and Microsoft Search.

When and How?

Microsoft says that the Office app will become available to users on a rolling basis over the next few weeks and that it will be installed automatically as an update to the MyOffice app, which comes pre-installed as part of Windows.

You can search for “Office” in the search bar of the Windows start menu to open the app. The new app can also be downloaded from the Microsoft Store if needed.

Users can sign in to the app with their work, school, or free personal Microsoft Account to get started.

The Office app should work with any Office 365 subscription, Office 2019, Office 2016, and Office Online (the free web-based version of Office).

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Launching this Office app is a way of Microsoft being able to publicise, raise awareness about, and get more people using its free online versions of Office.

The app, which also allows Microsoft to compete with its rival Google Drive, should be quite appealing to business users thanks to features such as the ability to customise and brand it, the fact that it allows access third-party apps using AAD through the Office app, and the Microsoft Search feature that works across the organisation in addition to the user’s own apps and documents.

Having a free Office app that’s available without the need for an Office 365 subscription will also help address the problem of a mistaken assumption from many people that Office simply comes as part of Windows.

Tech Tip – Link your Android Phone To Your Windows PC or Laptop

If you’ve ever emailed yourself a photo or screenshot to get it from your phone to your computer or uploaded photos to e.g. Google Photos or Dropbox and then download them onto your PC, you may want to try Microsoft’s ‘Your Phone’ app.  With the app, you can link and sync your Android phone to your Windows PC or laptop and simply drag and drop photos or screenshots, plus you can receive and send text messages from your phone on your computer. Here’s how to set it up:

This works for PCs or laptops running Windows 10 April 2018 Update (Version 1803) or later, and Android phones running Android 7.0 Nougat or later.  Both devices should be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

On your PC or laptop, type “Your Phone” in the search bar, scroll to launch Microsoft Store, find the “Your Phone” app.

Download and install the Your Phone app for Windows 10 from Microsoft e.g. here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/p/your-phone/9nmpj99vjbwv?activetab=pivot%3Aoverviewtab

Next, install the counterpart on your Android phone. For example, when you launch the app on your PC, type your number in to receive the install the app link via text on your phone. Alternatively, you could visit the Google Play Store, type “Your Phone Companion” into the search bar and then Install the app on your Android phone.

The two apps should sync, and once you’ve answered and granted the permissions questions on your phone, you should see your phone appear in the Windows “Your Phone” app on your computer.

Click to access recent photos or messages + see the Settings page.

Windows 10 Error Messages Soon To Make More Sense

Starting with the April 2019 update, Microsoft will be adding “Learn more” links to its error code messages in a bid to enable users to see what the code means, plus the chance to fix the error on the spot.

Resolved During Installation

The “Learn More” links will be there to help if there is an error during the upgrade (or installation) of Windows 10.  As well as explaining what the error is, Microsoft will also be giving users the chance to resolve the error messages themselves within the installer and will offer suggestions on how to update any problematic applications without having to uninstall.

What’s The Problem?

If a problem is encountered during the upgrade/installation of Windows 10, users are given error messages, for example if a version of an app isn’t compatible with the latest Windows 10 OS, and users need to either update or reinstall the app.

To date, Microsoft has provided articles on how to solve Windows errors written by support staff called the ‘Knowledge Base’ (KB).  The main problems for users have been that:

  • Users don’t know what the numerical error messages in the upgrade and installation of Windows 10 mean, or what to do with those error codes.
  • Users generally don’t know how to use KBs, look for specific KBs using their numerical ID, and there are no direct links to KB articles in setup error notifications.
  • Users have also found that ‘back ‘and ‘refresh’ buttons don’t fit with the error notifications they receive.

Link To A Quick Fix

Whereas the October 2018 Update means that users were only given the options of uninstalling the app, going back, or refreshing in the case of an error, the changes in the April update (code-named 19H1) should afford user the opportunity to save time and hassle by having information about the error to hand, and being able to get quick fix on the spot.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The current system of offering up codes that mean little to many to users who are not acquainted with the existence of the Knowledge Base or how to use it causes frustration and can waste time and therefore waste money for businesses.  This change in April appears to be a straightforward, user-friendly way of saving time and hassle by offering users the chance to more easily understand and find a fix for errors on the spot.

At present, a list of the common errors experienced during a Windows 10 upgrade and installation plus explanations of them can be found on the Microsoft Windows Support pages here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/help/10587/windows-10-get-help-with-upgrade-installation-errors

Tech Tip – Drag & Drop Tasks To Your Calendar

In Windows 10, the Tasks experience in Outlook.com (powered by ‘To-Do’) means that when looking at your inbox, you can save time and create tasks by dragging and dropping an email to your task list. You can also easily schedule items by dragging a task to your calendar. Your tasks then travel with you on the To-Do app.

You can see how it’s done on the Windows Blog here:

https://blogs.windows.com/windowsexperience/2018/12/16/windows-10-tip-schedule-items-by-dragging-a-task-to-your-calendar/#WX3WrBWATdGxSk48.97

No More Windows 10 Mobile Support – Microsoft Suggests Switching

Microsoft has formally announced on its support pages that, as of December 10th 2019, Windows 10 Mobile users can no longer expect security updates and support, and Microsoft recommends that customers then move to a supported Android or iOS device.

Windows 10 Mobile

Windows 10 Mobile is a mobile OS that was released in 2015 as the successor of Windows Phone 8.1 and is essentially an edition of Windows 10 running on devices that have less than a 9-inch screen.

The end of Windows 10 Mobile support comes just over four years after Microsoft’s failed acquisition of Nokia’s devices and services businesses, which led to Microsoft having to write off $7.6 billion in 2015.  At the time, tech commentators wondered why Microsoft had got into the low-margin, highly competitive phone business, and Microsoft shifted its strategy from the standalone phone business to a strategy to grow the Windows ecosystem.  This effectively put the writing on the wall for Windows 10 Mobile, and many tech commentators have been waiting over the years for the formal announcement for the end of support to come.

What Is Coming To An End?

In this announcement, Microsoft has said that new security updates, non-security hot-fixes, free assisted support options, or online technical content updates from Microsoft for free will end for users of Windows 10 Mobile as of December 10, 2019.

Microsoft has also stressed that, although third parties or paid support programs may still provide ongoing support, Microsoft support will not publicly provide updates or patches for Windows 10 Mobile after that date.

The announcement does not mean that Windows 10 Mobile devices will shut down with the cessation of support, but that continuing to use the devices afterwards will mean higher risks because of issues such as the lack of security updates and the phasing-out of backups.

Which Models?

Microsoft says that only device models that are eligible for Windows 10 Mobile, version 1709 are supported through the December 10th end date. Also, for Lumia 640 and 640 XL phone models, Window 10 Mobile version 1703 was the last supported OS version and will reach end of support on June 11th, 2019.

What Now?

The suggestion from Microsoft itself to Windows 10 Mobile customers is to move to a supported Android or iOS device.

Those customers who plan to keep using their Windows 10 Mobile device after the December 10th support cut-off date have been encouraged by Microsoft to manually create a backup before that date.  This can be done using Settings->Update & Security->Backup>More Options and then tapping on ‘Back up now’.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This announcement from Microsoft is certainly not unexpected.  Where commercial customers are concerned, they have the same cut-off dates as domestic customers, but Microsoft has said that it will be working with many commercial customers to ensure a successful migration to a supported platform prior to the end of support date.

This is an acceptance and acknowledgement by Microsoft that most of the partners and customers of businesses already use Android or iOS platforms and devices.

Some commentators have suggested that the move to end support for Windows 10 Mobile may also be a way for Microsoft to clear the decks ready for the introduction of a new folding smartphone, codenamed ‘Andromeda’.  This remains to be seen.

Tech Tip – Make Text Bigger!

Even though Windows 10 has scaling options that can make things generally easier to see, you may want to keep the screen resolution how you like it, but also have the ability to make fonts much bigger.  The Windows 10 October added a separate control for scaling the size on fonts.  Here’s where to find it:

– Go to Settings > Ease of Access > Display to make text bigger.

Tech Tip – Prepare For Microsoft’s ‘’Reserved Storage’

The next big update of Windows 10 (in April) will mean that Microsoft will reserve 7GB of your device’s storage in order to accommodate its future ‘quality updates’ or new versions of the OS.  Measures you can take to check that you will have enough reserved storage space or to avoid storage space problems include:

– Manually deleting unnecessary temporary files and (temporarily) moving important files e.g. photos and videos to external storage devices to make enough space for the update.

– Checking the size of the reserved storage on your system by clicking Start > Search for ‘Storage settings’ > then Click ‘Show more categories’ > Click ‘System & reserved’ > and look at the ‘Reserved storage’ size.

– Avoid buying devices with little storage capacity.

Finding out more about the ‘Reserved Storage’ here:https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/filecab/2019/01/07/windows-10-and-reserved-storage/

Rumours That ‘Microsoft 365’ Package Is On The Way

There have been rumours among some IT commentators that Microsoft may soon be offering a single subscription-based, Windows 10-style service named ‘Microsoft 365’ that offers home ‘power users’ a combo of its popular software including the operating system, MS Office, Skype, and even OneDrive.

Office 365

Currently, home Microsoft users can sign-up to Office 365 that includes everything except Windows 10.  The ‘Microsoft 365’ service would, therefore, offer them a kind of mini enterprise version of Microsoft products for a single payment.

Why?

It is thought that this kind of service could put Microsoft 365 on a par with other big-brand subscription services such as Office 365, Skype, Cortana, Bing, Surface and Microsoft Education.  It is also likely that Microsoft 365 would be a more powerful and attractive replacement for Office 365.  It could also simply bring more people deeper into the Microsoft fold which could, in turn, help feed its other apps and platforms such as Android (which has replaced the Windows Mobile OS).

Also, if people commit to signing-up to one bundle of products / services with one company such as Microsoft, they may be less inclined to switch easily or to be attracted by rival services e.g. by Google or Apple, that do the same thing anyway.

Rumours?

The rumours that Microsoft 365 could become a reality appear to have been fuelled by job listings being posted referring to a Microsoft 365 Consumer Subscription product manager and Microsoft 365 Consumer Subscription senior product manager with roles that relate to developing a customer-focused subscription globally for Microsoft’s consumer services.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For Microsoft, this type of service could help it to bring users closer to the brand and encourage them to use its other apps and services, while gaining an advantage over big competitors such as Google. For home users, many of whom are actually small businesses or those who work on the business from home, this kind of single subscription bundle of useful and familiar services could represent real value and convenience.