Five things your business needs to know about the Windows 10 anniversary update: Cortana, Ink, security and future update cycle

Windows 10 is one year old, and with that comes the first big feature update to the operating system as Microsoft moves to a more regular update cycle.


The anniversary update of Windows 10 is focused around three key areas: for the consumer there is greater Ink and Cortana capabilities, and for IT teams security is being positioned as the primary reason to upgrade your enterprise operating system.

Here are five things you need to know about the feature update.

© Microsoft
© Microsoft

1. You can't turn Cortana off

Cortana, as well as being a virtual assistant also now forms the "core search" of the Windows 10 operating system, according to Rob Epstein, Microsoft UK Windows marketing lead.

Following Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's soundbite from Build 2016 that "bots are the new apps" the Microsoft personal assistant Cortana is at the centre of the Windows 10 anniversary update. What this means is a move towards more natural language interaction with Windows. Instead of using the start menu or interacting with individual apps, Cortana can traverse systems to help you get things done.

Naturally users will get as much out of Cortana as they are willing to give away. So if you open up all of your apps and information for Cortana to access it will get a better feel for your preferences and habits and get smarter with time. So even though Cortana can no longer be "turned off" once you upgrade you can lower its visibility by logging out and refusing to feed it personal information, reducing it to a simple search engine rather than a personal assistant.

Read next: Windows 10 for business: Pros and cons for enterprise users - why your business should move to Windows 10

Epstein ran a few use cases past us during a demo this week, including integrations with Just Eat and Uber and personalised news delivery around topics and teams you follow (technology, Manchester United). Epstein says there are currently over 1,000 apps that support Cortana integration.

Windows 10 is fully committed to being cross device, so if you miss a call on your phone you will get a notification on your desktop, and you can ask Cortana on your desktop to send an SMS saying you are running late, for example.

The factor I can't see taking off in the modern office yet is the use of voice prompts. During my demo Epstein used voice to make all of these requests to Cortana (text my wife, order me an Uber, move a meeting) but to do this in a busy office environment, or even when working from home, will require a drastic change in user behaviour.

2. Security has been beefed up

"One of the biggest reasons we are finding that businesses want to move to 10 is because of security," Epstein says. "If you think about Windows 7 it was designed 10 years ago and while everyone is doing a good job of patching and updating the reality is the security landscape and threat landscape has changed enormously in that time."

One of the most regularly attacked enterprises on the planet, The US Department of Defense, will be moving four million devices to Windows 10 over the next year, predominantly off the back of its interest in the Device Guard feature, according to Epstein. The security feature - which was announced back in April - gives organisations the ability to lock down hardware devices to protect against malware and Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs).

Read next: 8 reasons why your business should upgrade to Windows 10

Advanced threat detection now comes in the form of Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (WDATP) to give security teams better visibility of threats. Then there is Windows Information Protection, formerly referred to as enterprise data protection, to better separate corporate and personal data as more and more employees use their devices for work and leisure.

© Microsoft

The biometric login facility Windows Hello has also been extended to work with supported sites within the Edge web browser. So you can log in to sites and within individual Windows apps, cutting down on the usage of passwords.

3. Ink is actually pretty cool

Epstein says that Ink, the writing tool for the Surface range of devices, is now a core part of Windows 10. "Whilst we have supported pen in the past, now we are trying to make it deeply embedded within the operating system," he says. "We want to make it as easy to use as a pen and paper. You should be able to just open your machine and start writing."

In practice simply clicking the bluetooth pen will open the Ink workspace immediately without having to log in. Here you can quickly jot to a document, a sticky note or over a screen grab. This can then be shared straight to colleagues in OneNote, Dropbox or any other supported application your company uses for collaboration and file share.

What's cool about Ink is the recognition capability. During the demo Epstein hand wrote the word 'tomorrow,' which was then recognised as an actionable word. Right click on that and you can ask Cortana to create an appointment. If you were to jot down a flight number Cortana will pull Bing results for that flight and update you if anything changes.

Microsoft is also hoping that third-party app developers will start to integrate Ink capabilities with its open API. To use Ink you will need a compatible device and the Microsoft Surface pen costs £49.99.

4. There will be one feature-rich update a year

It is believed that Microsoft will be releasing one 'feature update' a year as it moves to a more continuous update cycle, which it calls 'Windows-as-a-Service', much like Apple users have become used to with iOS.

Epstein told Computerworld UK that these updates will not be forced upon organisations, though. "You can have a couple of years between first visibility of a new feature update and a company having to move to a feature update," he says. "So there is enough time to skip an update and do testing for deployment. The guidance we would work with is to think about your different groups of users and start to categorise them into different rings of adoption."

5. Edge improvements

The new-look Microsoft web browser Edge is apparently the fastest available (tell Mashable's Raymond Wong that) and has been optimised with the anniversary update to bring power saving benefits. Epstein says: "We think Edge browser is faster than other browsers, and more secure and more importantly battery life is much, much better with the anniversary update."

Edge has been optimised to save on power consumption by "using fewer CPU cycles, consuming less memory, and minimising the impact of background activity and peripheral content," according to Microsoft.

"Recommended For You"

Microsoft goes all-out for enterprise with its latest Windows 10 update Windows 10 to ship on July 29 for PCs and tablets