Windows 8 is the operating system that nobody asked for, except for Microsoft executives who believed that the failed interface used on the Zune and Windows Phone must be brought over to a traditional PC environment. Even tech pundits who were inclined to favor Microsoft above logic were skeptical. After the release of Windows 8 in 2012, the most popular third-party utilities included ways to restore a usable Start menu.
In other words, Microsoft ditched the traditional Windows interface, except in a less functional desktop layer, without offering anything that made you more productive. It was just different, and I suppose some might praise Microsoft’s gutsy move to overhaul an extremely successful product. The intention was to embrace the move to mobile computing. But few would argue that the changes were for the better.
A Windows 8.1 update fixed some things, and modified the Start menu somewhat, but not in the way that brought back the tried and true design and functions. The enterprise, Microsoft’s most lucrative customers, stayed with Windows XP or went to Windows 7.
For months there were rumors of a Windows Threshold or a Windows 9 that would scale back the worst ills of Windows 8, and restore some of the functionality of Windows 7.
Calling the new version Windows 10 is very much a marketing ploy. Rather than jump one version number, they are jumping two version numbers to pretend that Windows 10 represents a huge sea change, but it comes across more as a version 7.5 with remnants of Windows 8’s tiled interface.
So the most important feature is the return of the Start menu with added customization capabilities. This will allow you to add your favorite apps, contacts and sites. But it’s still just an update to the traditional Start menu with a few flourishes.
Yet another feature is allowing Windows Store apps, sporting the interface formerly known as Metro, to run in a normal app window, with the ability to move and resize, along with standard title bars. As I said, Windows 7.5.
Other key features are about better window management, such as snapping them to the corners of the screen, and the ability to set up multiple desktops. The latter feature, and the Task view function, are similar to what you’ve been able to do in OS X for several years, so it’s Microsoft playing catch up again.
Windows 10 will somehow be unified so there will be versions that work on tablets and smartphones. But that brings you back to the fundamental flaw of Windows 8 — designed for both Intel and ARM processors — which is that mobile gear and traditional PCs aren’t meant to interact with users in the same way. This is particularly true if you have a PC without a touchscreen, and it’s also clear that the more expensive convertible Windows note-books with touchscreens haven’t been barn burners in the marketplace.
I don’t know about you, but it appears there aren’t really that many new features in Windows 10, or at least they haven’t been disclosed. It seems to be all or mostly about the Start menu and window management, so there’s not much to crow about. It’s very possible, despite the numbering, that this is a rush job — or a rush job under Microsoft’s typically inefficient development process — to cure some of the key ills of Windows 8 and recover lost ground.
It appears as if Microsoft is struggling to address some key objections to Windows 10, and there’s also the promise of enhanced data integrity across platforms, a useful feature if it involves advanced file management and not just another buzzword that implies more than it delivers.
Again, Microsoft is evidently embracing a Windows everywhere philosophy, a scheme that has never been shown to be successful.
True, it’s early in the game for Windows 10. A public beta, or Technical Preview to be precise, was released Wednesday, but the final version isn’t expected to appear until some time in the second half of 2015. Microsoft, however, doesn’t move terribly fast, so don’t expect many ongoing visible changes. Consider that Windows 8 was also available in beta form for quite a while, but the final version wasn’t much different despite all the complaints about Microsoft’s serious missteps.
At this point, with PC sales on the decline, anything Microsoft does to kill the stench of Windows 8 would be an improvement. Whether businesses who refused to embrace Windows 8 will suddenly adopt its successor is a huge question mark. I expect most companies would rather wait to see if there are serious bugs or upgrading glitches before taking the plunge. IT departments are typically conservative about such things, which is why many still haven’t embraced Windows 7.
To make things all the more confusing, Microsoft is promising to rollout updates to Windows 10 in small pieces, rather than issue a large reference upgrade every couple of years. That might benefit consumers who’d like to be able to take advantage of new features right away. But businesses don’t want change for change sake. Having to constantly test minor updates will simply slow adoption of Windows 10.
There have also been published reports that Microsoft might make it free, or free to some people, such as those using Windows XP or even Windows 8. But if Microsoft is killing the golden goose, a key source of profits, how does that impact the company’s bottom line at a time when thousands of employees are being fired?
I’ll have more to say once I’ve had a chance to put the public beta though its paces to see if my initial concerns can be answered.
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