The Windows 10 Ho-Hum Report

July 28th, 2015

Microsoft definitely could use some good news. Their most recent financials weren’t so impressive, particularly the need to take a $7.6 billion dollar writedown because of the foolish decision to buy Nokia’s handset division. By foolish, I mean the fact that the division wasn’t doing so well before the acquisition. So by what leap of logic did Microsoft believe that it would make any sense to take it over, except to save some money?

Certainly, the thousands of former Nokia employees who are finding themselves without jobs must be wondering whether it was all worth it. Had things been left alone, maybe they’d still have jobs, or perhaps most of them would.

But the real attention Microsoft is getting these days is focused on the forthcoming Windows 10. Already some early reviews are coming out, and certainly the details are not secret. Anyone who becomes part of the beta program, dubbed Windows Insider, already has a copy, and the latest build is said to be the one declared “release to manufacturing,” Microsoft’s equivalent of the “gold master.” In other words, the final release. Or at least the final release until the first update is available.

As to the excitement, I wonder. I saw one article at a major tech site demonstrating how you could make Windows 10 “feel” like Windows 7. If that’s what people want, why not stick with Windows 7? I’ll be gracious and not name the site in question. But that seems to have been a key goal of Microsoft’s newest OS, which is to deliver an experience that, for regular users of portable and desktop PCs, more closely sticks with tradition.

That starts with the Start menu. I’ve long had concerns about a feature that’s also used to restart or shut down a PC, but that’s just me. It’s mostly a convenient place to start things, but Microsoft, in its infinite lack of wisdom, chose to essentially throw it out for Windows 8. Hit with a torrent of negative feedback that almost anyone familiar with Windows should have anticipated, Microsoft partly walked it back for Windows 8.1, but I wonder why they didn’t go all the way. After all, there were third party utilities that did just that, and I suppose Microsoft could have acquired one and let it do its thing.

Regardless, Microsoft is making a huge deal of offering an old fashioned Windows user experience, and the few major changes in Windows 10 seem to be designed to enhance that experience. But just as Apple is accused of “borrowing” features from other platforms, and the Split View feature of OS X El Capitan is a key example, Microsoft took some hints from Apple. There’s window management reminiscent of OS X’s Mission Control, and a virtual desktop feature that smacks of OS X’s Spaces, and similar features found in Linux.

A key new feature is controversial, and that’s Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant and the direct competitor to Apple’s Siri. But Apple has opted not to put Siri on Macs, partly because it makes less sense. Imagine users in an office environment announcing commands to their computers out loud, and Microsoft earns a hefty share of Windows income from the enterprise. So if system admins opt to upgrade to Windows 10 — and that’s not at all certain — no doubt Cortana will be kept off, or it will be banned in an office memo.

Another tentpole feature is Edge, the slimmer, sleeker replacement for Internet Explorer. It’s built on a fork of the same Trident engine, and it appears to be a credible upgrade, although it’s not been demonstrated yet that it’s actually that much better. But Internet Explorer hasn’t received the love over the years, and Microsoft is known to take something that isn’t doing well, give it a shave and haircut, and a new name. The Bing search engine comes to mind.

All well and good. A recent published report of a late Windows 10 beta indicated performance mostly in tune with Windows 8. With all the complaints about Windows 8, performance did not appear to be an issue.

Now another significant feature, according to Microsoft, is Continuum, the ability to adapt to a touch-oriented interface if you use a tablet, or a convertible PC. That would, on the surface, seem to be a sensible move, but it could also be the source of confusion. So customers who are used to one way of doing things, and Windows 10 attempts to restore the familiarity of the OS, would suddenly find things working differently. That could be the root of all sorts of technical support complications.

The other potential cause of trouble is the promise of ongoing updates. This will be the last version of Windows, or at least the last for the time being. Feature enhancements and bug fixes will happen on an ongoing basis, and I can see that causing potential havoc for IT people. Not only will they have to test service packs, but updates that contain feature changes or improvements too.

For now, however, businesses will no doubt take a wait and see attitude. My personal experience with the supposed release version has been reasonably pleasant. There do not seem to be any notable show stoppers. If you’re a Windows user, you should be pretty comfortable there. It’s not exciting, but it’s a good way to feel after the Windows 8/8.1 disaster.

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4 Responses to “The Windows 10 Ho-Hum Report”

  1. DaveD says:

    I never had a need to use Windows in over ten years. No bootcamp. Only involvement in that time was helping to setup a new PC with Window Vista and Window 7. I liked 7 and of course, disliked Vista with chatty and slow as being at the top of the list. I thought that Windows 8 was a stupid concept that my recommendation was to always buy a PC with Windows 7.

    Even though a long-time Mac user, l followed the progress of Windows for any new exciting features. After Vista, my interest waned and even more after using it. It was good to see Microsoft cleaned it up with Windows 7. Then Window 8 appeared…

    It will be interesting to see the impact of Windows 10. Anyone other than the media and pundits happy that a new Windows is a-coming?

  2. jScottK says:

    I love how press seems to have no memory at all. They seem to think Cortana is something that has never been done before in any shape or form. (I also love the fact that MS named a business OS feature after a fictional feature of a fps video game that no one in business would ever have heard of.)

    OS level speech recognition has been a part of the Mac OS since 1993. It’s called PlainTalk. (I even remember getting a Performa that had a “PlainTalk” microphone as one of its selling points.) Can you “chat” with it like Siri or Cortana? No, of corse not. Could you issue commands to your Mac using nothing but your voice? Yep. Could it recognize your voice without training? Yep. Did anyone bother. Nope. Did anything practical come of it? Yep, indirectly. Things like Dragon Dictation that let those with disabilities like carpel tunnel enter large amounts of text easily.

    What did Apple learn in its 22 years of experience with it? It learned that voice control is best suited to use on portable devices when hands free control is desirable, not for launching Photoshop on your desktop Mac.

    I’ve tried Cortana on my Windows 10 beta installation. It correctly recognizes what I say every time. Trouble is, it doesn’t do anything useful with it. Every time I’ve used it I get the same result: Take what I just said, open either IE or Edge, go to their Bing web page, and paste the test in as a search inquiry. Not exactly helpful. I’ve even tried something simple like asking it “What time is it?”. The result: a Bing search for “What time is it.” Ug.

    I predict Cortana will be billed as the greatest thing since sliced bread by the press, everyone new to Win 10 will try it out a couple times on installation day, and then never use it again. Just like the previous greatest feature of all time “Live Tiles.”

  3. Jim G says:

    No one in the enterprise will roll this out until a Service Pack is issued.

    In fact, I recently received an email from a company that makes print servers that warned me not to upgrade to Win 10 and included a link to a patch they have that will prevent my Win print server from executing such an upgrade.

    Makes me wonder how many other vendors will issue similar updates.

  4. “Certainly, the thousands of former Nokia employees who are finding themselves without jobs must be wondering whether it was all worth it. Had things been left alone, maybe they’d still have jobs, or perhaps most of them would.”

    Employees have jobs if (among other things) their company sells products that people want to buy. Nokia was well down the path of not having any products people wanted to buy at the time Microsoft bought them. If Microsoft hadn’t bought Nokia, Nokia would still not have produced any products that people wanted to buy, and thus their employees would still be out of jobs.

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