We tried out the future-Windows 10 so you don’t have to – and it is one major shift.
I’m an unabashed first adopter when it comes to technology. To a lot of people that means I’m basically a moron. When a new product comes out I immediately assume that that means bigger, better, and faster. I tend to ignore my 20 years of experience working in technology that would otherwise tell me to wait a while until everyone else has figured out the bugs and pitfalls of a new software release.
When Microsoft released Windows XP, it was released to the public with over 50,000 known bugs. Granted, they were mostly small and inconsequential issues, not showstoppers, and over time were repaired with updates rolled out to users via the Internet. That’s pretty common with software releases.
There were rumors when Windows 10 came out that one of the reasons they were offering the upgrade for free was to apologize for the lousy job they did with Windows 8. According to Microsoft, Windows 10 is an OS for all things and all people. It is never actually finished either. Microsoft is making Windows a ‘service’ with constant upgrades, new features, and patches resulting in a more dynamic computing environment. Does it hold up? What does someone like me who hated Windows 8.1 think about all the changes? To elaborate, I disliked Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 so much that after a week of using it I reinstalled Windows 7; which in my case means starting from scratch and reinstalling all of the software that I have. It’s roughly a two-day job.
In 2009, Steve Ballmer described Microsoft’s vision for the future in an interview for TechCrunch:
We used to talk about mainframe computer, minicomputer, PC computing, client-server computing, graphical computing, the internet; I think this notion of three screens and a cloud, multiple devices that are all important, the cloud not just as a point of delivery of individual applications, but really as a new platform, a scale-out, very manageable platform that has services that span security contacts, I think it’s a big deal….
Ballmer goes on:
It is the next big generational shift in the computing platform. And people are going to want applications, I’ll call them that, or services, depending on whether you like old fashioned words or new words, but they’re going to want things that service them across those environments ….
Ballmer was referring to computing encompassing three screens: the PC, the smart phone, and the television. This vision was far from achieved in Windows 7 and Windows 8, even though both of those operating systems were necessary steps to get to Windows 10. The core of Windows 10 and how it’s been rebuilt and now applies to servers, home computers, and in the coming year or so smart phones, TV, and even Microsoft Band — their version of wearable technology.
Assuming the rest of the world goes along with Microsoft, this could represent a massive shift. We have yet to see an operating system that can live everywhere and be anything.
We could be witnessing what can best be described as a forward-looking OS that can reside on any computer no matter its size.
The sheer beauty of the architecture is that if the traditional home PC as we know it goes away (and it very well may) Microsoft Windows will survive. Whether it’s on your tablet, athletic device, phone, gaming console, or whatever comes next for that matter.
The upgrade to Windows 10 is free and it’s yours forever. Well, sort of. Microsoft offers complete support for Windows 10 until October 2020, including new feature additions. Further support for security and bug fixes run even longer through October 2025. Microsoft is likely to release a ‘Windows 11’ in 2020 but in four years, the computing world is also likely to be a very different place. Even then, it is not clear what Microsoft would do as there are market pressures to keep Windows free persistently.
Microsoft is also gotten away from there once a month security updates, known as “Patch Tuesday.” Instead, they’re using the cell phone model that provides a steady stream of updates whenever they’re needed. Meaning, this new iteration is essentially a dynamic OS that can look and behave very differently in years to come. Think of it as a more proactive model and not just reactive.
Ever since the release of Windows 95 computer users around the world have used the famed Start menu. Microsoft got rid of this beloved tool with Windows 8 forcing users instead to adopt its new touch-friendly Start Screen that took the full display.
Users revolted. People forgot about Windows.
Microsoft began to back away from this decision with Windows 8.1, which defaulted back to the desktop and old Start Menu for traditional PCs and laptops and kept the Start Screen for tablets. Although this bought Microsoft some time before Windows 10, this two-pronged approach was one of many redundancies in the OS that left a bad impression for users.
Windows 10 gets rid of the Start Screen. It still exists in a muted form for tablet users, but most people are greeted with the new Start Menu for Windows 10, which is an amalgamation of the old and the new. Instead of just a program menu, users can have a selection of apps that live as Live Tiles in the menu as well.
When companies try a hybrid approaches they usually fail. This failure is because the feature feels like it is crammed in or forced. However, the new Start Menu in Windows 10 works because Microsoft gives users a choice. The new Start Menu is a chimera, but it is a good one that could have existed even if Windows 8 did not. In fact, here are the many ways users can configure and use the new Start Menu
- Start Menu + Tiles (default): Most used apps, Program file list, shortcuts and Live Tile area
- Start Menu: Most used apps, Program file list, shortcuts but no Live Tile area
- Start Menu + Tiles (full screen): Most used apps, Program file list, shortcuts and Live Tile area
Users can also simply grab the edge of the new Start menu to resize it vertically or horizontally until it takes as much space as they want. For those with large displays and a lot of Live Tiles, you may prefer to make this area of the menu large, whereas laptop users may opt for a smaller design.
With Windows 10, Microsoft is continuing to flatten just about every aspect of the UI that they can render. The whole OS looks like it was steam ironed. There are virtually no 3D elements or drop shadows or hints of three dimensionality here. Personally I like it. Sleek, clean, and unobtrusive. I used to spend days configuring and customizing my desktop.
It’s no secret that Internet Explorer is one of the most joked about browsers out there. This despite the fact that it is still one of the most widely used because it is the main browser in Windows. Internet Explorer though is ancient, and it is not built for the mobile world to which we now belong. Combined with its maligned reputation, it is no wonder why Microsoft would want to move beyond it.
Enter Microsoft Edge.
Edge is one of the more fascinating aspect of Windows 10. Web browsers no matter how light and nimble always get worse with age whether it is Google’s Chrome, Opera, or even Firefox. I have preferred Chrome now for many years because of its speed, design and browser extensions. However, even I loathe it as Google crams more and more into it. The core of the browser may be fast, but the bloat around Chrome Apps makes it frustrating to use.
The biggest improvements with Edge come from its new design, feature set, and being built to run on everything from PCs to tablets to phones. The browser has to be light, and it has to be efficient.
Microsoft has done an admirable job of fixing the mess from Windows 8 and 8.1. However, instead of just guessing at what people wanted they did something unique: they crowdsourced data. The Windows Insider program was set up to let users get an early look at what Microsoft was building. However, instead of just being onlookers, Microsoft built in ways for users to rate features, submit recommendations, and vote on new ideas. This program is not to say that Windows 10 is 100 percent determined by nerdy power users. Microsoft did have ideas and plans, but they used user feedback to help guide them along the way.
The Windows Insider program is a brilliant move, and its paid off with Windows 10. The OS feels polished, is very fast to launch apps, and is more stable. Not only have they fixed things, but they added useful features as well.
The update process has been pain-free with no crashes or nerve-racking scenarios. From initial reports and my experience, as you would expect, computers with older hardware or AMD graphics have more drivers than machines from 2015. OS updates are never a 100 percent safe adventure, but Windows 10 goes a long way in working out of the box.
I have spent a lot of time with Windows 10 these last few months. I am now running the OS on three PCs all without any major issues. On the contrary, I love the experience. Windows 10 is fun and it’s smart.
It’s exciting to see Windows 10 arrive and to see people gush about Microsoft’s latest creation. Because this time, it is 100 percent warranted
Microsoft has finally found its way again and they are just getting Started.
Here are some links if you’re so inclined to move over to Windows 10: