We’ll have to let the story unfold for a few months before we can fairly assess Microsoft’s new operating system. It isn’t as much about technology, user interfaces and Cortana (a Siri-like personal assistant) as it is the business strategy for this new operating system.
Windows 10 makes amends for the many misdeeds of Windows 8.1, so many we had to skip a version designation to distance ourselves (wow that’s speculative). The fact of the matter is Windows 10 improves our experience from Windows 8 with a return to booting to the desktop and the Start pop-up menu, removal of the charms bar and “app switcher” hot corners and much needed changes to the touch interface—all good stuff.
It’s what’s not in Windows 10 that brings one to speculate as to what Microsoft has in store for us and a couple of things it does include that seem a bit dodgy. Until then it’s free if you’re not a pirate, matey!
Oui-Gui, You’ve Come a Long Way
The GUI (graphical user interface) started with the Xerox Alto, circa 1973. Steve Jobs continued this journey, advancing the Xerox work, and established Apple, which had its first commercially available GUI-based PC in 1983, the Apple Lisa. MIT was not far behind with X-Windows a platform independent GUI implementation, and finally, Microsoft with Windows 2.0 around 1987 (Windows 1.0 didn’t quite fit the bill).
Interestingly enough it was this “late gamer” that really launched demand for this new type of user interface, and to this day the ubiquitous Windows accounts for about 90 percent of all personal computing platforms. That is a pretty amazing statistic.
So, let’s skip the history lesson and go right to the crux of the matter. With a gargantuan market share, Microsoft struggled for years to advance their operating system. The software was so pervasive, worldwide, it was near impossible to move users forward without major surgery. Windows XP slowed adoption of newer versions of the OS as it was a decent operating system (short of a parade of security flaws) and newer versions like Vista had lots of issues.
Finally, massively increased processing power from our friends at Intel and AMD mandated the need for a leaner, meaner operating system to run all of the big applications that followed. The first viable cut came in 2009 after eight years of XP; the release of Windows 7—Microsoft was back in the driver’s seat.
The stage was set to start advancing the graphical user interface, navigation options such as touch, pen, voice and the general stability of the platform. Windows 8 was looking like another Vista story, or worse, but Microsoft retreated quickly after a huge user backlash—enter Windows 10. Is it just another also-ran in a long line of failed attempts? No.
Windows 10 is Elegant
The Windows 10 platform is intended to be the core for all Microsoft supported devices from desktop, laptops, tablets (Surface, Cintiq), phones and a variety of ARM-based devices. It is looking to take the same seat as the ever-popular Linux.
Unlike Apple, who’s expensive, boutique products don’t buy you much except the cool factor; Microsoft is looking for something a little less proprietary (or are they). It was true that graphic arts power users needed the OS X platform to run their vast libraries of cool tools, but that is no longer the case. Windows 10 has enabled a compute base that will enable these same power users with hardware offerings like the Cintiq Companion 2.
Don’t look for Apple to make any headway on PC computing platforms in the future, they are done there. Windows 10 is elegant, it supports many processor technologies and lots of different input devices. Microsoft reverted to some of the traditional navigational concepts like Start pop-up menu, boot to desktop, improved OneDrive integration and a variety of other enhancements that has delivered an OS people will like.
Yes, a backlash from the misguided release of Windows 8/8.1 may have caused a pause in the Microsoft camp, but users will quickly forgive. There has been a learning curve with every release of Windows but not an unsurmountable task and worth the effort for Windows 10.
So, That’s the Good News (A Few Things to Look Out For)
Wait, let the diehards and techies iron out the bugs.
Obviously, as with any new software release, there will be a period of instability, application incompatibility and gnashing of teeth—but to what extent. Only time will tell, but early reads seem to indicate that Microsoft and application vendors worked that out through the Windows 8 melee.
Looks like Microsoft is killing off a few things.
If you have a reliance on Media Center, it is deprecated in Windows 10. If you need it, do not upgrade. As a consequence, DVD playback is also no longer available. It is doubtful that anyone got attached to Charms in Windows 8, and they are now gone as well.
Finally, the Windows Essentials One Drive application is replaced with native One Drive integration (a good thing).
The upgrade from Windows 7/8 to Windows 10 is free. That is of course if you are not running on a pirated license. Microsoft will let you upgrade with a pirated license, but this will be followed up with a visit from some serious looking men. Because of complexities in Windows licensing in the past Microsoft is attempting to stem the proliferation of many versions of its operating system by offering this free upgrade, less to support, a smart move.
Windows 10 will be required to continually update, and many folks may not like this as it can unintentionally break things. This strategy positions Microsoft to offer Windows in a Software-as-a-Service model, potentially charging for future enhancements. Pay as you go software backed by cloud infrastructure is the computing model of the future, and Microsoft is well down the path of this reality.
Windows 10 has a few share-ware-esque and ad-ware-esque attributes to it that raise a few privacy questions, but the user only need be aware. Simply put, Microsoft is implementing a few enhancements that provide your information to other applications. These can be turned off, of course, you need to know that they default to “on”.
All in all Windows 10 looks to be a great play for Microsoft and their customers. If you are adventurous and don’t mind a few early glitches; jump right in, you won’t be sorry. A greatly improved user interface, a hopefully stable operating system, better licensing scheme and cross-platform support for several hardware architectures should make Apple very afraid for their minuscule PC market share.