Windows 10 will save us all!

But let’s go back a bit…

The majority of my customers use a Windows desktop PC or laptop. Some of them in conjunction with an iPad or an Android tablet. I’ve yet to see any Windows tablets on customer’s premises apart from my own.

New computers, of course, come with Windows 8.1 which I’m something of a fan of. I’ve been using some form of Windows 8 on my main office PC for about four years, since it was released in early beta form in 2011. I’ve been a fan! Under the bonnet, the operating system is slick and efficient, building on the solid foundations of Windows 7. It’s more reliable and responsive than previous versions. But nobody talks about that. They talk about that Start Screen.

But I was even a fan of that! I bought a touch mouse so that I could swipe the Start Screen and all the ‘modern’ apps left and right, as though I had a touch screen. I liked the live tiles which I’d become fond of on my Windows Phone, and I organised them into groups and rearranged the screen to really make it my own. It was great! Finally, a bold new move from Microsoft! A great new metro-inspired design! An OS built for desktops, laptops, tablets and phones! There was ticker tape! I think there was ticker tape.

But time passed and I used that Start Screen less and less. It was cumbersome to have to search for every program I’d just installed, pin it to the Start Screen, and pin it to the taskbar… The ‘charms’ that you can swipe in from the right are nice on a tablet (although I’m not a fan of any interface that hides options from view) but having to move your mouse pointer inexplicably into the corner of the screen in order to turn the thing off, was just a baffling design choice. The first thing I would always do after logging in, would be to click the Desktop tile, which I’d made as big and as prominent as I could, to get into the traditional desktop view and get stuff done. I wasn’t alone. Microsoft was inundated with complaints and criticism, and enterprise customers wisely avoided the whole thing altogether and continued to buy Windows 7 computers. Windows 8.1 was released, which automatically detected if you were using a keyboard and mouse, and booted up straight to the desktop if you were. Now, for non-tablet users, the Start Screen was becoming more and more redundant and so more and more annoying when you actually had to use it to fumble around to find the program you wanted.

So, Windows 10! Microsoft have reintroduced the Start Menu for keyboard and mouse users, while retaining a full-screen ‘tablet mode’ for touchy types. What’s more, the menu has the live tiles of Windows 8, and those ‘modern’ apps can run in their own window alongside traditional desktop applications, which should make them less jarring, and more useful to use. Tablet users who quite like the full-screen Start experience can have that, too. It’s looking pretty good. Behind the scenes, the operating system is more efficient, scalable, and promises to really unify across your desktop, tablet, phone, Xbox One, and even out to the ‘Internet of Things’ such as ATMs and those bins near St. Paul’s Cathedral that show web advertisements on them. Exciting times! But this version will live and die by that Start Menu, and that’s already a vast improvement. This time, Microsoft are being more open with their development than ever before, releasing (almost) monthly updates to their publicly-available preview version, encouraging feedback and seemingly acting on it.

Perhaps the best things is, it’ll be free! Existing Windows 7 and 8.1 users will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free within it’s first year of release. This is a smart move on Microsoft’s part, but some might say their hand has been forced. Apple released the last two major updates to their OS X for free, and Microsoft really need to get businesses off of Windows 7 and onto 10.

For my customers, I can already tell that this will be an upgrade I’ll be recommending and helping with, perhaps a little after the dust has settled. Windows 10 doesn’t have a release date yet, but it’s expected in the autumn.

Everything will be all right…


Footnote: So why Windows 10? What happened to Windows 9? Yeah, good point. Microsoft say that 10 represents a fresh start. The beginning of the end of version numbers. A nice round number to launch their new approach. But if that was the case, why not just Windows? or Windows One to go with their Xbox One, OneDrive and OneNote? Another, perhaps more plausible version lies in the unknown amount of old code out there that sees Windows 9 as Windows 95 or 98. This could result in applications or services that think they’re trying to run on an ancient version, and go belly up. Heh.