Microsoft have a history of producing one well received Windows product then following it up with an arguably poor iteration – Windows 98 vs Windows 2000, Windows XP vs Windows Vista, Windows 7 vs Windows 8. Going by the trend Windows 10 should be a solid update, right?
I was actually a big fan of Windows 8, particularly 8.1. However, I also understood why it was often seen as a failure. Windows 8 betted big on Touch screen devices becoming the future. Microsoft completely redesigned the Start Menu with a much more touch friendly approach, but in doing so alienated a large amount of Mouse & Keyboard PC users. Windows 8 carried with it the general consensus that it was bad. It was actually arguably a better OS than 7; it was faster, and added a bunch of little useful features and improvements throughout the OS itself. But in changing the way the Start Menu worked and introducing ‘metro’ apps, Microsoft implemented a layer of confusion and disjointedness which soured a large amount of Windows users. I found that after a couple of days of use I was zipping around the OS even faster than 7, in fact going back to 7 just felt…dated. But I completely understand that the swipe/corner gestures were unintuitive at first. Many struggled to adjust to the new gestures, and were confused by the prospect of desktop apps vs ‘metro’ apps – all absolutely valid criticisms.
The Start Menu Is Back
The Start Menu changing to a full screen tile-based menu was one of the most disliked aspects of Windows 8. You’ll be happy to know the original Start Menu is back, but rather than just revert things back to Windows 7, Microsoft have managed to combine the best aspects of both operating systems into something which feels both functional and modern. You can still view all your apps in a list, and quickly jump to elements such as Control Panel, Power options and your most used apps. But you’re now also able to ‘pin’ applications to the start menu in the form of tiles. These tiles are very similar to those found in the Start Menu of Windows 8 – live tiles will flip around and update with relevant information such as news stories, weather info, calendar events or simply the latest additions to the app store. This start menu can also be resized to whatever size suits you best. It’s a great middle ground, blending the best elements of the Windows 8 Start Menu (tiles), with the traditional Windows start menu. But what about if you’re on a tablet…
Continuum Is Awesome
Continuum merges Desktop Windows with Mobile Windows. When Windows detects you’re using a tablet it asks if you’d like to use Windows in ‘Tablet Mode’ (you can set this to be automatic). At the click of a button the Start Menu changes into one which closely resembles that found in Windows 8 – a full screen of tiles which are easy to press with your finger, apps become fullscreen by default, and a few other little changes which improve the touch experience. You’re never forced into this mode however, swipe from the right hand side to bring up your notifications panel and you can easily toggle between tablet and desktop mode at the press of a button. For example when using my Surface Pro 3 if you remove the keyboard, Windows will ask to go into Tablet Mode, plug the keyboard back in and it’ll switch to Desktop mode. The whole process is seamless, bridging the gap between touch and non-touch devices in an elegant and easy-to-understand fashion. This is how Windows 8 should have been.
Apps As One
With Windows 10 Microsoft have introduced Universal Apps. In 8 there was a confusing separation between ‘metro’ apps and your usual desktop apps. With 10 this is no longer the case – apps run side by side with your usual desktop applications. You can move them around and resize their window just like any other application. There’s no longer a disorienting distinction between the two, they just work as expected. The only difference is that these apps are downloaded through the Windows Store. Whilst 10 has provided a little boost to the number of apps on the Windows Store (Twitter finally has a new Windows app, and it’s actually not bad), the store is still barren in comparison to the Google Play store or the iOS App Store. Microsoft are making large efforts to ensure porting apps is easy, and with Windows 10 not only being a free upgrade, but also being available on PCs, Tablets, Mobiles and even the Xbox One, making an app for Windows 10 becomes a whole lot more attractive. As long as the Windows 10 userbase continues to grow there’ll be absolutely no reason why developers wouldn’t make the effort to make their apps available through the Windows Store.
One of my personal favourite features of Windows 10 is the ability to stream your Xbox One to any Windows 10 device, be it a tablet or a PC. Plug in a controller and you can be playing your Xbox One from anywhere in the house. The surprising thing is just how well this works – input latency is incredibly low even on wifi, although the image quality suffers slightly it’s still really impressive stuff. You gain full control over the Xbox, allowing you to move around the dashboard, open any app or game, and even shutdown your console remotely.
Worth The Upgrade?
After the mixed reception of Windows 8 it’s no surprise that a large amount of people have been holding back on upgrading to Windows 10, despite the allure of the free upgrade. After a week using the OS I’ve been incredibly impressed. In many ways Windows 10 feels like what Windows 8 and 8.1 should have been. The concepts introduced in 8 are now much more fully realised. The OS is snappy, continuum is awesome, the built-in search is super quick, the upgrade process was painless and even Microsoft’s new browser, Edge, is a pretty great first version too (RIP Internet Explorer)! That said, I’ve had a few bugs here and there – Cortana refuses to work on my office PC (Microsoft acknowledged this bug to me), and Windows tells me virus protection is turned off on my home PC after booting up, only to then turn on virus protection a split second later after the notification appears.
Overall Microsoft have got it right with Windows 10. It’s already my favourite Windows experience to date, as it should be. I’m enjoying the more humble Microsoft we’ve started to see take shape over the past couple of years. A Microsoft which listens to feedback and allows it to influence their software. Fingers crossed this Microsoft is here to stick around.
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