We are just three weeks away from Microsoft launching Windows 10 on the 29th July. The tech media has plenty of articles discussing the pros and cons, and now the “should I upgrade to Windows 10” articles are starting to appear in the mainstream press. Here’s one from the UK’s Telegraph. It’s actually surprisingly positive:
Windows 10 for desktop is a massive improvement over Windows 8. It builds on the more intuitive aspects of Windows 7 and Windows 8, combining the familiarity of the Start menu with a number of new features that genuinely seem to improve user experience, such as Edge and Cortana.
It’s also surprisingly accurate (I’ve begun to despair at the quality of what passes for technical journalism these days, even in the tech press), although in some places I would have a different take. For example:
When used on a tablet or smartphone, Windows 10 is not hugely different from Windows 8; most of the changes are under the hood. However, small improvements in usability should make learning the system less of a chore for the uninitiated.
As a user of Windows 8.1 on various tablets, I would disagree with the first part of this statement. There are substantial changes, and the changes are not under the hood, but very much in your face. The Charms bar of Windows 8/8.1 has gone and been replaced by the Action Centre, which holds notifications and is the entry point to Windows settings. Windows 10 also introduces the dreaded “Hamburger” button. These and other changes represent a major shift away from the design language pioneered in Windows 8/8.1 and in Windows Phone 8/8.1.
So for those of us that use Windows 8.1 and are completely comfortable with it, the move to Windows 10 is going to mean changes, and the relearning of our muscle memories. People who use Windows 7, on the other hand, are, I think, going to find it easier to adapt, because Windows 10 is very much closer to what they are used to.
After trying out the previews of Windows 10, I wrote, back in April, that I just didn’t like it. There seemed to be too many features of Windows 8.1 that had been removed or changed.
Now, twelve weeks and several preview builds later, I am somewhat less anxious. I have moved three PCs over to Windows 10. A laptop, a tablet and lastly, and most recently, my main workhorse, my Desktop PC. I have left my Surface 3 tablet running Windows 8.1; I will wait until the official release of Windows 10 before upgrading it.
I still miss the Smart Files feature of Windows 8.1, and the new version of this feature probably won’t appear in Windows 10 until late 2016. I will also be going through a period of relearning how to use my tablets.
Will the pain be worth the gain? In some areas, definitely yes. Windows 10 introduces native support for the FLAC audio and MKV media container formats. Both of these are important to me for the future of my music and home cinema systems. However, what Microsoft gives with one hand, it taketh away with the other. The “Play to” feature of Windows 8.1 is renamed to “Cast to” in Windows 10, and this function will have fundamental changes. It appears as though Microsoft has removed DLNA DMR devices from system-level control (e.g. the Devices item in the Win 8.1 Charms bar), and demoted that function to needing to be controlled on an app-by-app basis.
That’s all very well if app developers actually take account of it. I note that Microsoft’s Music app does not do this, and I also note that the Microsoft spokesperson uses the qualifier “eventually” in the context of support by the Microsoft app. That could mean it will be available on July 29 or it could mean in five years time. That does not give me a warm feeling.
The Music app has recently been rebranded by Microsoft as the Groove Music app. It’s still primitive, and does not even have the capabilities of the venerable Windows Media Player, Microsoft’s Windows desktop application that last had an update back in 2009. For example, as a lover of Classical music, I want to be able to search and sort my music collection by composer. I can do this in Windows Media Player – in Groove? No, not yet – and I suspect not ever.
Microsoft keep saying that their media applications will have a constant stream of improvements, but they’ve been saying this for a very long time now, with precious little result.
So in summary, the underlying platform of Windows 10 is good, with new features that promise much. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft and other players will exploit that platform with a new generation of apps that deliver value and delight.