Let’s flash back to 2012. About three years ago, Windows 8, the last major release of Microsoft’s ubiquitous operating system, was released to manufacturers. This was to be Microsoft’s most ambitious release yet. Traditional PC sales were in decline, and more personal devices such as the iPad tablet were poised to end the dominant PC platform. Microsoft’s response to this was to change Windows more than in any previous release, in a bid to make it usable with the tablet form factor. Windows 8 launched in October 2012 to much fanfare.

Windows 8 Start Screen

There was much fanfare, but little in the way of sales. Yes, Microsoft did sell many copies of Windows 8, but it did not help the declining PC market rebound. Windows 8 came to be with a touch first interface, with a new Start Screen replacing the traditional Start Menu, and a new breed of Windows 8 apps, which run on the WinRT framework. These WinRT apps have been named many things over the past three years, starting with Metro apps. A trademark dispute ended that naming scheme though, and over time they have morphed from full screen apps to universal apps to Windows Store apps, and practically none of them were able to rival the older Win32 platform in popularity or productivity.

Windows 8 did bring some great features to Windows, but they were overshadowed by the major design shift which, while good as a touch based operating system, alienated many who still used Windows on a traditional desktop or notebook. The Start Screen was a big turn off to many people, and full screen apps were not very efficient on a large screen display. Even the multitasking in Windows 8 was less than ideal, with the initial release only allowing two Windows Store apps to be open at any one time, and the second was relegated to a small side bar.

Microsoft’s own faith in Windows 8 was clearly not strong. Only a couple of weeks after Windows 8 launched, they unceremoniously dumped the project head Steven Sinofsky from the company, and spent the next two years trying to make Windows 8 more usable on traditional mouse and keyboard type machines, which were the vast majority of Windows devices in the hands of users. Windows 8.1 arrived and fixed some of the key issues with Windows 8, and 8.1 Update launched with the ability to boot to the desktop, and avoid the touch interface almost completely if you wanted to.

Windows 10 Start Menu and Desktop view

When looking at Windows 10, I think it is pretty important to look back over the last three years, because none of this is ever built or designed in a vacuum. Microsoft has a huge number of devices running Windows, but a large majority of them are running Windows 7, which was an evolutionary desktop upgrade. Windows 8 struggled to ever take over any of that usage share. Windows 10 is Microsoft’s attempt to bridge the divide. Windows 7 is used by hundreds of millions of people, but its touch support is practically zero. Windows 8 works well in a touch scenario, but is not ideal for keyboard and mouse based devices. Windows 10 promises to be the version of Windows which bridges this gap.

Windows 10 brings about as much change as Windows 8 did, but in almost all cases it is going to be appreciated by users rather than avoided. It will run on a dizzying number of device types, including the traditional desktop, notebook, tablet, two-in-one, phone, IoT, Raspberry Pi, Hololens, Surface Hub, and even Xbox One. What it will bring to each of those device types is not the single interface that Windows 8 pushed on the desktop, but a unified app platform. Each device type will have its own interface, but the underlying app platform will allow developers to target a huge number of devices. And developer buy-in is the one thing Microsoft needs more than any other in order to make this vision succeed. For all of Windows 8’s quirks, it was really the lack of quality apps in the Windows Store which was the one hurdle Microsoft could not code around. Only time will tell whether or not the new model succeeds where the old one failed, but at the beginning of the life of Windows 10 we can go through all aspects of it and see what’s new, what’s changed, and how it fits in on today’s devices.

Return of the Desktop and Start Menu
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  • zman58 - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    "worlds largest and most obnoxious spyware"

    We really don't know exactly what data it sends back on the user and their system(s) do we? The EULA does not detail this for us. In fact, the EULA has you agree to whatever they desire from your system--for improving the product. The spyware option is purely opt-out, for those of us who know what opt-out means and are capable of figuring out how to opt-out.

    Then once you can/do opt-out, how can you be assured you will remain opted-out through upgrades, hot-fixes, patches, and what-not?

    Bottom line is that the vendor decides what and when they want to collect data from your system, you have absolutely no control over them. Read the EULA and consider what it means before you click "I agree". You might not want to click that button...

    Perhaps using an alternative reliable, safe, secure, and private operating system might be a better approach. ...Well hello there Linux.
  • bs grinder - Tuesday, December 26, 2017 - link

  • ddriver - Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - link

    "The privacy concerns are certainly not overblown, but for most people, they will make the trade-off of less privacy if it means an improved experience. The textbook example here is advertising, where in order to deliver relevant ads to the user"

    Ah yeas, I bet the whole world rejoices being able to give up their privacy to be blasted with ads. It is a great trade-off indeed.

    "If you are concerned, the best thing to do is to read the privacy statement and adjust your settings accordingly."

    I bet that's the best you can do, pretending that somehow clicking a button or two magically makes all problems go away

    Also, I see a catch in those "privacy settings". You seem to only be able to turn off "sending MS info", but that doesn't imply that data is still not being mined and sent anywhere else.
  • imaheadcase - Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - link

    You are aware these settings are present in almost almost win OS? The only privacy stuff they collect is related to MS services, onedrive, etc. Just because win 10 gave people options (gasp!) vs win 8 and 7 does not mean those did not, and still do have it.
  • ddriver - Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - link

    No they are not. Especially if you bother to watch what updates you install. For example, MS will try to sneak in the "telemetry" data miner service on your windows 7 as an update, but it is not there to begin with.

    I haven't used and will likely never use a windows version after 7, but in a "clean" windows 7 install none of the win 10 invasions of privacy are present. It doesn't keylog, it doesn't listen to speech, it doesn't analyze text or file content and it doesn't report everything you do back home.

    Oh, and you can also chose not to install certain updates, whereas with the "nice free" windows 10 MS get to deploy on your system whatever it wants - all in the name of your comfort.
  • Michael Bay - Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - link

    Your religious belief in 7 is amusing, at least.
  • ddriver - Thursday, August 27, 2015 - link

    If anyone around here is a believer, that is you, believing MS are trustworthy that is.
  • Gigaplex - Friday, August 28, 2015 - link

    If you don't trust MS, you shouldn't be using any version of Windows.
  • althaz - Thursday, August 27, 2015 - link

    FYI: Windows 7 collects telemetry by default. It was turned off by default in Vista and XP, but most OEMs turned it on for you. So Win 10 is collecting the same information as Windows XP, Vista and 7 (and 8), for most people.
  • yuhong - Friday, August 28, 2015 - link

    Does Win10 really "keylog" outside of search boxes and the like? search suggestions are not new either. There is no evidence that Win10 can read arbitrary files either.

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