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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  • prophet001 - Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - link

    The spyware aspect of this OS bothers me. I'll be using Windows 7 until this is reconsidered.
  • Michael Bay - Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - link

    So, the same spyware.
  • prophet001 - Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - link

    Windows 7 doesn't even begin to approach this level of intrusion.
  • Michael Bay - Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - link

    As long as you believe that.
  • wishgranter - Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - link

    The Windows 10 EULA and Microsoft's Privacy Statement declare that Microsoft will access and use the content of people's emails and other files, such as documents uploaded to One Drive, according to Microsoft's discretion. "Share with our partners" also includes law enforcement, wherever Microsoft deems required. And I think Microsoft cannot ignore any instance which they feel should be forwarded to law enforcement without making themselves complicit in any potential criminal activity.
    Windows 10's all-your-contents-are-belongs-to-us policy is also a widening of the backdoor which law enforcement asks OS manufacturer to build into their systems.
    Basically, Microsoft's Windows 10 EULA claims that all files used in Windows 10 may be accessed, searched, and contents utilized by Microsoft, with Microsoft exercizing sole discretion over what it will access, and how it will be used.
    I think all businesses, content creators, and even nations should be dismayed at this. It looks like Russia already is concerned with Windows 10's always-on espionage against its users:
    http://www.rt.com/politics/312172-windo ... ent-stirs/
    If people will recall, Microsoft was previously found to be snooping in people's Outlook emails, and this discovery caused a furor among people, leading to Microsoft saying they would not do this anymore:
    http://www.theverge.com/2014/3/20/55314 ... l-policies2
    But now, Microsoft has made it a guaranteed policy of Windows 10 that they will always do this:
    https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/privacy ... fault.aspx
    "Content. We collect content of your files and communications when necessary to provide you with the services you use. This includes: the content of your documents, photos, music or video you upload to a Microsoft service such as OneDrive. It also includes the content of your communications sent or received using Microsoft services, such as the:
    - subject line and body of an email,
    - text or other content of an instant message,
    - audio and video recording of a video message, and
    - audio recording and transcript of a voice message you receive or a text message you dictate."
    Shouldn't there be a much bigger furor over the discretionless snooping of Windows 10, which includes all Outlook emails, than there was over just Outlook on its own?
    Are people OK with their PCs contents no longer being their sole domain and in their privacy, but instead being fully open to Microsoft?
    I'm not. I'll be sticking with Windows 7 for now.
    Windows 10's motto: Your System is not Your Own
  • xenol - Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - link

    You're reading the TP EULA. The actual Windows 10 EULA is at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/Useterms/Retail/Win... , which defers the privacy stuff to Microsoft's privacy statement ( https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/privacystatement/ )

    Which says none or few of the things in the TP EULA (the only one I found in common is they may look at anything you upload to OneDrive, which you can disable on Windows 10 anyway)
  • Grooveriding - Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - link

    Really unfortunate how far Microsoft went with privacy invasion and data trolling with Win 10. Fortunately you can disable what appears to be all of it with options, registry tweaks and disabling services.

    I would also recommend running a draconian firewall such as Tinywall that blocks all internet traffic and you have to allow applications on a case by case basis. As well as editing your hosts file to block all traffic back to Microsoft's data collection servers. As well, never use the OS with an MS account, just use a local account.

    Pretty outrageous MS does not offer an option to disable everything without having to resort to these measures.
  • hansmuff - Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - link

    The "sharing with law enforcement" is automatic for any data Microsoft has. If you're on 7 and use OneDrive, well there you go.

    Regarding the recording of voice data, that's a given with all of them. Siri, Google, now MS all use online services to improve detection and of course otherwise use that data. And they all send your recorded voice in some form or shape to their servers.

    I can see how you'd tie it to Windows 10 because that centralizes a lot of those "new generation" of services that are in the cloud. But those services exist with or without Windows 10. I think it's wiser to educate people about what "the cloud" implies, which is exactly what you say; people do not have control over the data they store.

    It's a cloud issue, and the cloud has provided the perfect vehicle for the likes of Apple, Google and Microsoft to take what they want. This goes for your PC, phone, tablet, everything.
  • Notmyusualid - Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - link

    None of my phones or PCs send anything to the cloud.

    It is called privacy common sense.
  • Matts8 - Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - link

    What phone do you have?

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