Microsoft has set a goal of having 1 billion devices operating on Windows 10 as quickly as three years after its launch on July 29. Toward that end, the company is offering free upgrades to the new operating system for up to a year after its initial release. But what does Microsoft hope to get in return? And, considering the outcries of frustration that met Windows 8 upon its release a few years ago, is it a good idea to sign up for the upgrade?
Microsoft’s approach to Windows 10 has been quite a bit different from past upgrades. For one thing, they released preview builds of the OS while it was under development so they could get user feedback. That means we have some indication already of what it will look like and how it will work. The company has also been pretty open about what it's hoping to achieve with the new release.
Microsoft wants us all on Windows 10 because they’re hoping to acquire a much bigger share of the mobile market. The idea is to leverage the popularity of Windows for desktop and laptop users to help them gain more traction with mobile users. Sales of tablets and smart phones have been outpacing those for desktops for some time, and Windows Phones currently only make up 2.8% of the mobile market. Microsoft's strategy with Windows 10 is still somewhat in keeping with the vision behind Windows 8, which was “One Windows for all devices.” But the developers of 10 have responded to the complaints about 8’s exclusively touch-centric design.
They’re still hoping a consistent user interface between devices will make for a more unified—and more appealing—experience. What’s completely new this time around are tools other developers can use to create “universal apps,” which are applications that will work on any device, even if they’re running on iOS or Android. If the ability to create universal apps draws developers to the new OS in droves, and users are drawn to Windows 10 devices because they can run any kind of app on them, Microsoft just may get the leg up it’s been looking for in the mobile competition with Apple and Google .
Reasons to be excited
The releases of new versions of Windows have been following a regular pattern for over a decade: 98 was a success, ME a failure, XP a success, Vista a failure, 7 a success, and 8 a failure. If this alternating pattern holds, 10 should be a success. And it seems the OS developers have learned some important lessons from the negative responses to 8. The Start Menu from earlier versions is back, and the Charms that pop up on the right side of the screen even though you never want them to are gone. The Metro-style tiles are still there, but the developers seem to have accepted that people simply use mouse-and-keyboard devices differently than touchscreen devices.
Aside from the ability to run Apple and Android apps, Windows 10 is also being designed to work with Xboxes and other devices, most notably the Hololens headset—a virtual or augmented reality interface. So, assuming they work something like they’re supposed to, universal apps may open the door to the widely touted but so far unrealized Internet of Things (IoT).
New features include the ability to use multiple desktops—say, one for home and one for work—on the same device, an upgraded Cortana, and an internet browser, Edge, that allows you to take notes right on webpages that will still be there when you scroll or navigate back to them. And these are just a few of the more interesting features.
Finally, Microsoft is saying that this will be the last version of Windows. Instead of restricting updates to patches and security fixes, they’ll be upgrading the OS itself—much the same way internet browsers like Chrome receive periodic upgrades. You'll simply sign in one day and notice some minor change. Over time, however, these minor updates can add up to significant changes.
Reasons to be wary
Those automatic upgrades may be annoying for some people who don’t like the changes, and apparently you won’t have the option of refusing them. For most users now, though, the big worry is the number and severity of bugs. Windows 8 was launched with a heavy of burden of day one patches. Early adopters of Windows 10 preview builds have had trouble with the Start Menu not working and issues with various drivers. According to Tom Warren of The Verge, though, the most troubling issue with the preview build has been the number of upgrade failures. If the continuous fixes and improvements don’t work, you may be missing out on something important.
Windows Media Center will be gone. You’ll have to install new drivers to use floppy disks (remember those?), and you’ll also need new software to watch DVDs. And the biometric sign in features of Windows Hello will only be available on new Windows 10 devices that come equipped with the necessary hardware.
Unless you’re a tech aficionado, there’s probably no reason to rush out and get a new device. If you’re curious enough though, you can simply click on the Windows icon that appears in the bottom right corner of the screen on Windows 7 and 8 devices to sign up for the new release. Eventually, most of us will be using Windows 10 on our laptops and desktops. Whether we’ll be using it on mobile devices remains to be seen. In the meantime, you can be cautious and bide your time. Or you can jump in feet first (which a lot of people will probably do simply because they still hate Windows 8).
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