Windows 10: Portrait of an OS in Progress

Window10_Preview_9860

So this is a review of Windows 10; okay maybe not a review but my impressions of the operating system as it is now, with a few observations of where it may go. The thing you need to know upfront is the Windows 10 available through the Windows Insider Program and in the wild is not finished; it’s a beta software. Everyone playing with it now are testing the software as Microsoft is building and changing it for release in 2015. Second I don’t use the preview daily as some have and it is not on new hardware (I am using a Dell Inspiron 1525). Okay now that you know, what is it like using Windows the tenth?

Mostly like using Windows now. There is a desktop, you can pin programs on the taskbar and access things like Control Panel. Now visually Windows is changing. The current build or version, 9839, has a few new icons and various places are now undergoing various cosmetic and functional changes. There is now places on the taskbar for search (introduced in 8.1) and virtual desktops (called task view and it also replaces the open app view left swipe from Windows 8). Modern/Metro apps can now be windowed like desktop applications. The start menu has returned and is merged with the Start screen; its scalable and yes you can make the live tiles go away.

I have been surprised at how well I’ve enjoyed using Windows 10. I had been concerned when I saw the Start menu prototype at this year Build. It felt like Microsoft was running back to Windows 7; and truth be told in some ways they are. The Windows 10 preview I’m using is focused on the desktop and thus only reflects part of 10’s story (that’s coming mid-January). The changes we do see reflect the thinking of a new team and the recognition that people want the desktop. However it’s a desktop that is changed by the mobile embrace underwent under Windows 8. There is work underway to strengthen the Settings app used by Windows tablets and ARM devices. Windows is adding features that before users had to dig into the desktop to find. Services previously on Windows Phone like the Sense apps (Battery, Wi-Fi, and Storage) are integrated.

Right now the things I’ve been looking for are what changes in the year between the preview and release can Microsoft do. Terry Myerson and his Operations Systems Group (OSG) have taken on a tall task. They have to create an update that appeases users wanting a more traditional Windows while not holding back a platform in a highly competitive fight. So one of the areas I was looking at was how Windows 10 would compare when sat next to a Chromebook or a MacBook. So far so good.

It has been especially interesting to play around with the Metro apps. The ability to use them like traditional Windows applications makes me which it was the case all along. It may have saved Windows RT some headaches and made it an easier sale against ChromeOS. The one thing that should be noted is that this is a Technical Preview and is beta software. This is not an OS you should run cause its free; there are bugs and not everything works. For example the Store doesn’t load when windowed and the system can reboot itself at whim. The latest Build, 9879, has required multiple updates because of usability issues. Having said that what is there offers a solid OS.

What will be interesting is what comes in January when Microsoft shows the Consumer Preview. While we don’t know what it will exactly look like (especially the phone/tablet) we do have serious hints. A non-preview build, 9901, recently came out and it had further UI tweaks and also updated apps. The changes include new icons for the taskbar and a new minimalist look for the Metro side. When the Consumer Preview comes out I will do another impressions post, but for now Fin.

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