The other day, I wrote about the best improvements in the Windows 10 Creators Update. Here, I’d like to focus, in turn, on the big new features you can—and will—ignore.
The point here isn’t so much that these changes are bad per se—well, Dynamic Lock is borderline useless—but rather than Microsoft is overemphasizing features that will not impact all that many users. And is not making improvements that would benefit most of us. (You know, like actually making Edge usable.)
Each of these over-hyped new features is notable for that very reason.
Sometime in 2017, Microsoft’s hardware partners will ship the first generation of so-called Windows Mixed Reality headsets, peripherals that work like HoloLens on a budget and offer virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (VR) capabilities. You cannot access this technology today, not yet, but the Windows 10 Creators Update includes the platform technologies required to make VR and MR work. In the future. Someday.
Obviously, VR/MR support in the platform isn’t much of a feature. It’s not a winner. And so Microsoft decided that it needed to create a suite of apps and services that provide, in its words, “everything you need to capture, create, view and share in 3D.” These 3D objects—which are just still images—work fine on today’s 2D screens, and you can print them using a 3D printer. In the future, you’ll be able to view them in 3D, too, using one of those VR/MR headsets. That’s obviously the point.
To be fair, this is arguably a neat capability. But somewhere north of 99 percent of Windows 10 users will never create a 3D object of any kind, because this is and will always be a niche usage scenario. It’s more complex, and less well understood and less popular than creating documents, editing photos, making home videos, playing 4K video games, or any other task you care to name.
Its inclusion in the Windows 10 Creators Update doesn’t detract from anything, of course. But that this is one of only two features that explicitly address the “creators” thing in this Windows 10 version’s name is troubling. (The other is Beam broadcasting.) As is the fact that the 3D apps in Windows 10 are childish and cartoonish looking. And did I mention that no one owns a 3D printer? No? Oh, good. Because no one does.
No, not literally. But statistically. And even Microsoft knows that VR/MR will continue to be a niche activity for the foreseeable future. So what do we call the ability to “capture, create, view and share in 3D”? A niche of a niche? I call it hype.
It’s unclear to me why Microsoft would create an e-books infrastructure in Windows 10 given that this market is already well established and dominated by companies such as Amazon and Apple. What’s further unclear is why Microsoft would use Microsoft Edge as the reader for this infrastructure. Since Edge only works on Windows 10, and not on the mobile devices that people really use to read.
This type of decision making falls into a category I call “no one ever asked for this.” That is, while the need for a high-quality e-book reading experience in Windows 10 is perhaps still necessary, no one should trust Microsoft to do this correctly and to follow through on it, competing as necessary with the libraries, deals, and capabilities offered by Amazon or Apple. And even if there are people who do believe Microsoft can and will do this, few—if not none—wanted to use Edge to read the e-books they buy from the company.
Put simply, this service makes zero sense. So I can only assume that it exists for a competitive reason, and not because anyone asked for it. That is, Amazon hasn’t updated its Windows-based Kindle readers in any meaningful way in years, and maybe they never will. Apple will never release iBooks for Windows 10, obviously. (And Nook is, of course, already circling the drain.) And maybe what Microsoft is really doing here is just filling out a bullet point on some slide describing its coming educational push.
Whatever the reason, this service will never be successful. Ever. Sorry.
3. Cortana in Setup
As the father of a deaf child, I should be overjoyed with the supposed accessibility gains in Windows 10 Setup. But the thing is, this feature does not benefit enough users to warrant the fact that it will be so irritating to so many more users.
What I mean is that Cortana now screams at you when you hit the “Out of Box Experience” part of Windows 10 Setup. (This is related to the fact that Microsoft inexplicably cranks up the volume in Windows whenever you install or upgrade it.) And if you can’t figure out a hardware-based way to turning down the volume quickly, prepare your eardrums for an unwanted racket.
And, yes, I do have a solution. Just make an accessible-friendly version of Windows Setup. That way, those who need it can get it. And those who don’t—somewhere well north of 90 percent of users, I’m guessing—don’t need to have their eardrums blasted out. See how easy that was?
The pointless changes to Windows 10 Setup aren’t limited to just Cortana, though. There’s also the new Privacy screen (see below), which is useless and replaces the Express Setup choice, which was useful. And there’s the ugly fact that this new OOBE is visually inconsistent with the rest of Setup. Because Microsoft never does anything right the first time, it seems. Maybe they’ll fix it in RS3.
4. Dynamic Lock
Dynamic Lock is a new feature in Windows 10 that will automatically lock your PC when you walk away from it. This sounds like a great idea. But it has three basic problems. It’s only half of the dynamic unlock/lock functionality that’s available on other platforms, most users would rather have a Dynamic Unlock feature, and—and, really, this one is incredible—it doesn’t work very well at all. That is, there’s no way to configure which connected device triggers the lock. That is just dumb.
Hopefully, we’ll see a way to configure this in RS3. Plus a way to configure something called Dynamic Unlock, a feature Microsoft has been talking about for years. (Though it’s never called it that, to my knowledge.)
5. Privacy controls
When it comes to privacy, Microsoft is now engaged in something I call “privacy theater,” where it is trying to appease regulators and privacy fanatics by giving the impression that it is listening and responding to their complaints. The result is a privacy dashboard in the cloud that is truly useful. And “new” privacy controls in Windows 10 that are not.
(Microsoft has also become more transparent about what privacy data they collect in Windows 10. This overdue documentation is quite welcome.)
When you acquire Windows 10—by upgrading an existing PC or when you buy a new PC—you will be presented with a new Privacy settings screen, one of several new and essentially pointless new steps in this process.
It looks simply enough, and you may think that a quick read-through of this information, and a few correctly-set options, will configure your privacy as you prefer. But this is not the case. As with previous Windows 10 versions, your privacy settings are in fact more voluminous than what is presented here. Much more. And if you visit the Settings app in Windows 10 later, it’s not hard to see that there are actually a ton of privacy options to wade through. That list on the left displays 18 top level privacy areas. Each has numerous options.
In other words, this is privacy theater. And the only question is whether regulators and privacy gurus will fall for it.
For my part, I honestly don’t care. And my biggest here isn’t Windows 10 and privacy—I’ve always felt this was FUD to begin with—but rather than governmental bodies are once again helping Microsoft design new user interfaces in Windows. Which is not OK.