With Microsoft set to announce its plans for the consumer features in Windows 10 next week, all eyes are turning towards Redmond. But you don’t need a crystal ball to know what’s coming in 2015: This is the year that Windows gets awesome again.
It seems like something new leaks about Windows 10 almost every day, and it’s easy to get fixated on the specifics. But there’s plenty of time for that: indeed, I plan to spend much of 2015 simply documenting everything that’s going on with Windows 10, both here on this site and in the upcoming book Windows 10 Field Guide. For now, let’s just consider the big picture stuff.
Windows 10 will solve real problems. With Windows 8, Microsoft antagonized the vast majority of its user base by creating a version of its flagship OS that forced mobile UIs on traditional PC users and forced the desktop UI on mobile users, and it did so without offering a single concession to reverting to previous versions of the user experience. Windows 10 solves these problems by providing users experiences that are appropriate for, and optimized for, the type of device you’re actually using.
Windows 10 will be a great upgrade for Windows 7 users. Unlike Windows 8, Windows 10 will look and work the way Windows 7 users on traditional PC form factors expect. It will boot to the desktop, feature a Start menu, and let you run mobile apps in floating windows alongside desktop applications and web apps.
Windows 10 will be a great upgrade for Windows 8 users. For that minority of people who actually did like the Modern user experience introduced in Windows 8, good news: Windows 10 will look and work much like Windows 8 on touch-based devices and will move seamlessly between touch/mobile and desktop PC interfaces on hybrid PCs with detachable or transforming screens.
Windows 10 will be a great upgrade for Windows Phone users. Thanks to Microsoft’s One Windows strategy, Windows 10 will also be an upgrade for Windows Phone 8 users, offering universal apps that work between the platforms, a single online store, and more powerful experiences that we’ve come to expect from Big Windows.
There are of course questions, and it’s possible we’ll get some answers at the January 21, 2015 event at which Microsoft will introduce its consumer preview.
Key among these is the fate of Windows RT, the ARM-based version of Windows that flamed out horribly with customers. Those with Surface RT, Surface 2, and other Windows RT-based devices are wondering whether Microsoft will even offer an upgrade to Windows 10. And many are wondering about rumors that Microsoft will combine Windows Phone and Windows RT into a single ARM-based OS that will run on both phones and tablets.
Here is my take on this.
I do not expect Microsoft to upgrade existing Windows RT devices to Windows 10, for two reasons. One, that user base is very small. And two, supporting a new OS for several years going forward on this performance-challenged hardware would be a mistake. This would of course infuriate the early adopters who did buy into the Windows RT vision, and of course my next point below suggests that an upgrade will actually be available. So why not let users have it?
I do expect Microsoft to combine Windows Phone and Windows RT into a single SKU of Windows aimed at both phones and tablets. And while I feel that the firm should use the name Windows Mobile for that product, they almost certainly will simply call it, simply, Windows. You can make a case for either name, of course. But this will provide for a more mature product overall, where you will be able to run the bigger library of Windows Phone apps and games on tablets, fixing a key problem with that ecosystem, and will be able to use what is essentially the next version of Windows Phone on bigger devices. Win-win.
So we’ll see what develops next week. But whatever the specifics, I see a bright future for Windows 10. And I see an OS that reverses the wrongs of the past and positions Microsoft’s most important platform the future.