Microsoft Mulligans (Premium)

Microsoft enthusiasts have had a lot to complain about over the past several years. But it looks like the firm may finally address two of the bigger issues.

The first, of course, is Windows itself. For all the goodness of Windows 10, which re-embraced the desktop and traditional PC form factors in an apology of sorts for Windows 8, there were---and still are---major issues. And key among them is what I think of as the “finish the job” problem, where Microsoft is very good about starting certain initiatives, like implementing Dark Mode, moving configuration options into Settings, and adding modern UI elements, but is horrible at following through and actually finishing that work.

The result is well-understood. The Windows 10 user interface, today, is a hodge-podge of the new and the old, and an inconsistent mess. This has long been the case, but the release of macOS Big Sur this past fall drove home the issue nicely: Like it or loathe it, Big Sur provides a modern and consistent user experience that makes the Windows UX seem like the afterthought it is.

I’ve written in the past about the cultural issues that contributed to, or even caused, the UX issues in Windows: Microsoft doesn’t reward people for fixing existing products. It rewards people for starting new businesses, and these days those businesses need to be worth $1 billion in annual revenues or more for them to get any serious backing. The result? The best and brightest aren’t working on legacy products like Windows. They’re looking to the future and leaving the over one billion people who rely on Windows 10 every day to twist in the wind.

Well, that may finally be changing. Windows Central first reported that a new internal initiative codenamed Sun Valley seeks to “reinvigorate” the Windows 10 user interface in time for the 21H2 release in late 2021. And a recent job posting, since redacted, confirms it: Microsoft plans to
“deliver a sweeping visual rejuvenation of Windows experiences to signal to [its] customers that Windows is BACK and ensure that Windows is considered the best user OS experience for customers.”

Will this answer all our concerns? Will Dark Mode finally work everywhere and not just in more modern user interfaces? Will Control Panel finally disappear and be fully replaced by Settings? Will Microsoft apply consistent visual styling to menus, icons, and other onscreen elements?

Come on, people, wake up. Of course not. This is Microsoft.

But this is obviously a step in the right direction, and if Microsoft can deliver even a small percentage of the visual beauty and consistency that Apple provides in Big Sur, we can and should consider it a win. I can’t wait to see what this looks like.

But wait, there’s more. Answering the years-long complaints from me and many others, Microsoft will finally consolidate its many desktop Outlook clients into a single high-quality and web-based application. Today, the firm maintains abou...

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