Hints for the Future in Our First Real Peek at Redstone 2

Posted on October 9, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 60 Comments

Hints for the Future in Our First Real Peek at Redstone 2

Friday’s release of Windows 10 Insider Preview build 14942 has provided us with our first real peek at new features and functionality coming in the next major release of this operating system. It’s due in Spring 2017 and codenamed Redstone 2.

Obviously, there is so much more to come. Microsoft has spoken about its plans to integrate the Windows Holographic shell into mainstream Windows 10 versions, for example, and my sources say that the software giant will publicly discuss major new Redstone 2 features for the first time at its now-scheduled late October Windows 10 event. Too, we get small leaks from time to time, as demonstrated by this video featuring a UWP version of the Paint app.

Microsoft announced several mostly-minor updates and improvements in build 14942, and that alone was notable: Previous Redstone 2-era builds have been light on new features, and have focused vaguely on improving only the “core” underlying parts of the OS.

But let’s read between the lines a bit. In other words, forget about individual features in early builds. Let’s think about direction. Where will Redstone 2 take us?

For example, I find it notable that Microsoft hasn’t shipped Mobile builds of Redstone 2 twice since this program started up in August: According to Microsoft, it shipped 29 pre-release builds of the Anniversary Update—the previous Windows 10 milestone—and fully 28 of them included a Mobile build. So here we are, only two months into an 8-to-9 month development cycle, and Microsoft has already under-performed on Mobile compared to the entire previous release.

Does that mean that Mobile is less important to Microsoft than before? It’s hard to imagine how that could be the case—in fact, I’m not sure why they update it as often as they do—but there’s contrary evidence as well. Consider this week’s leak of that UWP Paint app. If Microsoft moves more and more of the bundled (“in-box”) Windows 10 to UWP, as it should, the result will be an OS that is more stable, more reliable, more easily serviced, and … more acceptable on Mobile. Apps like Paint, Notepad, File Explorer and more are all legacy Win32 programs today. If they become UWP apps, everyone wins. Including fans of Mobile, which suddenly becomes more of a first-class citizen in the Windows 10 family.

This, I think, is in fact a theme of Redstone 2: The continued evolution away from Win32, and the gradual replacement of Win32 apps and experiences in the OS with UWP-based equivalents. You’ll see more changes and additions to the UWP Settings app, and more of a move away from legacy control panels. For example, look this UWP-based “System” interface in Settings in build 14942.

system

Clearly, Microsoft is working towards replacing the legacy System control panel and even older System Properties window, shown here. It’s not there yet, of course, and all of these interfaces are still available. But it’s a step forward.

system2

These new interfaces are interesting to me on a number of levels. We’ve discussed many times why UWP as an apps platform has thus far failed in the sense that there are literally zero gotta-have-it third party UWP apps in Windows Store. But more generally, UWP is sound, is the right way forward. And by putting more and more UWP apps and experience in Windows 10, Microsoft benefits us all. Plus, there’s something hugely positive about Microsoft doing what it’s telling developers to do. Why should Windows be hobbled by legacy apps and UIs?

It’s hard to argue against UWP: It’s modern, safe and reliable, and its inclusion and expansion benefits everyone who uses Windows 10. More subjectively, perhaps, is the attractive look and feel of the various UWP interfaces. And, more important, more professional looking.

This is not something we said about the Fisher Price user experiences that Microsoft disastrously saddled us with in Windows 8. Whether you’re talking about the Start screen, PC Settings, or the almost universally-terrible in-box Store apps that Microsoft included with that OS, the net effect was always the same. Immature. Crude. Childish.

In Windows 10, those terrible touch-first (gag) UIs have given way to cleaner and more professional interfaces with clear designs and nice iconography. What does more professional mean, you ask? It means “command density,” so that instead of 8 big circular buttons in an app, you can get a ribbon of commands that approaches what’s possible in the desktop versions of the Office applications. It means capability. It means solving problems, not finger painting.

Settings is an interesting example, because it started out as a laughable one-screen interface in Windows 8 and has evolved into perhaps the ultimate example of “command density” in Windows 10 version 1607.

settings

Settings, of course, isn’t exactly a model that most apps can follow. But if you look at the Microsoft Office apps in the Store, you see good examples of command density, both in traditional apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote) and new app types (Sway). And these apps are perhaps better examples for other apps to follow.

apps

Critics will point out, rightfully, that these apps are not as full-featured or command-dense as their desktop siblings, but I think that is both by design and preferable: Office 2016 is powerful, sure, but it’s arguably too complex and top-heavy, functionally, for most users. The Office apps in the Store scale visually on high-DPI displays, work well on diverse device types, and offer that correct mix of “just enough” functionality for a wider audience. You can call them dumbed down, but I’d argue you’re missing the point entirely.

In any event, what I see so far in build 14942, or I guess in Redstone 2 more generally, is a continued evolution of the platform I care about the most. I really like the way Windows 10 looks and works today. And with Redstone 2, I like where it’s going too.

 

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41 Comments
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  1. 4 | Reply
    dcdevito Alpha Member #220 - 1 month ago
    I, for one, welcome my UWP overlords 
  2. 3 | Reply
    wbhite Alpha Member #120 - 1 month ago

     "Sound" and "reliable" are not two words that I'd use to describe my experiences thus far with UWP apps.

    1. 3 | Reply
      compunut Alpha Member #1428 - 1 month ago
      In reply to wbhite:

      I see this is being down-voted, but I have to agree.  Every UWP app I have used has closed unexpectedly and dumped me back at the desktop without warning or explanation.  Almost all of these UWP apps are from Microsoft, so they aren't just fly-by-night 3rd party programs.  Why are UWP apps so crash-prone?  Why don't they give anything meaningful when they exit?  Do they report the crash to the author so it can be fixed?  Things to think about...

    2. 2 | Reply
      JerryH Alpha Member #248 - 1 month ago
      In reply to wbhite:

      I agree; it seems the UWP apps do crash a lot. Even the built in solitaire app just up and crashes back to the desktop fairly often across a range of different machines I've used it on. Seeing as how simple most of these apps are in presentation, design, and capability it is frustrating that they crash more than much more complex and more useful Win32 apps.

  3. 2 | Reply
    Bart Alpha Member #117 - 1 month ago
    Windows has looked very dated for a long time. Windows 10 changes this, which is nice. Much like Paul pointed out, redesigning Windows allows for MS to prioritize functionality within apps. Improving the useablity as it 'modernizes' Windows. One can only applaud this, provided MS makes the right choices. Then again, as most of us are Insiders, we too have an important part to play in making sure our preferences are heard. I am excited about the future of Windows, especially as it improves Windows Mobile as we go along.
    1. 0 | Reply
      shameermulji Alpha Member #1515 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Bart:

      "I am excited about the future of Windows, especially as it improves Windows Mobile as we go along."

       

      That's assuming Windows Mobile survives the long haul, or at the very least the next couple of years.

  4. 1 | Reply
    skborders Alpha Member #1309 - 1 month ago

    I agree. while my surface 3 performs better on Windows 8.1, I prefer the funtionality of 10. I am looking forward to the improvements you have pointed out. All the while hoping the battery life and stability improves.

  5. 1 | Reply
    Narg Alpha Member #420 - 1 month ago
    I personally can't wait for the full move away from Win32.  But until they are closer, I was taken by the disapperence of the Control Panel without regard to a full replacement yet.  I still like having deeper system settings in another location away from the normal "Settings" area that seems more end-user focused. And, command density needs works.  Still a bit too sparse for many desktop needs, but room helps.  Making anything more "clickable" helps.  But if it pushes too many items out of view, that doesn't help.  It's a hard mix to match.  Maybe if Microsoft would make this density thing a user editable variable in Settings.... :)
    1. 0 | Reply
      hrlngrv Alpha Member #100 - 1 month ago

      In reply to Narg:

      Indeed, UI density a user setting. Not going to happen.

      Win32 may have security problems, but it also provides for installed software working together in ways not yet possible with UWP. The new front on the functionality-security trade-off frontier.

    2. 0 | Reply
      Narg Alpha Member #420 - 1 month ago
      In reply to hrlngrv:

      "Win32 may have security problems, but it also provides for installed software working together in ways not yet possible with UWP."   Um.  No.  That's wrong.  It's not that you can't do more in UWP, it's that developers haven't yet taken advantage of new abilities yet.  The age of Win32 does hold on well though, but there are more things to be done and Win32 just can't do those things.

    3. 0 | Reply
      RonH Alpha Member #149 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Narg:

      I think you  both make valid points... This is a good discussion.

  6. 0 | Reply
    Narg Alpha Member #420 - 1 month ago

    Seems to me that Redstone 2 is more about removing legacy.  Not bad, but they are somewhat hell bent, to almost a fault I think.  I'm sure it will be good in the end, but I've moved a couple machines out of the fast ring due to the issues caused by the Insider Fast ring so far.

  7. 0 | Reply
    RonH Alpha Member #149 - 1 month ago

    In my experience of helping family, friends and neighbors, I have noticed a shift from fixing things that broke ( can't print, my internet is not working etc.) to how do I connect to my TV. how do I get my music to play, where do I find...

     

    Less requests for help, and when I get them, it is more about learning something new than fixing something that stopped working.

  8. 0 | Reply
    glenn8878 Alpha Member #2387 - 1 month ago

    The reasons Win32 is still popular and UWP is not should be exploited and transitioned. Win32 should gradually gain the modern interface while UWP get some Win32 niceties. Why one must be replaced by the other was how Windows is in a big decline. UWP is a braindead unuseful mess. The mismatch of UIs is the other problem. Why Settings isn't further along is ridiculous. File Explorer still needs an update. 

    1. 2 | Reply
      Demileto Alpha Member #2054 - 1 month ago
      In reply to glenn8878:

      Software development takes time, it's not a realistic expectation to have Microsoft completely overhauls Windows 7 and 8/8.1 into 10 in two years' time and still have them add new, attractive features. That said, I do hope we get an updated File Explorer with RS2, its tablet experience is too terrible as it stands.

    2. 0 | Reply
      glenn8878 Alpha Member #2387 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Demileto:

      You do realize that Windows 8 debut in October 26, 2012. That's 4 years of development time for it's new UI. How much longer?

    3. 1 | Reply
      Narg Alpha Member #420 - 1 month ago
      In reply to glenn8878:

      Do you have a source and numbers for your "big decline" assumption?  Windows usage overall hasn't gone down that I've seen.  Usage in certain cases, sure, but that's why Microsoft is updating it.  To provide a better use scenario in newer cases and needs.

    4. 0 | Reply
      glenn8878 Alpha Member #2387 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Narg:

      Big decline is not an assumption. I'm restating the decline in the PC market. Why would this be in dispute? Who buys a PC to use it's apps? You're the one making the assumption especially that UWP will make a difference when it hasn't now or yet, maybe not for a long long time.

    5. -1 | Reply
      Narg Alpha Member #420 - 1 month ago
      In reply to glenn8878:

      A decline in sales, not in usage.  People still use PCs quite often, and just as much as always,  They just don't update them as much as they did in the past.  You are way off on your point.  You should back up and try again.

    6. 1 | Reply
      glenn8878 Alpha Member #2387 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Narg:

      There's nothing to go back and try again.

    7. 0 | Reply
      shameermulji Alpha Member #1515 - 1 month ago
      In reply to glenn8878:

      I think what Narg means to say that although the PC market has witnessed negative growth the last 2 to 3 years, the overall Windows user base has not gone down.  It just happens to be that the user base hasn't grown & the percentage of Windows users vs the entire device market of smartphones, tablets, PC's has shrunk even though the Windows user base has held steady at about one billion users.

    8. 0 | Reply
      glenn8878 Alpha Member #2387 - 1 month ago
      In reply to shameermulji:

      Go back and read my original post and put it in that context. He asked me to try again. Say what?

  9. 0 | Reply
    hrlngrv Alpha Member #100 - 1 month ago

    Subjective elements: one person's more professional look can be another's uglier. What matters most in UIs is efficiency. In one particular case, the bundled Paint, the XP version is more efficient for me than the Windows 7 ribbonized version in no small part because in the XP version the drawing tools were vertically oriented while they're horizontally oriented in the ribbon in the W7 version. That matters on newer monitors with 16:9 or even wider aspect ratios because there are many more available horizontal pixels than vertical ones to waste on UI components.

    Then there's the pace of moving Control Panel components to Settings. How long does it need to take? If it makes sense to have everything in Setting, does it really require a half decade (from debut of Windows 8 until final achievement no earlier than Redstone 3)? It's that difficult? Or is it that low a priority?

    1. 0 | Reply
      jglathe Alpha Member #620 - 1 month ago
      In reply to hrlngrv:

      Good one. Assuming you only need to change the skin it shouldn't take more than a month or so. Including making non-resizable windows resizable ;) The issue with the new settings is: I can't find anything. Try to go hunting for the icon settings in the status bar... major fail.

  10. 0 | Reply
    slerched Alpha Member #131 - 1 month ago

    My problem is, they want more UWP things to pop up, but they broke the ability to run several UWP games with 14942. Killer Instinct, more importantly, the JUST released Gears of War 4, are completely broken and unusable.

    But I get, preview builds, stuff breaks. I just don't expect some arguably "important" things to break that badly.

  11. 0 | Reply
    jglathe Alpha Member #620 - 1 month ago

    Consistent UI is a plus. Shame only that it's consistently annoying... There needs to be a hard reset in the development cycle, I'm afraid. Making all user interfaces awful is no solution that will prevail. And c'mon, who is really using touch on a PC for actual work? It is the second best method of input, at best. If you have a mouse / good touchpad and keyboard available, would you prefer touch? So, why should any UI on a traditional desktop be touch-friendly?

    1. 1 | Reply
      Nickel Alpha Member #343 - 1 month ago
      In reply to jglathe:

      I use touch, pen, mouse/trackpad, keyboard all the time on my work machine, all depending n what I am doing, sometimes touch is best, sometimes keyboard is, sometimes pen, sometime mouse, sometimes a mix... now voice input I rarely use, but keyboard, mouse, pen, touch all the time

    2. 1 | Reply
      shameermulji Alpha Member #1515 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Nickel:

      I agree. Mixed input methods is the future.

    3. 0 | Reply
      snipsnip Alpha Member #385 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Nickel:

      Yeah this.  I want to be able to work across devices and not have to think about my input method.  I'm happy to trade complexity, at least at the surface level for a UI that allows me to use a mouse, a pen and my finger.  I think they're on the right track.

    4. 0 | Reply
      mebby Alpha Member #219 - 1 month ago
      In reply to jglathe:

      I know. Microsoft should have released Windows 7.5 then 7.8 a year ago and the would have dominated Google and Apple.

  12. 0 | Reply
    chriswong13 Alpha Member #869 - 1 month ago

    In the past I remember there being plenty of Insider PC releases that didn't always have corresponding Mobile builds.  I personally don't think there's a lot to read in lack of Mobile builds just yet. Aren't they working on windowing and snapping apps?  Maybe that and/or other things are way too buggy to release even to Fast ring at this point...

  13. 0 | Reply
    krabago Alpha Member #231 - 1 month ago

    Still nothing about mobile. Couldn't hold my breath any longer hoping for some excitement on the mobile side and placed an order for a Galaxy S7. Looking forward to having a breath of fresh air using a mobile platform that's well supported.

  14. 0 | Reply
    Awhispersecho Alpha Member #1649 - 1 month ago

    see this is part of the problem and it was with Windows 8 as well. It's 1 thing to change what the UI looks like. But people can get used to that. It's another thing to change menus and setting locations and things like that. Changing the control panel, changing everything to be located in "file explorer" instead of under "my computer" and then once you are in file explorer, there is no "my computer" anymore, it's now "This PC". It is things like that really make it hard for the average, non tech person to adjust. For those of us here it's not an issue, but I personally know atleast 20 people that have been fine with the UI change on the desktop but could not get past the issue of having to relearn where everything is located and what everything means. I never understood why they felt they had to change those things as well. They just don't get the average person anymore which is why they will continue to struggle keeping users.

    1. 1 | Reply
      mebby Alpha Member #219 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Awhispersecho:

      I personally like the new modern look and feel. It seems easier to understand, easier to use - after of course you learn how it is set up. Releasing WIndows 7 plus would just have meant that people would not have upgraded and then eventually have moved off windows anyway.

    2. 0 | Reply
      Awhispersecho Alpha Member #1649 - 1 month ago
      In reply to mebby:

      I like it too. I actually like the Windows 8 start screen as well.  As I stated, I'm not referring to people like us. I am referring to people like my neighbor, my Mother, and the every day PC user who is used to looking for "my computer", the person who clicks settings thinking they will end up in the control panel where they always used to adjust things and instead, ends up in an unfamiliar menu they have no clue how to navigate and don't understand what the new settings mean. The list of changes like that are endless and have done nothing but confuse the average PC user.

      MS does not understand or care about those people anymore. Either way, people will continue to leave Windows, there is no going back now and no fighting the tide at this point. They screwed too much up and screwed over too many people the last few years to ever recover from it. Enterprise only is where their future is.

    3. 0 | Reply
      Demileto Alpha Member #2054 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Awhispersecho:

      Are you seriously defending Control Panel? Sorry, but that app's user experience is a gigantic mess to deal with: you get easily lost trying to find the setting you want amidst a sea of icons in large/small icons view and cannot find everything you want in category view, not to mention the UI inconsistency with some settings opening a new page within Control Panel's window while others still opened the good old dialog box. Control Panel sucks, the new Settings app may not have all the features its older brother does but its superior UI and UX more than makes up for it, and once Microsoft ports the remaining settings to it there'll simply be no reason whatsoever for someone to actually prefer Control Panel than Settings.

    4. 0 | Reply
      Narg Alpha Member #420 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Demileto:

      I would never defend a Win 32 Control Panel for future considerations.  But I would defend a seperate "System Settings" away from the "Settings" to keep the end user setup simple for the less technically inclined.

    5. 0 | Reply
      Demileto Alpha Member #2054 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Narg:

      You have a good point there. Hopefully Microsoft can cook up a good solution that satisfies both casual and advanced tweaking to the OS.

    6. 0 | Reply
      glenn8878 Alpha Member #2387 - 1 month ago
      Narg Posted
       In reply to Demileto: "I would never defend a Win 32 Control Panel for future considerations.  But I would defend a seperate "System Settings" away from the "Settings" to keep the end user setup simple for the less technically inclined. "   I often felt the new Settings should be in parallel to the old Control Panel. The PC user can use Control Panel, whereas the Tablet user can use Settings. This way each approach is complete and not bifurcated and confuse the user. Unfortunately, they chose the slow death approach.
    7. 0 | Reply
      Awhispersecho Alpha Member #1649 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Demileto:
      Not sure why it is so hard for people to understand. I was not defending the control panel or anything else from before. I never once said the previous options were better or worse than the new options. I am simply making the point that for the non tech person who knows just enough to navigate the old areas, the changes that have been made have made it worse for them.
  15. -1 | Reply
    plibken Alpha Member #916 - 1 month ago

    Paul, maybe you would like to revise your statement in https://www.thurrott.com/mobile/windows-phone/81484/microsoft-discusses-limited-future-windows-10-mobile?

    "Remaining Continuum limitations: Win32/x86 apps do not work.Continuum continues to be stuck in a UWP sink hole, and of course Windows 10 Mobile only runs on ARM, so there’s no way to run the applications people really want in Continuum. The presenter didn’t address this at all during the session, but kudos to the attendee who called him on that. “We don’t support Win32 applications on [Windows phones in Continuum] today,” he responded. “I acknowledge that gap.” And then he recommended that the questioner move his LOB apps to UWP or RDP out to a data center that can deliver those applications from the cloud. In other words, they are not addressing the single biggest limitation in Continuum."