And so this is Windows…The Good is Great, but the Bad is Ugly.

Windows 10 Hero Image

Windows 10 Is Here

I’ve held off on writing anything about my Windows 10 experience for a few weeks in order to truly test the software in daily use. I’ve read and digested about all the information out there on this, and I’ve installed it a bunch. I’ve even started up the Insider program again for new builds because so far, things are going swimmingly. So my environment looks like:

Work PC (big powerful desktop) – Windows 10 Pro domain joined
Surface Pro – Windows 10 Pro/Insider
Surface 3 – Windows 10/RTM
Dell Venue 8 Test Tablet – Windows 10/Insider
Home Guest PC (desktop) – Windows 10/Insider
Toshiba Encore Write 2 – Windows 10/RTM (yes, I upgraded even this one!)
Main Home PC (remote work, gaming, video) – Windows 8.1 Pro – Not moving

As you can see, I’ve gone all in on Windows 10 save for one machine, my main home PC. This box can’t be upgraded because I’m dependent on it being my bedroom television. It has a Ceton 6 tuner cable card setup with Windows Media Center and I use it constantly. Even when working or playing, I can have a TV window up (yeah, I like TV, so sue me!). Until I find something, anything that approaches what WMC does I just can’t move. This sucks. Maybe one of these days I’ll try Media Portal, it seems to be the closest to meeting the functionality of TV, DVR I need even though it is a nightmare of complexity.

Note to Media Portal People: If you want a HUGE increase in your user base, create a Media Portal ‘WMC Edition for Windows 10’ that installs your latest software, drivers and plugins in one easy program that replicates the functions of WMC. TV, DVR, maybe Video Library, a nice interface/skin, support for remote, and tuner drivers. Right now, it’s a build it yourself Rube Goldberg engine of insanity to even begin getting started. Seriously, it’s ‘Cones of Dunshire’ complicated. Yes, you can customize it out the wazoo–but you’d make a killing with a drop in replacement for WMC, and by that I mean CHARGE for it, wazoos be damned! I would be willing to pay. If you could make it migrate over the DVR record schedule even better. It’s open source, someone wrap this thing in a simple setup already!

Sorry, I got off track. But there’s a need out there for WMC since it’s the only thing holding a lot of people back on Windows 10.

There has also been a lot of hoopla (yes, today I’m using old-timey words) around privacy and security. Poppycock and balderdash I say! For two reasons. One, Windows 10 is a lot more secure architecturally and gives you control through privacy settings more than any other OS in common use. Two, it’s a freakin’ cloud connected OS–yes, data has to go to the cloud to use cloud features. Duh. This has been going on for years as the industry moves to cloud hosted services.

Most of the rest of the complaints I’ve seen are either completely made up for click bait headlines (you know who you are!); the tin foil hat, security paranoids who will only use Linux or old copies of OS’s that are ‘truly tested’ (although they can’t actually do anything on those machines); or the rantings of the anti-Microsoft, rain on everything parade of hipsters who just can’t admit Windows 10 is nice.

Basically Windows 10 is a good, solid upgrade to Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and on new PC’s. I’ve come to accept the nerfed edge UI’s of no-charms and no app swipe on tablets, and the hard to reach start button. If I stay mostly in apps, it’s not a huge deal, and hopefully they’ll work on those experiences. I still firmly believe there’s no reason Tablet Mode couldn’t switch to the Flip Apps edge UI and put a couple of Charms buttons back in the Action Center, but baby steps I guess.

One thing generally improved are the apps, specifically information density. Universal apps seem to be made for more productivity rather than the sparse nature of old style Metro apps. The overuse of the hamburger menu runs rampant, but I think even that will fall away after everyone realizes what a terrible UI construct it is. It doesn’t work, and there are good reads like this on why if you’re interested.

Generally though, I’m impressed with the stability and functionality of the released code with a few minor quibbles.

The Good.

Stability and compatibility – This is a no brainer. It works with everything except Windows Media Center I’ve thrown at it. Even our particularly picky line of business apps seem to work well. All the Win32 apps we’ve tried seem to function as well or better than under previous versions. This is key to business and enterprise.

Start Menu – Even though I prefer the full screen menu and live tiles, the Start Menu makes it much easier to train our people coming from Windows 7 and even Windows 8. Plus it’s nicer now with live tiles, so that’s a plus. I’ve noticed people settling down comfortably in Windows 10 far and away faster than Windows 8.x. Total win here. It’s really night and day training wise.

Faster – Machines of all hardware levels ‘feel’ snappier. Not sure how to quantify, but they do. Even on older hardware, and especially if you use the ‘keep nothing’ option as a semi clean install. Edge is a faster browser too–on the pages in actually works on, it is super slick and fast. It’s more a pre-beta kind of build quality wise, but what’s there is really impressive. Once it’s actually finished it will be the one to beat.

More Apps – It seems like there are more, better, useful apps with more coming. The Universal App platform (finally a name!) may help close the gap since Windows 10 seems popular. And with the latest numbers, Windows 10 is already past all Linux installs and about to pass OSX on the desktop. So in one month of release it’s already blowing the doors off. It looks like there are more and more apps being targeted for the universal platform. The store redesign is nice too, it finally doesn’t have that dollar store cheesy look of the old one (note to Microsoft Store people–don’t put goofy cartoon games as the ‘hero image’, it makes everything look cheap). The new panorama of real, quality apps at the top is nice, and it seems a little easier to find apps. Microsoft helped this a lot with the universal versions of Word, PowerPoint, Sway and Excel (not so fast OneNote–we’ll get to you!). They’ve shown you can do more information dense productivity applications.

Cortana – I’m a huge fan of this on the phone, having it now on the desktop and roaming with me wherever I am is fantastic. More of this everywhere please! The more intelligent and proactive Cortana becomes, the more I like her. Cortana on the desktop is great–the fact that I can sync reminders and access my notebook from any device really empowers some new things. I’d like to see Cortana integrate more into the system, with Office 365, with more customizations and feeds, but it’s already a part of my daily tools.

Desktop/Snap – so this was never big for me before, I really liked Windows 8.x snap (I know, I’m weird) but the new snap works great in Windows 10. I like the four corners type snapping, docking windows on the side, arranging better, they’ve really upped the game here. It’s easy and works well with both old and new apps.

The Bad (but when she was bad she was horrid).

Apps – So we have a bright new future in universal apps and it’s looking good. But some of the current universal apps are just awful. OneNote, my critical tool on my Surface is a disaster, the old ‘metro’ version was light years better. Palm rejection doesn’t work, they just recently added line thickness, navigation between sections and pages is a joke (or just completely unavailable when in portrait mode), and the damn keyboard pops up constantly. It’s a mess, an unforgivable craphole. It’s unusable (especially as a lefty, trying to write on a note while it jumps around between pages is impossible). And no, I don’t want to use the desktop one with a pen, it’s too ‘noisy’ in the interface. I may sound like a lunatic here because that’s how important I find OneNote, and they’ve just wrecked the experience.

Mail – Microsoft finally had a pretty good email client in Windows 8.x. They worked years on it, we had controls, sweep, newsletters, account indicators, all kinds of goodies that worked pretty well. All that’s gone, as they started over AGAIN. Constant popups to ‘Fix this account’, mail not showing up, no indicators of new mail on multiple accounts, no way out of conversation view, crashing, Exchange issues with policies constantly asking to be reapplied–it’s bad. But hey, now we can swipe to archive! Yay? Oh, but not if you’re on an account that doesn’t support it. Calendar is pretty much borked the same way I guess because deep down it’s all one thing. Mail is one of those no brainer apps you have to do well out of the gate. These app experiences add up for users as frustrations, which could taint the whole Windows 10 experience.

Business features are just missing. There’s a lot of new stuff in Win10 for businesses, but a lot of the tools are either not there at all, not done, not documented or broken. Office 365/MDM/Intune/Azure Active Director has problems. Windows Update for Business is still not here. Deployment tools not really well documented yet. Group policy settings for Windows 10 are still not very well documented or controllable. We’re not even quite sure WSUS is managing Windows 10 updates (it looks like it is, but all the Win10 machines show as Vista). No business store, that’s still all Microsoft account based. In fact, there’s still too much Microsoft Account everywhere for business PC’s–everything in those accounts should be able to be stored in Active Directory or Azure AD. There’s a lot that’s just not finished here.

The Ugly.

Windows 10 has a lot of great features, but there are a few that are just either bone-headed oversights or just bad implementations. In this case ‘the Ugly’ is not as bad as bad, it’s cosmetic or annoying. It’s ugly as in ‘that’s an ugly UX element’.

Touch UI just not that good anymore. Windows 8.1 had some great UI features for touch that turned off desktop users. But for people using it for touch, the UI worked well. Of course Microsoft threw this all away and started over. Ugh.

I’m working through these issues, but one big thing is touch targets are too small–the taskbar especially. Hitting those micro-icons is almost impossible on an 8″ tablet, and not all that great on a 10″. Sometimes touching, and touching and touching an icon or tile just doesn’t do anything. I know I touched it because the start tile may ‘pulse’ like a touch, but it takes 4 or 5 times to make it go.

The jump around to find stuff problem–so in portrait mode on the start screen I have tiles, and a Windows logo, and a hamburger menu, and a ‘slider’. I don’t know how many times I hit the All Apps hamburger instead of the slider hamburger, but it’s way too many. The symbols are too similar. And one is in the upper left, far away from my fingers, and one is tightly packed in with the power button. That whole side sliding menu needs a good once over in design. It’s a mish mash.

And finally, the tiny column issue. On a tablet, in portrait mode, the start screen is a tall column of wasted space. Seriously, make them bigger or add more, but it just looks silly. I know they’re trying to accommodate that jumbled madness of a start menu, but there must be a more elegant way to show it.

Desktop UI needs a bit of work. The sharp lines of Windows applications makes everything look cool and modern, until you try to resize a window. I don’t know how much time I’ve wasted trying to get the little double arrow to resize a window. You don’t have to make the visible borders bigger, but for the love of design, make the borders light up the double arrow on more than just a single pixel width!

Hamburgers. Okay, you tried, now follow the rest of the industry and get rid of these. Terrible (and lazy) design that doesn’t help you discover anything.

Edge–well, besides general fixes, a couple of standouts. First, you must sync favorites. You must. It’s 2015. You need to sync via MSA, Azure AD, and domain accounts. In a corporate setting it must sync via roaming profiles or active directory. It just has to. This is basic stuff. Sure, add extensions, tidy it up, give us organize favorites, and other fun stuff. But if you want corporate users, you better have those favorites right where the user expects them when they sit down.

And then there’s the single, most mind numbingly bizarre problem in Edge. To put in a URL on a new tab you have to click one to ‘light up’ the hidden address bar, then click again to actually type in it. Why why why why why? If I click there I mean to go somewhere. If I didn’t mean to go somewhere, dropping a cursor with the focus in the box harms no one. Little fit and finish items matter a lot.

OneDrive. Placeholders were really useful, you’ve got to figure out a way of bringing something like this back, it’s a pain losing that functionality.

And then the final thing (at least that I can think of right now). The 10 PC device limit. We went from 5 devices (hilariously too few) to 81 (similarly funny large amount) and then down to 10. Too few. Microsoft, if you want us ‘all in’ on your ecosystem you need to fix this. That list up top of 7 PC’s doesn’t count my phone, my two test phones, my Xbox and then anything else I might have (like extra machines at work, notebooks, etc.). It’s too few.

So, those are the complaints. Should you upgrade? Unless you’re using Windows Media Center, the answer is yes, you should. It works and works well, and I have to figure that the majority of these annoyances (and that’s what they are, petty annoyances) will be fixed. And since it’s Windows as a Service, that can happen faster than ever before. And there’s a host of new goodness in there I haven’t even had a chance to try like DirectX 12 gaming or Xbox integration. There’s a lot to like here, and for people coming from Windows 7 you almost have to upgrade–this modern OS is seriously better. For Windows 8.x users here’s how I always judge if I do like an OS. When I go back to Windows 8.1 it feels ‘old’ now. Even with my quibbles, I find little things that begin to bug me not being there. And that means I’ve switched. At least on almost every PC, and I don’t regret it one bit.

The Strategy of Retreat?

I’m confused. Honestly. I have been using Microsoft products for almost 30 years, since the earliest days of Windows/286 and the DOS version of Word and Microsoft Mail, and I’m confused. I’ve grown up with MS products most of my professional life, and have gotten quite good at navigating the intricacies and nuances of their software from server products right down into my phone and I don’t quite know what to think.

Microsoft appears, desperately not to want to become the modern era’s IBM, and thank the maker for that. But after this week I’m confused. The signals that Microsoft seems to send out is they are retreating from consumer and end user and it’s all about ‘the cloud’ and ‘mobile first’. Yeah, okay, great. But here’s the thing, the cloud is boring and mobile first is consumer driven. The cloud is IBM…it’s really just another way to say Internet or Hosted or Mainframe. It’s deadly dull. Sure it provides the services and backend for all the cool gizmos and apps people use everyday, but it is the interface to services that drives our modern world. Instagram? Facebook? Snapchat? Really, just big databases and comm services with clever indices and slick consumer front ends. The UX or user experience is what the consumer interacts with, and what becomes the product for people. Microsoft seems intent to get out of that business. Either that or they’re comically bad at communicating their intent. I really don’t know.

Wednesday’s proclamation that they’re massively downsizing and writing off Windows Phone is one huge lurch in the strategy that comes exactly at the wrong time for this. All during the Windows 8 timeframe they’ve been shaping the message of Universal Apps and running everything all the way down to a phone. Now, on the eve of the launch of this platform they scale back. On the eve of the launch. What. The. F$%#.

I love Windows phone, but I am a realist–it has a tiny marketshare. But it did provide a showcase for their vision and Windows 10 promised to perhaps move the needle a bit with things like Continuum. It might even make a cool business platform. Or for some of us that just don’t like grids of icons, an alternative to the dominant players. Why on earth would they pick NOW to announce a drastic reduction in the platform? Before they even get to test the strategy? Are we seeing Satya Nadella’s revolution purge every idea from the last regime just to get it out?

Some of the new strategy makes great sense, reduce the number of products, get a damn flagship in the market, focus on business users, stop catering to the lowest of the low smartphone market, but again, we see them throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Change for change sake. Maybe they could have put the write off of Nokia out into 2016 to let the fledgling Windows 10 OS at least try to succeed. Instead all the headlines were ‘Windows Phone is Dead’. Microsoft seems genetically incapable of controlling their message and communicating a vision.

Witness today’s announcements of Microsoft abandoning Travel, Food & Drink and Health, all their MSN extras. Not necessarily heavily used apps, but really nicely done, showing developers that Windows is a decent platform to develop on. Microsoft has dumbed down the tablet UX on Windows 10 (see, well, just about all my other posts). They’ve been waffling on services. But a new release of SQL Server? They’re all over that. Microsoft seems to pay lip service to the front end, do a little work, then bail. So, as both a back end consumer of their ‘cloud’ products, and (at least for now) a user of their consumer products, I offer a few things I think they could do to shore up the ‘mobile first’ part of that company line they love saying.

  • Make some big moves in acquisition. If you really want to be in the consumer space, you need an ecosystem. Not the weak tea we have now. Xbox Groove Music is great. Buy Spotify or Rdio and integrate in. Buy a video service. Fill out the media offerings. In every conversation lately about streaming music services, Microsoft is not even mentioned when people list out the services. Groove is really good, make it better. Push it everywhere. Same for video, go big or go home. And don’t go home, you need this to build the ecosystem. You need music, video, books, magazines, games to be in the game. If you can’t build it, buy it. Then for the love of all that’s holy don’t quit after a year. Without the ecosystem you are not a player in mobile and you’ll never be anything meaningful to a consumer. Oh, and I think you can make money there too.
  • Build or buy a small set top box and do what you were going to do in the living room. It looks like Microsoft was going to have Xbox deep into media services, then of course, chickened out and now it’s all about games! Fine. You need a living room play that’s not $400.
  • Build your own Amazon Echo but for Cortana. Set Cortana free in her own device, tie it into services. I love my Echo, but it doesn’t connect to all my services, accounts, email, reminders. I want a Cortana device detecting when I get home, reminding me of things, playing music, controlling all those Internet of Things you guys keep talking about. You have mic array and sensors from Kinect, speakers from Nokia, wireless tech and services–build it!
  • Speaking of Cortana, ramp that up big time. Integrate it everywhere. I sometimes feel Microsoft is too sensitive on the privacy front. Yes, it’s critically important, but talk to Google people on why they love Google Now. It’s creepy but they love it. We’ll love it too.
  • Keep buying up those cool apps. One great way to get on to every platform and win is to just buy the cool stuff. If Microsoft can’t do it anymore, acquire it. They’ve been on a roll lately and should definitely keep going.
  • Build more apps, not less. Those Food, Health, Travel, etc. type apps are almost best in class in the Windows store. You need to build more, not less of these. Unless and until there are stellar selections of apps in the Windows store, Microsoft must play lead developer.
  • Band is cool, it’s almost a smartwatch. Make one of those too. This market’s still nascent, and amazingly, Apple’s entry is kind of landing with a thud. Pounce on it. Do that Internet of Things thing.
  • HoloLens. yes please, more of this everywhere. Don’t listen to the whiners of field of vision, improve and iterate!
  • Promote the hell out of Continuum for Windows Phone. There is an insane amount of desire built up to simply carry a pocket device, drop it down on a pad and have your whole environment unfold around you on large screens. It seems like the pieces are finally there, now tell everyone about it.

And finally, everyone at Microsoft needs to go to YouTube and watch those Microsoft Visions of the Future videos again. Look at those displays, interfaces, services, seamless integration and devices. Notice there’s not a desktop or Start Menu to be had in any of them. Get back a sense of wonder and vision and make things cool. You’ll win consumers every time.

In Star Trek, no one ever goes and visits the Enterprise’s server room and wonders at the amazing future of the cloud. It’s all about how you connect to the user, and the Android app for Word isn’t going to wow ’em in the modern mobile world.

So here we are…

While not having published anything in a little while, I have been seriously testing Windows 10 in all it’s various forms over the past six weeks or so. As anyone reading this blog knows, I’m on the fence about Windows 10 because of the various compromises in what I think were useful features in Windows 8.x, but pretty enthusiastic about it on the desktop.

It’s pretty much the eve of RTM, any day now Microsoft will sign off on the first shipping version of Windows 10, if that actually means anything in the ‘Windows as a Service’ world. The current build is 10166 for insiders. Has anything improved for the tablet user? A little, but not really enough.

The good news is that as the builds get closer to RTM, the stability has gone way up, so much so that I moved my work desktop to it a few builds back. I also have it on a home ‘guest pc’ desktop that’s an older unit, a touch based notebook, and on a Dell Venue Pro 8 which I use for tablet testing of the UI. The two desktop machines are now running perfectly. Seriously, no lie. Issues from the past seem to be gone, it’s fast (even on the old PC). Driver issues are gone, all our weird line of business apps work, even login to a domain is working faster now. I even slapped on a cheap fingerprint reader on my work PC to test Windows Hello! (that still seems like a Seinfeld joke to me). Smooth as silk. I love it on the desktop.

Let me say that again, I love it on the desktop. Got a desktop? Do the upgrade. Unless you have Media Center, then well, I feel you. I have one PC that won’t make the leap because it’s just too valuable as a TV. But everyone else? Do it!

The not so good news is that on a tablet, Microsoft seems to have conceded the market. It’s a tablet in form only. There is a taskbar that takes up space, clutters the interface, and has icons to small for anyone but my four year old niece can use. There’s the ‘what I consider broken’ task switcher, that makes it impossible to flip through applications like Windows 8.x. There is the Action/Notification thing that replaces Charms but provides no Windows button or has icons you can access with thumbs, and just accumulates status of new mail (I have yet to see a notification that wouldn’t have been better receiving another way). There are the new ‘universal’ apps that basically look like Android. And that’s the thing, Windows tablet mode is basically Android. I can’t hold the device on the sides and use it like before. Everything requires two hands, icons are small (too thin to see in some cases), washed out with too much white titlebar, and no attention to detail.

Is it a disaster?

No, it’s meh. Like Android. It’s dishwater dull. It’s not designed anymore, it’s whatever your app slaps on the interface and run. There’s no edge UI of any consequence (that used to be useful, now it’s just clunky). Everything tablet has been deprecated in favor of the desktop. That’s Microsoft basically throwing in the towel and giving up to the iPad (which, low and behold now has flip switching and snap multitasking like Windows used to).

Desktop great. Tablet meh.

Desktop great. Tablet meh.

Apple and Android are picking over the dead carcass of good ideas Microsoft had and incorporating them into their platform while Microsoft is busy adding a freaking taskbar to a tablet.

But is it good enough? Yeah, it’s okay. A solid 5 out of ten. Woot. And since all the new apps that will now flood onto the platform because it has a taskbar and start menu (yes I’m being facetious) well, I have to have something that will run them. So my strategy is to give it a go on one Surface Pro and see if I can stand it. The Dell might be too small and tainting my opinion. I’ll see if I can adjust, or at least not trash it all and buy an iPad. If that works I might use it on my brand new Surface 3 or even my beloved Toshiba Encore 2 Write. But only maybe. Now it depends on apps more than anything.

On Windows 8.x it was the experience of the OS, the fluidity, the ease of use, and cool factor that made me love the devices (and put up with the distinct lack of applications). It made me willing to embrace third party apps, pin websites, and do without some basic things other platforms had. It made me get my XBOX Music pass (which I love and never would have had before). It made me buy an Xbox One. It reaffirmed my love for Windows Phone. I was ‘all in’. Now all bets are off–they’ve taken away all the things I liked and made Windows a me-too tablet/desktop thing that’s middling at best (but again, simply GREAT on a desktop). Now it IS the apps that will make a difference, those will have to carry the value of Windows devices where Windows used to. Now I have a critical eye. Now there are no excuses.

Microsoft has turned this total fan into a much more on the fence guy. But that’s another post coming soon :-).

Windows 10 is Not a Tablet OS, and I don’t think it’s going to be…

So with the new build of Windows 10 now humming along nicely on a few machines, it looks like Windows 10 is indeed heading for a late July-ish ‘RTM’ the rumors have all been pointing to (well, the rumors and the AMD CEO all but saying it outright). And I do have to say, Windows 10 is a significant achievement in the advancement of Windows as a platform. The desktop experience is getting really nice for those that couldn’t or wouldn’t make the jump to Windows 8; performance even in the beta is really good; Edge is shaping up to be a great browser; and tons of other nice features like Cortana, Hello, etc.

It’s just not a tablet OS. At all. Enable ‘Tablet Mode’ and drop into a confusing mish mash of inconsistent behavior, no standard controls and limited navigation.

And now, sadly, I feel it’s far too late to fix, change or rescue. The tablet experience is a mess, and I don’t hold much hope at this point.

  • Charms – yes, yes, everyone hated Charms. But you know what? They made getting to context sensitive settings, share and the Start Screen simple. Now we have an almost useless notification center with dumbed down controls and no in place settings. Here’s the choice–see the avalanche of useless notifications I missed (which I could see on live tiles or by *gasp* opening the program. The notifications are no where near as helpful as having actual controls on the swipe edge. Now you have to hunt around for settings, share, etc. completely at the whim of the app developer. And even Microsoft is not putting any of this in consistent places. It was always ‘swipe-share-program’ and done. Now good luck even finding it. I think the removal of the Charms started a domino effect of problems on where to stash all of this functionality. I think the design goal for Windows 10 was: “see! we killed the Charms bar! now will you love us?”, but they didn’t actually think it through.
  • Task switch and snap – You’d think with all the begging on the insider forums they’d at least make it an option to flip through programs from the left edge swipe, but no. You get a desktop focused ‘pick a window’. Dumb. Also, snap in tablet mode? After using this for days and thinking it just didn’t exist, I accidentally pulled a program down and it made room (with the ugly ‘pick a program’ interface) for the other snap item. This was completely accidental. How is this more discoverable that swiping in from left? Swiping down from top is that much better? No. Just no. Snap and task switch are so fundamentally broken and poorly implemented it will keep me from upgrading on my tablets. Windows 10 looks like a great way to ruin a Surface.
  • Color and contrast, or rather the lack thereof. Everything is this awful, washed out white that Microsoft seemed to start loving in Office 2013. The ultimate expression of this is the new Edge browser (which besides the UX is great and the right idea). There’s no visual cue for title bar or address bar, its just a big white mess with almost invisible lines and hints. The icons are the new anorexic ‘waif like’ arrows and x’s and there doesn’t appear to be any reason for this. Plus on the tablet, the controls are all at the top. Great. Unreachable. And the interface is always on display rather than tucking away like in the metro app. Between the toolbar, the address bar, the favorites and command area, there’s a tiny swath of space for content on an 8″ tablet. After playing with Edge for a while, going back to the metro version of IE on Windows 8.1 was a joy–it’s designed for the tablet. Everything within reach and pretty decent speed. The difference in performance with Edge is no where near worth the level of frustration with the interface.
  • Start Screen – Actually I’ll give on this one, for what it is, the Start Screen is finally not too bad in the current build. I still prefer the old ‘all apps’ screen to the hard to navigate vertical list under the dreaded hamburger menu, but it’s not too bad, looks much better and workable. If this was the only thing, I’d be looking forward to Windows 10 and this would be a minor ‘just get used to it’ thing.
  • General – The whole experience is distracting and ‘busy’ like a desktop (where its actually okay and welcome). On a tablet, you need the content–controls should be out of the way. What Microsoft seems to have done is rather than slide things off screen gracefully, they just made everything thin and white in the interface and hopes you don’t notice it too much. It’s kind of poor design, something that really surprises me this time.
  • Taskbar – Well if you’re going to force the taskbar onto the screen even for tablet mode, you should at least have the decency to try it on an 8″ screen and realize the buttons are all too small. A taskbar should not be on a tablet, but I guess we have to solve the problem of no charms and no way back to start.
  • Windows Phone – Just can’t even. It’s terrible, but at least they’re taking more time on it. The wrecked UI of Windows 10 tablet mode probably has a lot to do with just how bad and unusable Windows 10 Mobile is at this point.

So where does that leave everything? Windows 10 in business, on desktops and game PC’s (the traditional PC market) should go to Windows 10 and go quick. It’s great, fast, even stable-ish at this point. This is what I envision Microsoft would have done as Windows 7.5. It’s the best evolution of the desktop we could want, with a nice new programming model, store, new apps and support for modern PC’s and notebooks. I think even business customers will appreciate it and not have too much trouble with the learning curve. But it is not an OS for a tablet. Not even close. That stuff is gone.

This may be the very first version of Windows I don’t upgrade to on all my devices. I already have to stay on 8.1 for my bedroom PC as it acts as the TV/DVR for that room, and they’ve ditched even allowing Media Center to run on 10. I have a lot of tablets (6 currently) and just one is testing Windows 10. I know I’m a strange case–but I leave tablets all over the place, just picking up the nearest one and get right to work or play–everything is cloud hosted and synced, so it really doesn’t matter except for size and if I need a pen (SP2 or Toshiba). And I think for the tablets, I’m going to forgo Windows 10, at least until the apps I want make it impossible to avoid. The UX is so poor on that form factor that it really ruins the experience.

I’ll leave you with this experiment to do. Pick up an iPad. Play with it, see if you understand the UX. Now pick up an Android tablet (a modern, decent one like a Samsung). Same thing, play with it. Now pick up a tablet mode Windows 10 device. It’s just not a good experience (Windows 8.x was leaps and bounds better here). Touch targets are too small, contrast/color is washed out, interface is cluttered, desktop shows up sometimes, nothing seems ‘designed’. Now pick up a Windows 8.1 device. While you might have to learn a couple of edge gestures, the thing is smooth, clear, uses the available screen real estate well, and just ‘feels’ like a tablet OS–that’s what initially people didn’t like about it. It was too tablet-y.

Now with Windows 10 they’ve apparently righted that wrong and given everyone the Windows 7.5 they deserved and wanted.

Microsoft Giving Up on Tablets? Why Do Edge UI Gestures Fire Off Desktop Actions?

Okay, maybe that title is a little hyperbolic. I mean, Microsoft has been promoting the living daylights out of tablets. Creating zero dollar licenses for OEM’s, pouring tons of money into apps and developers, rewriting their app model, even building their own computers. Microsoft seems to see Windows 10 as a viable platform for Microsoft services on tablets. But I don’t believe them.

Windows 8.x was not well received because apparently the interface was not ‘discoverable’. You know, like how 3 and 4 finger gestures on trackpads and iPads as so discoverable. Like single vs. double clicking is discoverable. Like how right clicking is discoverable (yes I’m being sarcastic). Interfaces are learned, not discovered. Some features are more obvious than others, some you actually need to learn. Even to this day, with the almighty taskbar, I see users double click the icons to launch programs there and wonder why they get two copies.

“Why do we single click on the taskbar, but double click to launch on the desktop and file manager?”

Because we learned to do it. Or in some cases never did. Why is it different? Is that ‘discoverable’?

The price we’re paying to the desktop in Windows 10 is too high

Windows 8.x really through a wrench into people’s daily use of Windows because of the sheer volume of changes. Slowly but surely, once we were up to Windows 8.1 Update, things were a lot better. Don’t like the Start screen or metro applications? Turn it off. Work in the desktop. You basically encounter the new environment only occasionally. And I’m sorry about the Start Menu, but if you were still using that instead of pinning programs to your taskbar, well, maybe it was time to join the modern era, but whatever.

Windows 10, aiming to right the wrongs of its predecessor, puts back all the desktop goodness and really does a great job of appeasing the critics–it will never get them all, since Microsoft is not Apple. But in their zeal, they’ve completely destroyed the Windows tablet experience. An 8″ tablet should not be a little desktop. And that’s what it is now. Things that were all designed around where your hands are and fingers reach (that were studied in great detail by Microsoft for Windows 8) are thrown out.

There is no touch-UI to speak of anymore.

Sure you can touch it, but it’s not designed around it in any way. Touch targets are either nonexistent, hard to reach, or impossibly tiny (seriously, the taskbar on an 8″ tablet and you want me to hit the show more icons button?). Even the Start Menu, the entire left hand side of icons is really hard to hit in addition to just being ugly.

The edge-UI is ruined. What used to enable quickly flipping through applications now is a virtual desktop manager. No one handed use for switching, no quick access to the Windows button or settings or networks or sharing. This was all right at your thumbs and simple. Now you hunt around the app for this. And the Start button is now firmly placed in the ugly, ever present, ‘too tiny to work with’ taskbar–and to reach it requires a weird painful thumb bend.

And that sums up what’s wrong here–Windows 10 doesn’t need to do this. Every touch action turns out to be a weird painful bend. There’s even a special mode for touch that basically just makes things full screen, but everything is still desktop focused. Why not really have a touch friendly mode. In current builds, touch gestures like edge swipes that are only ever activated via touch launch desktop features. Swipe in from the side, things should be on the side and reachable. But they’re not. They pop up full apps in the middle of the screen. The notification center could have a button or two maybe for Windows and Share. The Start Menu could have just the tiles rather than the impossible small list of icons. The taskbar could be hidden–that god-awful, ugly, taskbar does not belong in a touch UI.

Is this really supposed to compete with Android and iPad?

If you look at Android tablets or iPads their touch UI is a touch UI. If Microsoft intends to compete here, it can’t have this patchwork desktop crammed into a tablet. It was really onto something with it’s touch interface in Win 8 if you took any time at all to learn it. Just like every other OS. Microsoft could very well have ‘evolved’ both. Continuum should really switch modes and support the tablet with a real touch UI. Holding a Windows 10 tablet and trying to use it is an exercise in frustration.

Don’t get me wrong, Windows 10 is fantastic on desktops and traditional notebooks, in almost every way. But when Windows continuums its way into tablet mode, it needs to really act like it. My experience with it on both an 8″ and 10″ device in tablet mode has been awful, they are now useless as tablets. What were once elegant devices are now kludgy desktops with no keyboards. On my main PC however it’s been great–solving a lot of outstanding wants (plus is fast as hell and has shown to be compatible even with our very vertical company software). But in it’s present form Windows 10 will never grace the screen of my (perfect) Encore Write 2. It would be a painful step backwards in productivity and elegance.

There is room enough for both here. And maybe there will be improvement–but now that it’s slated for a summer release, time is ticking down to fix these things. And to a lot of the people that say this is just how it is, I’m wondering when was the last time you really used a Windows 8.x tablet to it’s full potential. You’re getting your way with desktop in Windows 10, let us have the good experience with tablet mode. If Windows 10 in tablet mode is Microsoft idea of a competitive product with the likes of the iPad they’ve already given up. And just wait until Apple ‘invents’ the edge UI on something like an iPad Pro–and we can all remember when ours used to be cool too.

But did I still order the Windows Ninja Cat riding a fire breathing unicorn? You bet the hell I did. High hopes remain!