Microsoft makes amends for past mistakes with Windows 10

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

How to schedule when Windows 10 updates restart your PC.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system should start hitting U.S. computers on Wednesday, marking one of the biggest launches in the company’s history. A few years after what could charitably be called a disastrous launch for Windows 8, Microsoft needs the new system to move forward while also making amends. But in this new model, the steering wheel is in the back seat. “That’s the future!” says the salesman, rattling off a list of reasons it’s better to steer from the rear. Windows 10 fixes many of those mistakes but still manages to incorporate enough new touches to plot a clear course to the more mobile, touchscreen-based future.

That makes the best of Microsoft’s uniquely tricky position: It needs to design a system that appeases modern consumers who want changes and upgrades quickly, while still pleasing its business users who tend to be a bit more conservative when it comes to new systems. In a desperate plea for relevance in a smartphone and tablet world, Windows 8 presented radical ideas about operating computers with fingers and pens instead of mice and keyboards. Microsoft took the bold — and ultimately wrong — step of wiping this familiar feature out of existence in Windows 8 in favor of a full-screen grid of apps designed to be touchscreen friendly. But users are able to look at all of their programs, access the settings menu and pin things to the Start Menu or task bar — just as they were able to in older versions of Windows.

Windows Update’s Advanced options make the OS notify you in order to schedule a restart. (Note: the “Defer upgrades” option does not exist in Windows 10 Home) Now, hit the back button in the upper left corner of the Settings app to return to the previous screen. I can say this: In the week or so I spent with the system on a Surface Pro 3 provided by Microsoft for review, I wasn’t tempted to download other browsers. With Windows 10, Microsoft is switching to the concept of “Windows as a service.” Under this model, the OS is never “done.” Instead it will continually receive feature updates, as well as Microsoft’s usual security patches.

It’s the type of feature that you may not have known you wanted, but could get very useful over time if you want to quickly draw someone’s attention to a particular portion of a Web page. These days we’re spending more of our time on smartphones and Web browsers, and it’s Microsoft’s burden to keep evolving Windows to stay relevant to that reality. Microsoft has put its voice assistant, Cortana, into the core of Windows 10, offering a glimpse of what its more service-based release of Windows could look like in the future.

There is a power user utility to manually block specific updates if they mess up your system, and you can get around silently downloaded updates if you’re on a metered connection. You can drag any window to a screen edge to snap it to half of your screen, and then the OS helpfully displays all of your other windows in an array for the other half. Cortana — if you use her — is constantly updating you on your schedule and serving up news and other information based on your own preferences and other Microsoft services you use.

That may not be much of a change for most of you, as Windows 7 and 8.1 both have automatic update features that silently download and install changes in the background. The software can also let you know if there’s traffic on the way to your next meeting or set reminders based on the time, your location or even specific people. Cortana has the potential to become very useful: Microsoft even talked to real-life personal assistants as it designed Cortana to figure out the best way to pull up relevant information.

Microsoft claims the vast majority of its users have never used Alt+Tab to switch apps (one of those “weird but true” things about computers), so the idea is to help those users get better at multitasking. There are enough new features to tempt you even if you aren’t that into the fancy voice-controlled stuff, such as better search features and an overall better browser. Microsoft has said that this is essentially the “last Windows,” in the sense that from Windows 10 on, the tech giant will be releasing smaller upgrades more often — something Apple already does — to keep its system fresher for longer.

I tap on Cortana’s icon in the task bar occasionally to see this overview, and all the data is displayed in sections that resemble Google’s Now cards. It’s familiar enough so that most people will probably feel comfortable upgrading, with a sprinkling of new user-centric features that shows Microsoft’s eyes are on the future.

It’s also cloud powered, meaning you can download Cortana for Android (or iOS in the future) and get the same features there, all synced up with your laptop. Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella has been clear that it’s not enough for the company to get people using its products, it also wants them to enjoy using them. So if you ask Cortana to remind you to buy some milk from a local grocery store, that reminder will sync to your phone and activate as soon as you’re near the grocery store.

Windows 10 has clearly been designed with that thought in mind — whether it’s enough to convince people to love their Windows PCs remains to be seen. Having a single interface for virtual assistant searches, web searches, and traditional computer searches is a super convenient and powerful thing, and Microsoft has done a really great job of integrating it here.

Microsoft says Windows 10 should run on most computers, programs and peripherals that were compatible with Windows 7, but it doesn’t promise everything will work. For the first time, every Windows PC will have Microsoft’s own antivirus called Windows Defender turned on. (On Windows 8, some manufacturers deactivated Defender.) And the new Edge browser screens for phishing sites that would steal your personal information. It still feels like there’s some work to be done on occasions, and I’ve run into situations where pages just don’t render well at all or sites ask me to use Internet Explorer. The most impressive new protection, called Windows Hello, is straight out of “Mission: Impossible.” It replaces passwords with your face, your eyeball or your fingerprint.

Changing the default search experience is stressful, with a requirement to visit Google itself and then access a feature buried so deep in the settings menus that it feels like Microsoft really doesn’t want you moving away from Bing. And Cortana is not helpful enough to get me to ditch Google for Bing. (There are Android and iPhone Cortana apps coming.) Strangely, Windows 10 doesn’t even have a special relationship with Microsoft’s own Office suite, a core product for millions. My Outlook calendar can’t show up in my Start Menu live tiles. (Office 2016, which comes out this fall, may address some of these issues.) Perhaps the best thing about Windows 10 is Microsoft’s tacit acknowledgment that it still has much work to do. You’ll also need to add your Google accounts here to get the Cortana integration across Windows 10 to work, it won’t just fetch information over the web.

I’m sure they’ll be enough for most people who don’t require the full power of Office desktop apps, and the best feature is that they’re free for devices with a 10.1-inch screen or smaller. The goal, eventually, is that developers will write a single app and it will run on your Windows PC, tablet, phone, Xbox One, and the upcoming HoloLens headset. I don’t own every PC configuration out there, but as I look at others expressing frustration over these odd issues on Twitter, it’s clear I’m not alone.

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