Review: 5 Ways Windows 10 Fixes Annoyances in Predecessor

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

New era for Microsoft as Windows 10 is rolled out.

NEW YORK (AP) — It took me just a weekend to get comfortable with Microsoft’s new Windows 10 operating system, something I never did with its predecessor, Windows 8, even after nearly three years. The new software is the first to work across all Windows-powered devices, from smartphones to tablets and desktop computers, as well as Microsoft’s Xbox One games console. Following a hostile reception to Windows 8 in 2012, which was only placated in small part by the Windows 8.1 update in 2013, Microsoft is hoping that Windows 10 can help it regain favour among its 1.5billion daily users.

Microsoft is also introducing a new web browser — Edge — to replace Internet Explorer, while the firm’s voice assistant Cortana will also move to desktop computers for the first time. 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. With Windows 10, out Wednesday, Microsoft is rolling out a whole new batch of features — some long overdue, others truly innovative, and several that haven’t made it to Apple’s desktops just yet.

One of the things that people hated about Windows 8 was the feeling that they were constantly being pushed to use “live tiles”, which were designed for touch-based computing, even when they were using a traditional desktop set-up with a keyboard and mouse. Millions of PC users are able to upgrade for free as Microsoft is making the update available at no extra cost to those who are already using Windows 7 or 8, though this offer expires next year.

Windows users who have registered their interest will be notified once Windows 10 becomes available to them, with the roll out beginning this morning, and set to be staggered over the coming days. 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. This was replaced in Windows 8.1 with a Start button in the bottom left hand corner of the screen, but rather than opening up a navigation menu, it launched the tile-based touch user interface that most people were trying to escape.

A feature called Continuum means that the software automatically detects whether there is a keyboard attached to the device and selects the most appropriate mode. There are still separate desktop and tablet modes, but you largely stick with one or the other depending on whether you have a keyboard. (Microsoft skipped Windows 9, by the way, as though to distance itself from Windows 8 and its criticisms.) Apps for Windows 8 were designed to take up the full screen, just like tablets. The company has killed off of Windows Media Center – its software for recording and playing TV, music and video – and replaced it with modified versions of Xbox Music and Xbox Video, which have been renamed as ‘Groove’ and ‘Movies & TV’ respectively. Although you could split the screen, apps could be placed only side by side, not top to bottom, as you’d probably want when having email and streaming video open at once. More importantly, clicking on a live tile does not result in you being transported to another virtual universe where the app takes over your entire screen and it feels impossible to escape, as it did in Windows 8.

The seamless switch from tablet to desktop suddenly makes those 2-in-1 tablet PCs — like Microsoft’s own Surface lineup — a far more enticing proposition. “These are form factors that don’t exist in the Apple ecosystem,” says Forrester principal analyst J.P. This lets users can start watching a video or listening to a playlist on one Windows 10 device, and then pick up where they left off on another device. Gownder. “Apple has the sleek design, but they don’t have the diversity.” The Windows Stores lists more than 80 varieties of PCs, laptops and tablets, versus seven at the Apple Store.

Now that Microsoft is expanding its retail footprint with more than 100 stores across the country, it has a better shot at guiding shoppers to a device that uniquely suits their needs. Windows 10 also comes with Microsoft’s virtual personal assistant, Cortana, which pops up with notifications and suggestions, and learns the user’s preferences over time. They blend much more into the wider user experience in desktop mode, and if you really can’t stand the sight of them in your Start menu, you can unpin them all, and you will be left with just the list menu on the left hand side. So if you’re working on an Office Word document at your desk and then have to go and catch a train, you can switch to tablet mode and carry on working on the same document in touchscreen mode as soon as you get a seat.

Given that Windows 7 is now six years old, it inevitably feels a bit clunky, but it is really noticable that programs starts faster and run faster in Windows 10, and the whole system feels more slick. It feels more like the Google Chrome browser, with a light, stripped-back user interface and a simple set of tools along the top, under the search bar. For example, “favourites” lets you bookmark a page and cache it for reading offline, “web note” lets you annotate live pages and then save a screenshot of the page, and “share page” lets you send a link to friends via email or social network. In order to run Windows 10, users need a PC or tablet with a 1GHz processor or faster, 1GB of RAM and 16GB hard disk space for 32-bit machines or 2GB and 16GB for 64-bit machines, a DirectX 9 or later graphics card with a WDDM 1.0 driver and an 800 x 600 display or better.

You get some functional improvements, such as a virtual marker to draw arrows or circle an entry on a Web page to share over email, Facebook and other means. Read mode is also great for people who like to read long articles online, allowing you to strip out all the ads, and sidebars, pop-ups and links, and scroll through a single column of text and pictures.

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. Cortana’s “Notebook,” modeled after the notebooks kept by real life assistants, shows if Cortana thinks the user has a penchant for certain kinds of news, cuisines or apps.

It is thought that the rollout of Windows 10 will break internet traffic records, and could result in some problems with network performance over the next week. Microsoft has reportedly reserved up to 40Tbps (terabits per second) of capacity, in an attempt to ensure it runs smoothly. “Around the world, millions and millions of people have registered for the upgrade, so we need to do this in a responsible way using the bandwidth of the internet,” said Michel van der Bel, Microsoft UK CEO. “At the same time of course, we need to be sure that people get bits in the right order and get a great experience. Some websites, including those from Google, aren’t as smooth on Edge as they are on other browsers, but the problem might be limited to Microsoft’s Surface tablets. Microsoft said that is was keen to see how the PC rollout goes before embarking on the next phase, but some analysts have expressed concern. “While it will win a growing share of enterprise tablet purchases, the plans for Windows 10 don’t show enough potential to create a differentiated mobile experience that will draw developers and customers away from iOS and Android.”

— An Action Center offers quick access to settings such as Wi-Fi, brightness and “quiet hours” — a way to suspend notifications and sounds if, say, you’re giving a presentation. If you give her access to your email and calendar clients, for example, she can start to act more like a real personal assistant, extracting relevant information and proactively offering information.

Because you might feel awkward talking to your computer, you have the option of typing in commands, such as “Remind me to get milk.” Cortana is integrated with the Edge browser, too. Copies were grabbed from the Internet only when you needed them, which meant files weren’t always available when using laptops on the go, away from Wi-Fi. As with any upgrades, make sure your favorite apps and accessories will work, as it might take time for outside developers and manufacturers to catch up. With permission, Cortana learns about you based on what you search, plus information that passes through Windows 10s Mail and Calendar applications. (You can edit some, but not all, of what Cortana knows about you in her Notebook.) When you tap on her circular icon next to the Start button, Cortana presents a digest of news and events she thinks you’d like to know about.

These days, technology should be intuitive enough that you can just pick it up and use it without any instructions or guidance, and Windows 10 just about achieves that, which – given the carcrash that was Windows 8 – is high praise indeed. 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.

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. 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.

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