As many of you have probably already heard, (and possibly even experienced) the next version of Windows was officially released the Monday before last. The process that once left fans in anticipation for as many as three to five years at a time has now been compressed down to less than seven months. Much debate and controversy has been brought forth as to how effective this new strategy is, so I’d like to dig in and find out how well the software stacks up in the real world.
Windows is in a much stranger place than it was five years ago. We are at a point where Microsoft has so many operating systems on tap concurrently that they don’t even know which ones to support anymore. Windows 7 will outlast Windows 8’s support cycle by more than four years, despite the fact that the former is three years older. In the same way, some of the earlier products called “Windows 10” will end up being eclipsed by Windows 8.1, in another case of the newer product being
phased out before the older.
What’s new, what matters
By this point, the pattern of uncreativity is fairly obvious, with this being the sixth client operating system released by Redmond to be christened “Windows 10,” and the ninth to feature a generic numeral as its official name. It’s also unremarkably similar to its predecessor.
17134 looks almost identical to the Windows 10s that preceded it, but some of the visuals have changed. The Action Center and Start now feature those pleasant near-mouse shimmer effects, and the Metro Control Panel (“settings”) receives some similar changes. There’s still a disappointing lack of glass on the caption bars, but it is often necessary to lower one’s standards with Windows 10.
On the state of the Control Panel
The control panel situation is as disastrous as ever, with features continuing to be removed and others made obnoxiously difficult to find. Between the control panel and weird design inconsistencies, 17134 and the outgoing 16299 are shaping up to be some of the most disjointed Windows experiences that I’ve ever seen. Windows 8.1 was the last release of the operating system that really nailed consistency in this area. It’s all been downhill since then.
Even the search feature built into the Start Menu has steadily begun to “forget” various different control panel elements. This is nothing new to 17134, however. Windows 7 is the only release of the operating system that got this feature perfect. Vista and 8 feature semi-tolerable implementations, but 8.1 and every build of Windows 10 seem to have one or more serious flaws in that area.
On-Screen “Touch” Keyboard
Despite all of its shortcomings, I, like most others, will accept the barely-tested operating system. Not just because it is notoriously and aggressively pushed out through Windows Update to everyone on “inferior” versions of the platform, but also because it improves the on-screen touch keyboard, which was one of the biggest disasters of Windows 10 16299. It’s still not back to where it should be, but it is getting closer.
I still cannot forgive its inability to open automatically when selecting a text-entry area or automatically scroll a webpage so that I can see what I’m typing. The fact that one must hold down the top-row keys even longer than before to type numerals on the compact keyboard is yet another reason why it’s obvious that this is yet another victim of the horror show that is Xaml. Let’s just say I’m glad that all of my Windows 10 PCs have proper keyboards.
At the end of the day, this release appears to be the new business-as-usual for Microsoft. It is just functional enough to be tolerable, but leaves just enough things broken for customers to look forward to their next short-term beta test. On one hand, it’s fun to see new features and visuals in production. On the other hand, however, it’s obvious that Microsoft needs to slow down. It would benefit them to focus on thinking things through and testing new ideas for functionality rather than rushing to meet some arbitrary deadline.
Overall score: 7/10 [C-] (functional, but lacking)
Pros: Slight visual changes and “improvements” in the Metro environment. (very) Slight improvement to the touch keyboard. Retains all previous improvements in the area of high-density monitor/application support.
Cons: Control panel experience and visuals are more disjointed than ever. The touch keyboard still sucks something fierce.