I’ve said this before, and I will reiterate it now. Windows 8, in general, is not perceived in a positive light. Not necessarily because of the lack of features, or even due to the touch first interface, but because from the start people did not buy into the paradigm. We can argue over why that was, and the specifics are likely different for every individual. But a big part of that was that Windows, which has had a familiar interface since Windows 95, had changed dramatically in look, feel, and general use. The traditional mouse and keyboard PC and notebook is a big part of the Windows user base, and especially at the beginning, Windows 8 did not cater to that crowd. While there were certainly improvements to the desktop, it was not enough to overcome the negative feelings of many users in regards to being productive on their PC. I say this as a fan of Windows 8.1, and I say this despite the positive review from this site. Windows 8 was an OS that worked, but had a steep learning curve that many people did not want to bother learning.

One of the biggest issues facing Windows 8 was just how much people liked Windows 7. Windows 7 was seen as the savior to Vista, and fixed many of its issues. But a lot of the initial problems with Vista were due to a major change in the driver model as well as the security model, which caused a lot of compatibility issues with older programs which expected administrator rights, as well as many hardware devices needed driver updates. With Windows 7, all of those changes were in the rear view mirror, allowing 7 to be a tweak of the overall UI and functionality rather than a rebuild of the OS from the ground up. With Windows 8, the move to touch first caused another dramatic upheaval. This time, rather than incompatible programs and hardware, we got a new Start Screen, a new runtime in WinRT, and a new app model with the Windows Store. For reasons that will never be made clear, the familiar start button was even removed, with the designers relying on hidden functions such as the hot corners to navigate around the OS with a mouse and keyboard. Luckily this change was reversed for Windows 8.1, with the start button returning, even if it still opened the Start Screen. With the Windows 8.1 Update, the system was made much more usable for a mouse and keyboard with the return of the menu bar to close apps, rather than dragging them down off the screen, and several other changes as well which brought the balance back somewhat to cover both touch interfaces as well as the mouse and keyboard.

Windows 8 at launch in October 2012

With Windows 8, Microsoft tried out an operating system which would work with a single interface across a breadth of hardware, from small form factor tablets, up to 30” monitor desktops. While they certainly succeeded in creating an interface that worked across all of those platforms, it was not ideally suited to any of them. With the tablet mode, the new Start Screen worked very well, and the charms menu and app switcher were fairly easy to use. But many of the settings and programs would be on the desktop, where touch only worked sparingly. Some desktop applications, such as Office, were created with a touch mode to increase the size of the onscreen elements, but overall the experience was subpar. Similarly, on the desktop, the touch interfaces were not ideal, and the hot corners certainly had issues especially on multi-monitor systems.

Windows 10 Technical Preview at launch

But now we come to Windows 10. Windows 10 is ditching the “One Interface to Rule them All” mentality, and moving to a more user friendly model of a single store across all platforms, and multiple interfaces to the same OS depending on the current usage model. We have not seen all of this in practice as of yet in the Technical Preview, but Microsoft has demonstrated their solution to this change in input mode with a feature they are calling Continuum.

The goal is that those that are on a keyboard and mouse based system will have the traditional start menu and desktop, with apps in windows, but if you are on a touch based device, or if you go on a 2-in-1 from keyboard to touch, the system will switch to the Windows 8 style start screen with full screen apps.

One of the keys to having this experience is an app model that allows a developer to target this different user interface paradigms. Microsoft’s solution to this is Universal Apps.

Universal Apps and the Windows Store


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  • mga318 - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link


    Well, if you've ever used Windows Update, they've had root access for a long...long time.
  • alacard - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    Windows update has always been optional, what we're discussing most likely won't be. For Christ sake, read the thread before you comment. Reply
  • domboy - Friday, November 14, 2014 - link

    "Auto-updating has it's risks." It sure does, and that is the biggest reservation I have with the store model regardless of operating system. I have no problem with the idea of a central software repository or package management system since various Linux distributions have used these for years. But these mobile OS (and now Windows) store systems are very in-flexible. My biggest gripe is there is no way to control versions or roll back a bad or unwanted update. Right now the best we have is to turn off auto-update and rely on somebody else to try it first and hope they post somewhere if they have a bad experience. Reply
  • piiman - Saturday, November 15, 2014 - link

    "roll back a bad or unwanted update"
    System Restore ring any bells?
  • Haravikk - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    I'm finding Windows 10 to be pretty good, in fact I'm using it as my main Windows version at the moment in spite of the risks (though my main OS is still Mac OS X so it's not a huge risk).

    It's definitely a lot more usable than Windows 8, but it does still have a way to go to really fix the desktop experience; most searches return results in Metro apps rather than desktop apps, regardless of which mode you're currently in, which is incredibly annoying. The search app is Metro only, which is weird, as all it does is spit out Bing search results with no apparently added value, so it might as well just send you to a web-browser. This is hopefully something that will be addressed during development.

    I'm also a bit annoyed at the Windows Live account integration though; OneDrive is only available if you create a Microsoft account, but that means using the same password for your online account and your local machine, which IMO is insecure as it means I have a web-account with a weaker password just so I can remember it, rather than being able to set different passwords (or use a password manager). If you instead use a local account you can't use OneDrive, and you have to sign in to every single Microsoft service (e-mail, calendar, photos etc.) which is a huge pain in the ass compared to OS X's internet accounts system where you sign in once and interested apps can just request access.

    Otherwise it takes the great technologies of Windows 8 and makes them a lot more useable, which is great; the live tiles on the start menu are a wonderful feature, rather than an impediment like the start screen on a desktop (it's admittedly great on a tablet).

    At the same time though it just doesn't go far enough; there is still so much in Windows that is archaic and sorely in need of replacement. Things like tools from the Manage menu that looks fresh out of Windows 95 (and probably are), accessing settings is still a nightmare as they could be absolutely anywhere, with the control panels app still being a bit of a pain to use (at least search gets you where you need to be quickly some of the time). Windows 10's interface is really just veneer on very old, rotten wood; it's a nice veneer, but under the surface you can very quickly get mired in complex nonsense the moment you run into a driver problem, try to configure network connections etc. So it's not like this new interface is really a sea change in usability for Windows, it just makes Windows 8 more palatable to Windows 7 users.
  • darthrevan13 - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    Last time I checked Google did the same thing with their services (one password to rule them all) and nobody complained that it was insecure or even a problem for them. Besides, how else would you want to use OneDrive if you don't have a MS account?

    If you choose a MS account on Windows then it will automatically log you in all your MS services in IE only so I don't understand why you need to bash Win saying that OS X does it better, it's the stuff if you ask me.
  • wallysb01 - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    Its a little different when that “one password to rule them all” also has administrative privileges on your computer, than just having a lot of random web services tied to it. Reply
  • Haravikk - Friday, November 14, 2014 - link

    I don't think I've explained it very well. Basically when you create an account in Windows 10 (and probably Windows 8, I don't know) you can create either a local account, or a "Microsoft Account". The former is just a classic account with its own password, while the latter requires you to use your Live.com login details, so it uses the same password. I just don't like it however, because I like nice, long (usually randomly generated) passwords for web-services, which of course is impossible to use with a Microsoft account, so it would force me to use something simple instead which I consider insecure.

    However, if you can only use OneDrive with a Microsoft Account, it won't let you sign in on a local account. You can sign in to mail, contacts etc. with a local account, but not OneDrive? They're basically forcing you to use an online account, which prevents me from using a strong password for the web-service side, and an easy to remember one for my actual user account, it's a pretty poor way to do it.

    My other gripe was that if you want to use a local account, but still use your Live.com details to set up e-mail, calendars etc. then you have to enter the same details in each app, there's no way to just connect your Live.com to a local account so that apps can use it (or ask to use it).

    In OS X you can setup a local user account, you can connect it to your Apple ID for recovery purposes, and you can also go into the internet accounts section and add your Apple ID as an iCloud account to enable all the various features it gives (iCloud Drive, calendar, e-mail etc.), which automatically configures all the relevant apps for, and lets third-party apps request the same details if they want them.

    Basically Windows 10 (and possibly 8) force you to use your Live.com as login details for your computer if you want to get the most use out of it, and even blocks features (like OneDrive) if you don't. Meanwhile everything else is a pain in the ass to setup on the local account.

    I'm not simply bashing Windows because I prefer how OS X does it, the way Windows does it is simply horrible; rather than giving the user flexibility, it forces you into one of two choices with their own drawbacks, rather than there being any best of both, even though they could easily give us one. In fact it's a regression from Windows 7, where you can setup a local account and link your Live.com account to it fairly easily.

    Don't get me wrong, for some people using a Microsoft Account may be a great way to do things as it's simple, and involves no extra passwords, but I just don't think it's very secure, and I don't like that because I choose not to use it I'm not only losing features I had in Windows 7, but am also having to work harder to set everything up than I had under Windows 7. It's a huge step back.
  • asmian - Saturday, November 15, 2014 - link

    "for some people using a Microsoft Account may be a great way to do things as it's simple, and involves no extra passwords, but I just don't think it's very secure"

    Ain't that the truth. Microsoft mail? Might just as well add an explicit CC to the NSA on everything, since we know they have complete back-door access to all MS's servers. Cloud or mail, if you have any wish for privacy this just isn't an option.

    It'd be great if someone could write an app, like the old XP-Antispy, with a complete set of options in one place to reliably turn off all the MS account features and hidden privacy-leaking options.
  • attilakocsis - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    You can add additional sign-in options to your account (like PIN and picture password). So you can have a complex password for your Microsoft account and use e.g. a 4-digit PIN to access your computer. This is how I use mine - very convinient. Reply

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