Why Windows 10 is the answer to the wrong question

Microsoft just released Windows 10 technical preview in the hopes of regaining its reputation, remediating its mistakes and repairing its wrongs.  I’m here to tell you why that move was futile.

First let’s think about the name.

Windows 10.

The number 10 is so round and tidy.

  • We have 10 fingers.
  • Math in base ten is always easier than other bases and
  • Everyone knows scoring a perfect 10 out of 10 denotes perfection.

But Windows 10 is far from perfection.  So why did Microsoft skip nine and jump to 10?

  • Maybe to create the illusion of greatness
  • Maybe to hint that Windows 10 is big.
  • Maybe to keep pace with Mac OS X.  After all, 9 is one less than the the roman number equivalent of 10.

But I’ve got to ask: is Windows 10 really that great?

XP Nostalgia

Image Credit DJ Amesk via Flickr

When Microsoft released Windows XP back in the early 90’s everyone was rhapsodizing about how great it was.  The operating system was generally stable and enjoyed ubiquitous acclaim from both professionals and laypeople.  Both businesses and busy bodies loved the look and feel of XP.

XP was a winner.

In fact, it was so stable that it endured for over a decade after its inception.  According to September 2014 statistics from netmarketshare.com, XP consumes a 23.87% chunk out of the operating system market share pie.

Total Market Share by OS via netmarketshare.com

Windows XP beats Windows 8, 8.1 and Vista and is only subordinate to Windows 7 which is at 52.71%.

Contrary to what some people want to believe, XP ain’t dead yet and some companies have worked around the end of service patch limitations by hacking Windows XP to deliver updates until 2019.

Windows XP has a coterie of adherents who would wouldn’t be caught dead selling out to Windows 7 or that blasted other operating system known as Windows 8.

Windows XP was stellar because Windows XP was stable.

It was compatible with peripherals and extremely intuitive to use. Windows Vista reversed the success of Windows XP but then Windows 7 fixed things and made it right. (as evidence by my little pie chart above)

Hate on Windows 8

With the advent of Windows 8, Microsoft positively confused almost all its customers with an operating system that seemed to have a split personality.  It’s as if it didn’t know what it wanted to be.

Am I built for tablet users or people with traditional laptops?

It’s like Microsoft was facing an identity crisis and it embroiled Windows 8 in the confusion.  It was a disaster.

Windows 8 should have never happened.  Most people were okay with Windows until Windows 8 arrived.  I contend that Windows 8 was the catalyst for once loyal fans fleeing to competitors such as Apple and Linux.

Windows 10 is the answer to the wrong question

Microsoft isn’t responding to the right question.  The question isn’t how do we appeal to both tablets and desktops. Nor is the question how do we undo all the damage we created with Windows 8.

Most people don’t care about the answers to those questions.  Users are really concerned with three issues as it relates to prior versions of Windows:

  1. Where did everything go?
  2. How do I get stuff done?
  3. Will it work with my old things?

First let’s talk about familiarity.

Where did everything go?

I’ve been using PC’s most of my adult life and therefore feel very comfortable with them.  I’m conversant with the basic stuff such as using Windows Explorer, browsing the web and checking emails but I can also hang with power users who like hacking the registry, tweaking the command prompt and making sure computers are safe.

Whenever someone encounters a new operating system people are usually concerned about the changes from previous versions.

The thinking goes something like this:

In Windows 7 I was able to launch such and such application by going to this place but in Windows 8 I can’t even find that place.  What gives?

Here’s my point: If a company makes it difficult for laypeople to use a product people simply won’t use the product.

We know from psychology and common experience that people are generally adverse to change (even when its for the better).  Humans like routine.

It doesn’t mean we’re boring but it does mean we like the comfort of knowing that when we must learn something new it will pay off for a long time.  We don’t like having to learn something new again just to maintain the same level of productivity we held before the change.

Now, I’ve got to be honest with you: Windows 8 is the first operating system that I literally gasped atwhen I saw it.

What the hell?

It was so foreign, so juvenile, so silly looking.

The jumbo, variegated Start Screen tiles looked too playful to ever make their way into the Enterprise and the hidden desktop was hard to find.

I couldn’t help but ask:

Where did everything go?

Every time you make your customer ask such a question you alienate him or her and make that person less inclined to use your product.  Windows 8 simply had to many “Were did everything go?” statements in my mind and therefore was on the precipice of failure.

But then Microsoft released Windows 8.1.

Ohhhh the lovely dot release.  We jumped a tenth of a point from Windows 8.0 to Windows 8.1 and what did we get?  Sure things got a little better.  You could now boot to desktop and there were a few other bells and whistles but ultimately the changes were a bit underwhelming.

After Windows 8.1 stepped onto the stage, most people weren’t  rhapsodizing about Windows 8.1 – no they were fumbling to figure it out and they were still beleaguered by that age old question:

Where did everything go?

Well just a few days ago, Microsoft released Microsoft Windows 10 and I’ve been playing with it in Virtual Box since its inception.  Now that I’ve been playing with it for over a week, my question is: why is this thing called Windows 10 and not Windows 8.2?

You can’t just bring the Start Menu back and then skip a full number release to 10.  It almost feels as if Microsoft is chasing Mac OS X.  I’m surprised Microsoft didn’t call Windows 10, Windows X…

Windows 10 is tantamount to a company releasing a product that has a popular feature but then, in the next release, it removes that feature and pisses everyone off.  So in the third release it adds it back and then calls it a new feature.

Yes, I’m throwing jabs at the Windows 10 Start Menu.

Here’s a freaking news flash: if you add something that you previously removed – that’s not called innovation; it’s called covering up a fuck up.  You can’t make a mistake and then release a new version, without that mistake, and call it something grand by skipping an entire version number.

C’mon Microsoft…

But the illogical release name isn’t the chief of my concerns- productivity is.

How do I get stuff done?

Think about this: what do people use computers for in the first place? What was the purpose of the personal computer?

It was to get things done.  Thus, the easier you make it for people to get things done the more industrious they’ll become and the more likely they’ll purchase products from you in the future.

Everyone knows from basic business that existing customers are a lot easier to retain than new ones but it seems that Microsoft is ostracizing its loyal fans by making it harder for them to be productive.

People use PC’s to get stuff done.  Sure, people want to be entertained but most people who want entertainment look to a Smart TV or video game console before looking to a PC.


On a side note, I still can’t figure out why Microsoft yanked (or completely refreshed) all the classic games we all grew to love in Windows 98 such as Minesweeper and Solitaire.  But that’s another post for another day.


My point is that although Windows 10 has many improvements such as virtual desktops and floating modern apps that you can dock like normal programs, I still wonder how effective these changes will be in making people productive.

Microsoft has gotten better with driver compatibility but still seems more volatile than most Linux and Mac OS X machines.  How can you be productive when your computer is constantly crashing and barfing up arcane error messages that look like this:

0x30384032

Sure you can Google it but then you’ll see forums with a bunch of other confused people asking the same questions.  Sometimes you can fix this stuff by rebooting, re-installing software or installing updates but in general most (but not all) Macs and Linux computers aren’t susceptible to these problems.

Just as adapting to changes from older versions of Windows is inimical to productivity so is trying to make sense of obscure errors when the OS crashes.

If you’ve never used Windows before then going directly to Windows 10 won’t be as troublesome; however, if you’ve moved from Windows XP, Vista or 7 to Windows 10 you’ll be in for so much disappointment that, depending on your technical acumen, you probably won’t get any substantive work done for a few days.

Why?

Because you’re going to be spending all that time on Google trying to figure out how to use the stupid operating system.

And this brings me to the last question.

Will it work with my old things?

Most people are curious.  They think:

I was using an older version of Windows just fine but now Microsoft is coercing the upgrade.  Fine.  I don’t have a choice but will the upgrade break my printer?  Will the upgrade break Microsoft Office?  Will the upgrade render my removable drive useless?

In other words, will my old things continue to work with Windows 10?

Well…. maybe, maybe not.  

It depends on the peripherals you’re trying to connect and, given the mercurial nature of the OS, I can’t promise you that it’ll work.

The Bottom Line

If Microsoft wants to shake up the world it shouldn’t resort to fooling the public with silly versioning schemes.

Let’s face it: Windows 10 is just Windows 8 with more makeup on its face.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is deceived or just plain loony.

If Microsoft wants to thrive it should provide the right answer to the right questions.

It can start by actually listening to and implementing user feedback.  I know the monolithic company claims to listen to its customers and evinced that truth when it returned the Start Menu based on customer demand; however, it’s too little to late.

Microsoft needs to completely revamp the way it works.  Customers are on the periphery and aren’t at the nexus of business operations.  Our voices are heard as echos instead of in the meeting room.

After all, isn’t it because of us; because of you, because of me – that Microsoft is the multibillion dollar company that it is today?

That’s the real question isn’t it?  Microsoft owes its success to us and unless we coalesce into a single voice for change, Microsoft will continue to build it’s idea of what Windows 10 should be.

The easiest way to express your concerns is to:

  1. Join the Windows Insider Program
  2. Get Windows 10 technical preview
  3. Press the Start Menu and type: windows feedback

I know it’s lame that you need to sign up to complain but hey I’m not the CEO of Microsoft.  If I were – that wouldn’t be the case.

So what do you think about Windows 10?  Is it worthy of the name?  What do you think Microsoft is trying to achieve?

Sound off in the comments!

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  • David Grimberg

    For me it wasn’t the introduction of any version of windows that got me to make the switch to Linux, it was the desupporting of XP. As a result my laptop which had been getting sluggish to the point of being unusable with XP has a new lease on life.

    • Hey David, so dream with me for a second: let’s say Microsoft suddenly decided to support XP again and release updates. Would you switch from Linux back to XP?

      • David Grimberg

        Nope. The machine I switched over to Linux runs better with Linux than it did with XP. Windows is horribly bloated and just gets worse with each new update. However, I can’t completely switch to Linux on all my systems, I have an investment in some applications for which I have yet to found adequate Linux equivalents, and have additional work related requirements that mandate some form of a windows environment, Wine and/or virtual box may be able to address those requirements, but having to fire up a virtual machine every time I need to satisfy one of those requirements is a deterrent.

  • I am one of the hangers on to the old ways simply because I got to know how to use XP pr

    • Wow Advocatus, brilliant insight! I feel the same way. It seems like in the last decade there’s been a focus on churning out updates rather than quality.

      It certainly seems that monolithic companies like Microsoft feel compelled to change things that don’t really need to be changed. I loved Windows XP, it was my favorite operating system. The stability was amazing and it was extremely easy to use. Why couldn’t Microsoft make incremental changes to XP instead of completely rewriting the GUI with Windows 10?

      • Revenue, obviously. How can they sell more products if everyone already has one that does its job properly? By pushing the idea that newer is better, they can get people to pay for newer. And these days, they are looking to get people to pay for it not just once, but CONTINUOUSLY through the idea of “software as service” where you don’t even get to own it, but just access it until your meter expires. At that point, you start to gather a CAPTIVE audience that has to pay for the software access just to be able to make use of their own data.

        AND it seems through this horrendous new excuse for being able to renege on promises made about advertised products without remorse or retribution, the EULA, even the manufacturers are getting in on the game and not even selling you ownership to your own HARDWARE. I just learned that the ridiculous excuse for access to the BIOS settings on my laptop was not just because of unconfigurable components but a deliberate choice made by the manufacturer to lock me out of being able to make changes that would suit my needs better than the way they set it up for me. (Too bad I don’t know how to build my own laptop like I can with my desktop machine…. )

        Its all a marketing game. It would seem the whole carrot and stick idea that is the foundation claim that capitalism inspires innovation is only true until companies discover that they can not only get to the carrot by moving forward, they can also get at it by staying in place and just shortening the stick….

        I miss when companies had actual pride in their products instead of only their profit margin.

  • Steve

    Yes I’m afraid that replacing Aero with Windows 3.1 sophistication in the window rendering and going with a kickback to the old 16 colors scheme but with garish and ugly colors looking like they came from the Lego factory (where they are appropriate) is just ridiculous. We had washes in XP and 7, they’re gone. I’m surprised it doesn’t work in 640×480 resolution!

    There was a time when our operating systems were becoming more sophisticated and polished looking. This thing is an abortion. Compare to any Linux version and marvel at the contrast. Sophistication for free. Pay for a refugee from a preschool. Go figure.

    Who would try to sell something that says “You looking for quality? Look elsewhere.” I expect that Windows 7 will be the last Windows operating system that I will use.

    • The goofy color scheme was more apt for children in pre-K than adults in the enterprise. I mean, seriously – what was Microsoft thinking?

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  • EPHIIOS

    I have used windows since 98 days. I have my system Triple booted to a light linux distro with the steam OS front end, Windows 7, and windows 10. I am using W10 more the 7 at the moment, and to be honest, I have not had any problems you stated in this article. I am running 3 (soon to be 4) screens, and am actually more productive then before because of the quadrent snapping, multiscreen taskbar (without have to use display fusion which free’s up resources), multi-desktop, and many other features. I actually like having the tiles on the side of my start menu, I have my content-creation software lined up there as well as my system shortcuts. My boot times are much faster then W7 (even when both are being run from samsung evo’s). The only issues I had were during the first few weeks as they hadn’t rolled out updates and had to make work arounds for drivers. Now I havent had issues with any of my software,hardware, or productivity. I use my Linux distro for quick tf2 game sessions or streaming movies, W7 for if W10 gets broken with an update. W8/8.1 were terrible. Not just the tiles (which you can fix with classic shell) but the core of the system was changed so much you couldn’t get anything done. I will say this, the search engine they use now is better than 7. I cant find a file/program/link in the ton of icons I have across all my screens, I can find it quick in the search. W10 is still dev preview, so it isnt for casual users. There will be bugs, issues, and crashes. But it is a BETA. Thus why you can try it out and respond back. I like it so far, and as long as they dont screw it up, it will be my main OS (besides YeOldeSteamOS) on my personal machine.

  • Ryan Matthew Steele

    XP didn’t come out in the early 90’s……..

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