Windows 10 is one of the most anticipated and critical operating systems in Microsoft's history. To put it bluntly, Microsoft has struggled to keep up with changing user needs over the past few years, having released a series of operating systems which have contained a number of gross missteps. Windows 10 promises to address those challenges. But does it meet those promises?
As the resident technical expert here at Cracked, I had to find out, and after using the industry contacts I've built up over a lengthy career writing jokes about dongs, I managed to get a sneak preview. Here's what I found.
#6. It's Free!
The first thing to mention about Windows 10 is that it will quite possibly be a free upgrade for you, provided you already have a license for Windows 7, 8, or 9. This is a pretty bold move by Microsoft, and should help quickly increase the adoption rate of Windows 10 and reduce the amount of fragmentation they have in their install base. It's also, quite frankly, a bid to mollify some of their customers and make up for the lengthy list of faults that recent generations of Windows shat on its customers, causing them to wonder if Microsoft was angry at them.
Although Windows 7 was universally admired, later versions haven't been nearly as well received -- and in fact were considered by several world governments to be the sole cause of over 274 full-scale riots. Windows 8 has been one of the most widely derided pieces of software in recent history, mainly due to Microsoft's decision to force its Metro interface, designed primarily for touchscreens, on users without touchscreens. And the less said about the debacle that was Windows 9, the better.
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Most people don't even like talking about Windows 9.
#5. The Start Menu Is Back
Probably the most exciting feature about Windows 10 is the return of the beloved Start menu. Invented by the cast of Friends in the mid '90s ...
... the Start menu made an unwelcome disappearance in Windows 8. With its emphasis on touch-capable interfaces, Windows 8 didn't fit well with the small icons and labels of the traditional Start menu, and rather than finding a way to make it work, it was just axed entirely. Because the idea of people using a mouse and keyboard to do actual work on an actual PC was unfathomable to the designers. Although I personally find the Start menu to be a little overrated (the taskbar and application search works faster for me), many users feel otherwise, and for them the return of the Start menu will be a welcome feature.
The new Start menu is a bit of a hybrid, and it contains much of the look and feel of the Metro interface. It remains to be seen whether consumers adapt to the changes. Still, it's an upgrade on what was present in Windows 8, to say nothing of the bizarre application launcher in Windows 9, where the Start icon opened a command prompt demanding the user answer three riddles to start a specific program.
#4. Cortana Virtual Assistant
One of the most interesting new features of Windows 10 is the personal assistant called Cortana, named after the character from the hit game series Halo.
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"OK, seriously, do we make anything that people still like? How can we leverage that?"
At first glance, I don't see much here to get that excited about. Cortana works a lot like Apple's Siri or the Google Now app, both of which still struggle with speed and accuracy issues. Microsoft promises that Cortana will feature advanced natural language processing, which is I guess an interesting-sounding collection of words. In practice, these systems always struggle with context issues and are easily confused. You might recall the experimental personal assistant in Windows 9 that had a habit of continuously shrieking the date of your death.
I'll admit to being relieved that Windows 10 returns to voice commands, which I find vastly preferable to the direct brain interface introduced in Windows 9, universally panned for the searing headaches it gave users. I seem to recall Microsoft being accused of using this technology to erase people's memories of Windows 9, but now I'm not so sure.