Windows 10 is shaping up to be the best Windows yet.
I am still wrapping my head around it, but after going through most of the changes I think there are a ton of things to like about it, which is an astonishing achievement.
Microsoft really managed to surprise me, and I didn't expect that, to be perfectly honest.
However, what seals the deal for me is how all the changes tie together. I can now say that there are clear benefits to using the latest Windows across all devices that support it.
It makes total sense, for the first time. In fact, without even trying the new Preview release, I am sold on Windows 10. Count me in as one of the first to make the switch on all of my devices!
It's all about a universal approach
Windows 10 has to be taken as a whole to really understand what makes it so attractive. For the first time, Microsoft has envisioned Windows not just as an operating system that can work on PCs, tablets or smartphones, but as an operating system that works on PCs, tablets and smartphones.
There's a huge difference there in approach, which shows in the way Windows 10 is designed to look, feel and work.
Just look at how uniform the experience seems to be with Windows 10, as opposed to Windows 8.1 + Windows Phone 8.1.
Both Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 are evolutions of prior designs, each treated as a separate entity. There's no wonder they haven't intersected. They don't have much in common where it really matters.
There are differences all over the place, starting with small details as the homescreen background and moving on to more advanced parts like the settings menu. Yes, there are tiles, but, really, these two Windows releases are not cut from the same cloth, because Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 weren't either.
For example, updating Windows Phone 8.1 takes you through a different menu structure compared to Windows 8.1. That's not to say that the two should share the exact same settings menu, but some commonalities have to exist.
The structure should be the same, even if some options are only available for one type of device or another.
Consistency matters, but the design has to be adapted to the form factor.
For instance, I expect to find the Wi-Fi settings in the same place on all Windows 10 devices, but I do not expect to find an option to add local, limited users or ways to configure UAC on Windows 10 phones. There's just no point in it.
What I just described is how Windows 10 looks to be designed at the moment. I am sure that Microsoft is not ruling out changes in this department, but if it sticks to this idea until the end I, and many others, will have no reason to complain.
Speaking of taking Windows 10 as a whole, I like what Microsoft has done in uniforming the experience with regards to core apps and features.I have always wanted to see Windows on PCs
I have always wanted to see Windows on PCs offering a notifications center, just because it is so darn hard to keep up with all the things that are buzzing around me, especially when I'm not there to see it happen. Now it's here in Windows 10.
At the same time, I have always wanted to see Windows on PCs synchronizing notifications with the smartphone counterpart, so that once I dismiss a notification on my Lumia it also goes away on my laptop.
If I don't want to see it somewhere, I don't want to see it anywhere. Similarly, if I access a notification on my laptop, like reading a new mail, there is no point in seeing it anymore on my Lumia, as it's already been read. This is really a clever way of dealing with notifications.
Core apps are the way forward
As I mentioned apps, given the whole push for universal apps, it makes sense for Microsoft to bridge the gap between Windows on PCs, tablets and phones by giving users core apps that have a similar look and feel across all of their devices.
I saw how this works for the Outlook and Photos apps and I quite like the approach. The layout is different depending on the size of the display, which is how it is supposed to be, but it is an otherwise consistent experience.
Outlook definitely looks to be much more powerful than the Mail app we have today, which is a good step forward for power users. Being able to swipe emails left and right in the inbox to flag or delete them is an awesome feature to have.
I hope Microsoft lets us configure what those gestures do, as I want to be able to mark as read and archive instead.
Outlook is part of the new Office apps for Windows 10, which are touch-optimised across the board. A full-fledged Office 2016 is in the works, as the next version of the long-standing Office suite, but for those using Windows 10 on phones and small tablets the touch-optimised version will be the only choice.
They're lighter than the full-fledged Office apps, naturally, and more similar to the Office apps that you may find on iPhones and iPads, which is a good thing, as Office on Windows Phone 8.1 begs for an update.
Following its Windows Phone debut, Cortana will be available across all Windows 10-supported form factors. I would love to see it in action on a PC, with always-on listening capabilities.
Just imagine saying something like "Hey, Cortana" followed by "Open ITProPortal in the browser" to open your favorite tech news site in the world without touching a single key or button. (The same can apply to playing YouTube videos, for instance, but that's not more important than getting your ITPP fix, right?)
Now, because Windows 10 looks so good, users of older Windows versions might want to upgrade to it. I'll get back to this in a minute, but for a minute I want you to consider the possibility that Windows 10 will gain a market share that is so relevant that developers that matter might pay attention to it.
And this brings me to universal apps, which make more sense than ever now. A single app that works across three popular form factors (PCs, tablets and smartphones), available in a unified store which has hundreds of millions of users. It will not happen overnight, but I think those usage numbers are entirely possible.
What developer will not want to be part of that? It would be too big of a market to ignore, for sure.
But, therein lies the problem. Windows 10's success hinges on Microsoft's ability to convince Windows users to upgrade. As we all know, that's not something Microsoft has been good at, not by a long shot.
Windows 10 is hugely attractive. It looks so good that I think I wouldn't regret switching from my MacBook Air to a Surface Pro 3 to enjoy it in its full glory, and I am sure that there will be lots of users who will also upgrade to Windows 10.
But, as always, this will not happen overnight. And, most importantly, many users may not (actually, will not) upgrade at all, regardless of the fact that Microsoft is giving it away for free to those who make the switch from an older Windows version in the first year.
Right now, even though Windows 8.1 is basically given for free to Windows 8 users, there are still many who have not yet upgraded. In fact, nearly half as many Windows 8.1 users are still rocking Windows 8, which is strange to say the least.
Sure, some are business users who have to abide to different upgrade policies, but not all of them are in this position. They refuse to take the plunge. And it is not because Windows 8 is better in any way, quite the opposite in fact. They just don't want to.
Convincing me, and likely many of you who are reading this wonderful site, to upgrade to Windows 10 is easy.
I am a technology enthusiast and early adopter, after all. Call me a geek, I don't mind it. I like having the latest technology around.
I like new things, yes. I'm easy to sell Windows 10 to. But how many Windows users are the same?