Windows 10 Technical Preview: Where’s the beef?

The new Windows Insider program that Microsoft launched for people to get their hands on a copy of the Windows 10 preview went live yesterday around noon. In the one hour or so to download the ISO, I backed up the files I had on my secondary laptop and made preparations to install the future of Windows.

 As a former employee of Microsoft that had access to every major pre-release build of Windows or service pack, or any other major product that it shipped, I was thrilled to get my hands on any new bits I heard about. There was a massive number of people on the other side of campus slaving away at something and I was genuinely curious to see the fruits of their labor. For the most part, those people made a huge amount of changes in progressively adding new features and functions, and (for once) giving a crap about the user experience. Some products you could tell were in some state of transition – their real efforts not reflecting in the bits they released, but possibly in some behind the scenes service in Azure. In the end, some things were released to the public, others had a bit a work to get tossed half way down the pipe, or others entirely mothballed for some point in the future where it made more business sense to release it.

Anyways, I was excited to find out why Windows 8.2 got shelved and what cool new features were jammed in instead.

Here I am this morning typing this blog entry on Windows 10. I’m not quite sure what to think of it now. I mean, it finally has some features that everyone wanted, things that we’ve known for a while were coming. But there isn’t anything major.

  • The start menu is here. It has the mini-Start screen attached to the side of it.
  • The Windows store apps float in their own window and don’t completely full screen anymore because of the window chrome.
  • The Windows store apps can be built to be multi-platform from desktop to tablet to phone (and one day the Xbox One).

This is not news. Building apps for all of the form factors came out months ago in the Universal App template in Visual Studio 2013 update 3.

  • The window chrome dropped a bit of weight and no longer has a border, it’s just a bar across the top now.
  • The icons are now flat instead of three dimensional (some of them anyways).
  • The charms bar still exists.
  • The settings app still duplicates some control panel functionality, no major changes.

Expected some UI changes somewhere, but mostly the same.

  • Multi desktop support is finally here.
  • The command window now allows you to paste.
  • The command window has an experimental feature that allows you to determine the transparency of the window (wasn’t expecting that one!)

Okay, these are new.

Not suprisingly the multi-desktop feature is tied to the Win-Tab key combo introduced in 7. I just don’t get why I can’t quickly change desktops by using the key combo. It currently brings up the same screen as you’d expect from Alt-Tab, but with the addition of multiple desktops at the bottom. Unfortunately it only toggles the visibility of the screen instead of flipping between them. Why can’t it work just like Alt-Tab, but with desktops instead of applications?

That’s about it. Other than the last three bullets above, this is all that has been accompished in additon to what we were all expecting. At this point, there is no spiffy new file system, the majority of the work getting Windows Phone onto the main Windows kernel was done for WP8, and the Xbox One shipped with a Windows 8 subsystem. All of them then also tie everything together with a Microsoft account.

Majority of the Windows kernel singularity effort appears to be completed, and I’ll agree with some polish still required on each of the platforms.

In regards to the centralized store, there isn’t anything here that should hold up the desktop release. Having worked in the Xbox Live group, even after the Zune transformation into Xbox Music, it’s still the same bits processing in the background with a new facade.

This is what 8.2 should have been and should have been released this fall. Instead 9 was skipped and we’re at 10 with a release date in late 2015. I thought Microsoft was trying to get into a faster release cadence? At this point, the date will again return Windows back to the 3 year release cycle given that Windows 8 released for general availability on October 26th, 2012.

So again. Where’s the beef?