Windows 10 is on its way. You can install the beta on your own computer right now, for free, to try it out, and a lot has already been written about what you can expect to find in Microsoft’s newest operating system when it hits the street later this year. Dave and Rick have very different perspectives on whether Windows 10 is going to a worthwhile upgrade, though, so read along and let us know who you think makes the more compelling argument.
Once a month, eHow Tech editor Dave Johnson faces off against Rick Broida, who writes about technology for CNET, eHow, and Wired. Follow along as they tackle this question from opposing corners.
Rick: Windows 10? Yawn. I couldn’t be less excited about the next iteration of Microsoft’s dinosaur of an operating system, except perhaps to wash away the foul taste of Windows 8. So in that respect I guess it’s like Windows 7, Microsoft’s make-good for the train-wreck that was Windows Vista. The company should really just be honest and call it Windows We’re-Sorry Edition.
Dave: I understand that a lot of people have a pretty visceral reaction to Windows 8. Heck, I worked at Microsoft while it was in development, and I could smell the stink of failure on it even before the first beta went out the door. But I don’t really understand why you’re so dismissive of Windows 10. You do still own a Windows computer, right? Assuming you haven’t gone all-Mac, Android, iOS, or Linux (wow, that’s a lot of choices), Windows is still a part of your life. Does that mean you are perfectly happy with the features in the version of Windows you have now, and don’t want the indisputable improvements in 10 — even for free? Because, you know, it’s free.
Rick: “Free” is the first thing Microsoft has done right with Windows in recent memory. See, I was indeed perfectly happy with Windows 7. Then Microsoft shoved the atrocious Metro interface down my throat, forcing me to run third-party software just so I could return to the computing environment I wanted. So now I have Windows 8.1, but it looks and operates exactly like Windows 7. Windows 10 will simply undo the atrocities of Windows 8, giving me back my Windows 7 desktop without the need for a Start-button utility. Gee, thanks! Sure, I’ll take Windows 10 if it’s free. But tell me again why I should care?
Dave: I believe that there’s a lot to look forward to in Windows 10. At the top of the list, for me at least, is Cortana — the Siri-like voice controlled personal assistant built into Windows Phone. It has fared quite well in direct comparisons to Siri and Google Now, and it’s built into Windows 10. I like that. Also, about 20 years after I really wanted it, Windows has virtual desktops, so you can have different desktops running their own apps, and switch among them as easily as switching programs from the taskbar. The modern metro interface is being transplanted to the desktop, so desktop users can run metro apps like ordinary windowed apps, finally making them practical. And of course, you get the Start menu back, without the need for a third-party program. And that’s just a few of the cooler things.
Rick: Virtual desktops? Are you kidding? Third-party utilities have offered that option for decades. I will reserve judgement on Cortana until I’ve had a chance to live with it, but I’m already enjoying the benefits of voice-powered search thanks to Google’s Chrome browser, which already has it built in. I need voice recognition in Windows to, what, open Control Panel for me? So I can figure out why the printer that worked fine yesterday is now showing “offline”? So I can ask it which kind of spyware has hijacked my browser this time? So I can tell her not to spend 15 minutes installing updates when I need to shut down my laptop now? Those are the kinds of Windows hassles that persist to this day, and I guarantee you Microsoft hasn’t addressed any of them. Windows 10 will be the same core pain in the butt, just with a few interface tweaks.
Dave: I’m not going to argue about the relative merits of any particular Windows features, like a pair of 7 year olds on the playground who have weirdly specific knowledge about Microsoft products. You clearly are contorting yourself, though. Usually you complain that you are forced to install third party programs to do something Microsoft should have included to begin with; now you’re saying to heck with integrating great features into Windows, you’d rather just install more software to do the same thing. Look, of course Microsoft can’t solve every little obscure inconvenience or conflict you encounter, especially since 95% of them are actually caused by other company’s hardware and software — you know, the third party stuff you just professed to love so much. Microsoft is making fundamental improvements, though, like the fact that Windows 10 should take up dramatically less space to accommodate smaller SSD drives, for example, and built in biometrics for better security. If you’re sticking with Windows, why wouldn’t you want all of these things?
Rick: Wow, I haven’t seen that much slow-motion dodging since “The Matrix.” I’m not saying Windows 10 won’t offer incremental improvements, merely that Microsoft continues to trot out features most users won’t care about, while never addressing the pain points that users experience every day. Recently I was heading out the door for a meeting; I went to shut down my laptop so I could slip it into my travel bag. Windows chose that moment to install a mammoth update, without asking my permission, without letting me opt out or delay it until later. I literally had to carry my open laptop with me for 15 minutes, all the while staring at Windows’ dire warnings about shutting down before the operation is complete. I understand that new features are both necessary and sexy from a marketing perspective, but I just want my OS to work reliably and stay the hell out of my way. You, on the other hand, seem to be impressed by virtual desktops, which is like Microsoft saying, “And with Windows 10, you get a free digital watch!”
Dave: First of all, stop lying. You don’t go to “meetings,” unless that’s your code word for refilling your bowl of Cheetos. But I’ll concede that Microsoft handles updates pretty poorly — that happens to me as well. I ignore the dire warning and simply turn off my laptop. Unlike you, I have places to be, and I’m not going to be late because programmers at Microsoft aren’t respectful of my time. The bottom line is that yes, it would be great if Microsoft would focus on the fundamentals and fix the real annoyances in Windows: indecipherable error messages, forced updates at shutdown, programs “stealing focus” so you end up typing into the wrong window when a dialog box appears and takes over your screen. But many of the other “Windows issues” you complain about aren’t a problem with Windows itself at all, but are rather caused by peripherals, network connections, and third party software — things Microsoft has virtually no control over. And those persistent problems are not a reason to stay rooted in the past, clinging desperately to an old operating system. I, for one, welcome the imminent arrival of Windows 10.
Who won? We’d love to hear from you. Weigh in with your opinion in the comments, or tweet @davejoh.
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Photo credits: Microsoft