I’ve said this before, and I will reiterate it now. Windows 8, in general, is not perceived in a positive light. Not necessarily because of the lack of features, or even due to the touch first interface, but because from the start people did not buy into the paradigm. We can argue over why that was, and the specifics are likely different for every individual. But a big part of that was that Windows, which has had a familiar interface since Windows 95, had changed dramatically in look, feel, and general use. The traditional mouse and keyboard PC and notebook is a big part of the Windows user base, and especially at the beginning, Windows 8 did not cater to that crowd. While there were certainly improvements to the desktop, it was not enough to overcome the negative feelings of many users in regards to being productive on their PC. I say this as a fan of Windows 8.1, and I say this despite the positive review from this site. Windows 8 was an OS that worked, but had a steep learning curve that many people did not want to bother learning.

One of the biggest issues facing Windows 8 was just how much people liked Windows 7. Windows 7 was seen as the savior to Vista, and fixed many of its issues. But a lot of the initial problems with Vista were due to a major change in the driver model as well as the security model, which caused a lot of compatibility issues with older programs which expected administrator rights, as well as many hardware devices needed driver updates. With Windows 7, all of those changes were in the rear view mirror, allowing 7 to be a tweak of the overall UI and functionality rather than a rebuild of the OS from the ground up. With Windows 8, the move to touch first caused another dramatic upheaval. This time, rather than incompatible programs and hardware, we got a new Start Screen, a new runtime in WinRT, and a new app model with the Windows Store. For reasons that will never be made clear, the familiar start button was even removed, with the designers relying on hidden functions such as the hot corners to navigate around the OS with a mouse and keyboard. Luckily this change was reversed for Windows 8.1, with the start button returning, even if it still opened the Start Screen. With the Windows 8.1 Update, the system was made much more usable for a mouse and keyboard with the return of the menu bar to close apps, rather than dragging them down off the screen, and several other changes as well which brought the balance back somewhat to cover both touch interfaces as well as the mouse and keyboard.

Windows 8 at launch in October 2012

With Windows 8, Microsoft tried out an operating system which would work with a single interface across a breadth of hardware, from small form factor tablets, up to 30” monitor desktops. While they certainly succeeded in creating an interface that worked across all of those platforms, it was not ideally suited to any of them. With the tablet mode, the new Start Screen worked very well, and the charms menu and app switcher were fairly easy to use. But many of the settings and programs would be on the desktop, where touch only worked sparingly. Some desktop applications, such as Office, were created with a touch mode to increase the size of the onscreen elements, but overall the experience was subpar. Similarly, on the desktop, the touch interfaces were not ideal, and the hot corners certainly had issues especially on multi-monitor systems.

Windows 10 Technical Preview at launch

But now we come to Windows 10. Windows 10 is ditching the “One Interface to Rule them All” mentality, and moving to a more user friendly model of a single store across all platforms, and multiple interfaces to the same OS depending on the current usage model. We have not seen all of this in practice as of yet in the Technical Preview, but Microsoft has demonstrated their solution to this change in input mode with a feature they are calling Continuum.

The goal is that those that are on a keyboard and mouse based system will have the traditional start menu and desktop, with apps in windows, but if you are on a touch based device, or if you go on a 2-in-1 from keyboard to touch, the system will switch to the Windows 8 style start screen with full screen apps.

One of the keys to having this experience is an app model that allows a developer to target this different user interface paradigms. Microsoft’s solution to this is Universal Apps.

Universal Apps and the Windows Store
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  • lilmoe - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    I love the way windows snap right and left now. When you snap a window to the left, re-size it, and try to snap another to the right, the new window will snap filling all the space made available by re-sizing the first window. Cool.
    This is great when you're trying to snap 2 windows only. However (and I did write to Microsoft about it), when you're trying to snap 3 or more windows (columns of windows), it would be nice if the third window automatically snapped in the vacant space made by resizing any of the previous ones. Would be awesome, especially when you're trying to display several windows together since screens are really wide nowadays.
  • crabperson - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    I never understood why the app switcher mechanism in Windows 8 wasn't fused with the classic taskbar. It seems like there's a 'touch' taskbar you can pull up using a gesture, and a separate taskbar for windows on the desktop. It makes even less sense now that apps show up on both in 8.1, yet the Desktop is still an app on the touch version.
    Couldn't you just swipe from whatever side of the screen the taskbar is on to see the app previews (or even the existing aero previews), and keep swiping to pull the app to the foreground, whether its a fullscreen touch app or a standard application window? Then the charms and menu gestures can be moved to whatever sides of the screen that are free, for the 5% of people that move the taskbar around.
  • stephenbrooks - Sunday, November 16, 2014 - link

    Glad I'm not the only one who wondered why they weren't more unified.

    While we're unifying things, why not have an option for the Win8-style Start screen to *be* your desktop? It basically replaces "putting a load of application shortcuts on your desktop" anyway.
  • Zingam - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    What an ugly Start menu! The old fashioned Start Menu was always a very poorly designed and retarded way to access your applications and now they've managed to do it even worse!!! I'd rather have the Windows 8.1 Start Screen.
  • Mikemk - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    -12 degrees? That's cold
  • Brett Howse - Friday, November 14, 2014 - link

    Everything is relative :) I'd say anything below -20°C is uncomfortable, and -30° to -40° is cold. After -40° it's insane.
  • JimmiG - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    With Start8 I could probably tolerate Windows 8.1. However the OS itself doesn't really offer anything for me over Windows 7. Sure there are a few overlooked but neat new features in Explorer and I might even gain 0.3 FPS in some game due to efficiency improvements, but that's hardly worth the cost or even the time spent for upgrading.

    Windows 10 would have to bring some serious improvements in addition to not blowing a 27" full-screen launcher into my face every time I want to launch Notepad or Calc.
  • ZenKiyoshi - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    How about display scaling?
  • atlantico - Friday, November 14, 2014 - link

    The return of the desktop??? The desktop was *never* gone. Idiots.
  • loki1725 - Friday, November 14, 2014 - link

    What do you use your computer for? As an engineer, nearly every piece of software I use was purchased. I paid just over $8,000 to renew the license on my Matlab software + toolboxes this morning. Between that and 3D CAD tools, you have 80% or more of my daily computer use. The rest is Office, and I'll admit I haven't used 365 much as I've always had MS Office Pro. Maybe that could be taken over. But there is still a huge need for paid 'apps' on the desktop, especially in the enterprise.

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