So here’s the narrative:
Windows XP was a storming success. So successful that people didn’t need to upgrade from it. And certainly weren’t going to upgrade to Windows Vista, which was widely accepted within and without Microsoft as a dog. With three legs. And mange.
Windows 7 sorted out all of the problems with VIsta, and made a comfortable upgrade path for corporate IT, some of whom are still making the move.
Windows 8 was a disaster of Vista-esque proportions. Everyone (bar at least one person) within Microsoft thought that it would be a rip-roaring success. At least one person (me) counselled that it was likely to be rejected by customers because it was a mixed up muddle of touch device and desktop WIMP computing. And that nobody really wanted a laptop combined with a tablet computer. And I was generally told to shut up and stop being so negative about things. So eventually I realised that Microsoft probably wasn’t the place for me.
Since then, PC sales have continued to stall, tablet sales have flattened, and smart phone sales continue to grow globally, a market that Microsoft recently has essentially admitted that it has no part in providing devices or operating systems. They won’t meaningfully break into the duopoly.
Yesterday saw the release of what is said to be the last major version of Windows, the confusingly titled Windows 10. I installed it from by bed, from my phone. I then spent a bit of time playing with it last night. Here’s what I thought.
Windows 10 is Windows 7 with updated graphics, and “Modern UI” touch-centric applications scrunched into Windows with a bar with buttons on the top. The Start Menu is back: I’ve got used to not having it by having all the (few) things I ever do pinned to the task bar. Erm, and, erm, that’s it.
Sure, there’s a stack of stuff within Windows 10 that I could do if I buy new hardware. Like log in with my face or immerse myself in a 3D Holographic world. But I don’t really see much value in either of those things (and Stella Artois gave me a cardboard 3D headset for my mobile phone for free at Waterloo Station a few weeks ago).
And there’s a stack of stuff that developers could do with Windows 10 to write applications that span from smart device to jumbo touch screen, except the only mass market devices that people use with Windows are PCs. And most developers don’t really write applications for PCs any more – they either write things for browsers or things for mobile phones (and possibly tablets). Apple or Android mobile phones. Because that’s what people have in their pockets.
So for a user going from Windows 7 (or even Windows XP) to Windows 10, the main thing will be slightly jazzier stuff dotted about the place which don’t work very well because touch-based UI doesn’t translate well to mouse (and mouse-based UI is a pain to the fingertips).
It will ship loads. It will sell loads (because corporates still have to licence it from Microsoft). And then at some point in the future, like with Mini Computers and Fax Machines, we’ll look up one day and suddenly realise that not only do we not use PCs any more, but there aren’t any around us any more. That’s quite some time in the future, but PC is a form factor now in decline and Windows 10 is very unlikely to reverse that major trend.