Thursday, July 30, 2015

Windows 10 “End of the Line”

Microsoft Windows 10 was released to the public, and although there are a handful of privacy and security complaints, on the whole the reaction is that the new operating system version is a well-constructed successor to Windows 7 incorporating the more successful features of Windows 8. Windows 10 looks to be more stable and efficient than either Windows 7 or 8 and is highly compatible with both, so individual users will find it easy to make the adjustment when they buy a new PC with Windows 10 installed.

To explain the jump from 7 to 10, Windows 8 was an experiment in adding touch-screen technology to the desktop that, even with updates, worked only awkwardly with a mouse, trackpad, or laptop. Most Windows 7 users never upgraded. Windows 9, then, was canceled or skipped, depending on who you ask. And that brings us to Windows 10.

Some will install the upgrade, which is free for those with qualifying hardware, but how many will do so is an open question. Microsoft predicts 1 billion upgrades within 2 years, but one estimate of release-day upgrades was slightly short of 1 million. Surely that number is too low, but if accurate, that is a pace to get to 1 billion in 3 years. The bigger question is about what will prompt the average user to upgrade. Early reports suggest the upgrade can be a three-hour process, and Windows 10 lacks any must-have features, so users who don’t use their computers often enough to care about the speed boost that comes with Windows 10 can safely postpone the upgrade indefinitely.

There may be another reason not to upgrade. Microsoft has said Windows 10 is the “end of the line,” the last desktop operating system it will release. OS maintenance will continue at Microsoft, with the occasional new features released in the periodic patches. The “end of the line” statement comes very close to guidance from Microsoft that the PC is sunset technology. Users who adopt that story may prefer to just hold on with whatever equipment they have already, waiting to see what comes next and upgrading or replacing only if the computer actually breaks down. Knowing that many users have not upgraded, software publishers will find it easy enough to keep their applications compatible with Windows 7, and that in turn means that users won’t be forced to upgrade their OS just for application compatibility.

PC manufacturers, though, certainly do not agree that the PC is on its way out, and they will find some way for PCs to show visible progress from year to year so sellers can offer shoppers a reason to upgrade their hardware. If Microsoft has guessed right, though, there won’t be many PC shoppers to try to impress.