In depth Every time I've looked at Windows 10, it hasn't been long before I've run away screaming. As recently as May the ISO was nowhere near ready for prime time. Testing Windows 10 seemed to me like volunteering to be an unpaid drug trial guinea pig – it would be painful and could potentially give you horrible side effects, and you wouldn't even have an envelope of cash at the end to show for it.
Keeping my distance from the very bleeding edge betas gives me some advantages, though. Like a sense of perspective. While bloggers and fanbois get excited over minuscule tweaks, and hail small improvements as earth-shattering milestones ("really polished now," they insist) my criteria are much simpler.
Is this simpler, or better, for getting work done than Windows 7 or 8.1? I'll attempt to answer that here, with the third of Microsoft's releases from last week – build 10162. If you have mostly or completely ignored Windows 10 so far, this is for you.
Overall, there's a lot to like about the overall ambition. I can see, in the far away distance, how Microsoft's disparate services are starting to knit together. I can almost imagine – without hallucinogenic drugs, although I am sure they'd help – how one could swap out a Mac and pick up a PC without too much difficulty. But not yet.
Using Windows 10 in its current state is a bit like getting a whiff of a really outstanding restaurant and being told that, for now, you have to settle for a motorway service station pasty. Do ignore the hardcore enthusiasts babbling away excitedly on fan forums: coming from 8.1, this build still feels very, very raw.
Where Microsoft has succeeded is in the overall design goal of making the two-faced Windows 8.x UI more coherent, while trying to retain its flexibility. Microsoft could have gone after the iPad with a separate SKU: "Windows Tablet Edition" that didn't have a traditional WIMP desktop. I think we all know what would have happened there.
Instead it bolted that separate SKU, Frankenstein-style, creating a Windows with two totally different Uis: one for holding a tablet a few inches from your face, the other the traditional sit-back desktop. They didn't go well together and more crucially for Microsoft, didn't have the desired result of brute-forcing an application ecosystem into life.
Today the Windows Store remains pretty threadbare. There are only three Modern apps I ever found useful, since all the other Modern apps either have superior Win32 or website equivalents. And one of those (the FT app) disappeared from the store this spring (although I'm told it will probably be back, as Microsoft has a nice way for website developers to package their code into an app – called hosted web apps). Maybe that will change as iOS and Android apps can be turned into Windows app too. We'll see.
But that's really icing on the cake – I can get work done through a variety of traditional apps. Is it better or worse on Windows 10? Let's find out.