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Windows 10 review: It's familiar, it's powerful, but the Edge browser falls short

Mark Hachman | July 27, 2015
We may as well refer to Windows 10 as a date, or an hour, as much as an operating system. It's a moment in time. A month from now, it will have changed, evolved, improved. But right now? Microsoft has shipped an operating system that was meticulously planned and executed with panache, but whose coat of fresh paint hides some sticks and baling wire.

If there's one mistake Microsoft made early on with Windows 10, it's that the apps themselves looked decidedly blah. Apps "flowed" to fill the available space. On a modern widescreen monitor, they can end up as vast, vacant courtyards with a few weeds of content pushing up. Microsoft's answer is to minimize or snap the apps into a smaller space. What I'd rather see is some faint, self-aware backdrop tuned to the app--an album cover or band photo in the Music app, for example. 

What's impressive is that Microsoft is taking action. On July 15, I mentioned to a Windows 10 product manager that Music needed at least to sync with the user-selected Windows 10 color scheme. By the weekend, Microsoft had updated the app and fixed the problem.

Next: The Windows 10 Store and its apps

Windows apps: Sparse, sometimes great

Compared to the Android and iOS app stores, the Windows app store (known as the Store) feels rather meager. Microsoft splashes a few key apps at the top of the screen (Flipboard, Watch ESPN, Line, among others) although the enormous hero images given to each one ensure that other, equally worthy apps are somewhat buried down below. A few "leaderboards" of the most popular apps across a variety of genres help separate the wheat from the chaff.

There's no indication as to which apps are so-called Universal apps, ready to run across Windows 10 desktop PCs and phones. A few key details are omitted, including the number of downloads; others, such as the permissions, are gobbledygook (what is privateNetworkClientServer?) There's also a small catch: Each app can be loaded on only ten Windows 10 devices.

You'd think Microsoft would heavily promote at least three apps in the Store: Word Mobile, Excel Mobile and PowerPoint Mobile. Neither of them ship with Windows 10, but all of the universal Office apps are available in the Store for download. Be sure you do.

Some puzzling in-app purchases are listed on the Store, such as a free "no expiration" for Microsoft Mahjong, followed by a similar 3-day expiration, also free.

But that's not the most annoying thing about the Store. Microsoft began updating its individual Windows 10 apps separately from the main OS a short time ago, and those apps are not updated via Windows Update. Instead, you have to enter the Store, click your little account icon at upper right, and scroll down to Downloads. There, you can make sure you have the latest and greatest apps at your disposal. But there's nothing really encouraging you to do that.

I think PC users and developers alike would hope the Store evolves into something like Steam, a general storefront for app purchases and downloads, plug-ins, mods and the like. But it's clearly not. In fact, the only true "game" I see there is Grand Theft Auto 4: San Andreas, a game that was ported to Windows Phone and can also run on a PC. Apple, Google, Valve, Gog.com: all of these app stores feel more robust and on-point than what Microsoft's delivering. There's definite improvement over Windows 8, but Microsoft needs to make the Store one of its post-launch priorities.

 

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