Figure 1. The Windows 10 Start menu in a fresh install.
Big companies don’t usually listen to the little guys.
For the past few years, customers and tech pundits (those not on the Microsoft payroll or in a “consulting” role) have complained about Microsoft Windows 8 features that seem almost intentionally obscure. New users couldn’t figure out how to change simple settings like the direction of the mouse scroll wheel or even how to turn the computer off. While every new Windows 8 laptop explains a few of the screen basics like swiping from the side of the screen, it was almost as though Microsoft didn’t realize people never pay attention to those tips and just want to start surfing on Buzzfeed and load up World of Warcraft as soon as possible.
Then, something changed.
I’m not sure if it had anything to do with Windows 8 head Steven Sinofsky leaving in 2012 or Steve Ballmer leaving in 2013, but Microsoft seems to have listened closely to the Windows 8 complaints. My guess is that Satya Nadella, the current CEO who seems to have a knack for appealing to customer needs, wanted a Windows that just works.
After spending the last month with Windows 10 since the launch on July 29 -- which included connecting up a few peripherals like a printer and random smartphones, testing out the new Start menu, surfing on Microsoft Edge, and just getting into a normal workflow again -- I can tell you that it does, in fact, work. In fact, it works wonders. The OS is the best release we’ve seen, follows some sound usability best practices, and hasn’t crashed on me once. There are a few minor issues and one major software disappointment, but otherwise it’s a big step forward.
Ironically, one of the reasons I like Windows 10 is because it brings back a few familiar options. The Start menu works just like the Start button. You can drag and drop icons easily from the Start menu and store them in the taskbar. You can re-size the Start menu so it takes up a quarter of the screen or almost all of the screen. The workflow makes sense. I tested Windows 10 on multiple laptops, including the Dell XPS 15 and a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, but my favorite test machine was the HP Elite X2 1011, which is small, well-designed two-in-one.
Microsoft nailed the user experience for two-in-ones, which -- based on a recent trip to a Best Buy store -- are selling like hotcakes. Windows 10 uses something called Continuum to switch automatically between laptop and tablet mode. I like that the full-screen tablet interface, what used to be called Metro, mostly stats out of the way unless you use the x2 like a tablet.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.