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A tribute to Windows 8: If it hadn't been so bad, Windows 10 wouldn't be so good

Mark Hachman | July 22, 2015
Windows 8's pioneering features finally get to shine in Windows 10, and only because Microsoft had to try again.

Windows 8 brought touch to the desktop

Windows 8 also launched touch computing into the mainstream space, a feature that had previously been confined to the smartphone. In that, it somewhat succeeded.

Touch still isn't the primary means of interacting with a notebook. Apple has ignored this space, but an increasing number of Chromebooks have touchscreens, and touch and stylus input now form the foundation of the Surface and Surface Pro, a significant component of OneNote, and an important means of interacting with Windows.

You could also argue that one of the more reviled features about Windows 8, the derivative Windows RT operating system, was in fact a decent answer to the demands of mobile tablets. The problem with Windows RT apps wasn't their appearance, but their functionality: They failed to keep up with their desktop counterparts, and there weren't enough of them, either. Microsoft's Universal apps attempt a hybrid approach, presenting in a desktop-friendly format, then filling or shrinking themselves when undocked--part of Microsoft's Continuum approach.

I never thought I'd say this, but one of the things I'll miss about Windows 8 will be the Charms menu, which slid out from the sides of the screen. I never used Charms like search, but the quick access to the Settings menu was invaluable--though it was a shame that Windows 8 also bifurcated Settings into two locations, one of which was holed up in the Control Panel. Windows 10 keeps some of that legacy--you can slide in from the right-hand side of the screen to access the Notifications pane, which hides a Settings shortcut at the bottom of the screen--but lacks the elegance of its predecessor.

All your data belongs to us

In 2014, after months of searching, Satya Nadella was named Microsoft's third chief executive. He set a mantra of "cloud-first, mobile first," but the foundations for that approach had been laid long ago.

Windows 10 actually encompasses multiple devices, from Windows PCs to tablets to phones, all the way to the new HoloLens. But with Windows 8, Microsoft began tying the phone to the PC, to create an ecosystem (at the time, imperfect) of devices tied together by Microsoft's cloud services. Your key to the kingdom was your Microsoft account.

Windows 8's OneDrive app was a hideous mess. Logging into your Exchange-hosted email on anything but a Windows device required IT to watch over your shoulder. Microsoft was just beginning to realize it needed to support Android and iOS. Today, however, OneDrive has been refined and more deeply integrated into the operating system. Email is everywhere. And restoring a corrupted Windows installation or migrating to a new PC, is, by and large, a snap--data can be stored in the cloud, and applications are automatically re-downloaded and reinstalled.

 

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