Windows 10 has been with us now for a couple of days. I thought I'd give it a few days of use to enable me to provide a nice balanced review. As a Microsoft Partner I got my copy of Windows 10 Enterprise first thing Wednesday morning (UK time) and, yes, for all you worry warts - it was an ISO not an upgrade. They do still exist even though the internet panic mongers will tell you otherwise (If you don't know what an ISO is then that's great too because you can upgrade in even easier ways now using the 'Get Windows 10 tool')
Before I start reviewing the OS itself I fell it necessary to address the hate mongers across the internet. The release of Windows 10 has been a hotbed of vitriol, disinformation and downright Luddite anger across the web. Some of this may be justified but the vast majority is just plain wrong. Microsoft WILL be forcing updates down to Windows 10 if you are using Home edition. If you are using Pro edition you can defer updates for a month and Enterprise allows you to defer for a year. This is a GOOD THING people. Other operating systems have been doing this for years on our devices. Where this is a BAD thing is when it's pushing out driver updates. This became clear fairly early on in the release when an nvidia driver update caused some serious issues but, it also showcased the power of this process in that the faulty update issue was fixed in a few hours. I don't want my drivers messed with really but everything else is a big plus as far as I'm concerned. Much of the hate seems to stem from the 'I like Windows XP' camp. If you love XP then use XP - This is not the OS you're looking for - move along (and breathe).
The Core OS
As mentioned above I went old school and used a CD to install Windows 10 - The upgrade was faultless on both my custom build PC and my Macbook Pro with Bootcamp. The update took just over an hour. Windows eventually booted up to a nicely designed new login screen; a massive improvement from the garish horrible mess of Windows 8.1's login screen. I was immediately presented by my desktop with a sleek black task bar, the search box for Cortana (more on that later) and the Start icon. I clicked around for a while and moved some files about. The underpinnings of 10 felt very familiar. Underneath the revamped user interface is the beating heart of Windows 8.1 essentially. What many people never got to realise with Windows 8 was that the underpinnings were a massive step forward from Windows 7 (because the User Experience was so bad you couldn't figure out what you were doing half the time). Great little enhancements from 8 like the new transfer progress bar in File Explorer are still evident in Windows 10.
The User Interface and UX
I'm not going to belabour the UX disaster of Windows 8 or how it's confused look threw users through so many changes it needed a help guide built in. Windows 10 doesn't need any of these tricks. Whether you come from 7 or 8 as your upgrade path it will feel familiar to you. The new start menu has taken elements from both versions. Laid out in a similar way to Windows 7, sat comfortably on the desktop, you have access to File Explorer, recent programs, all apps and Live Tiles. The Live Tiles carry over from Windows 8 and are pinned apps. They replace icons and are capable of displaying info like the number of new emails you have to read or the latest news at a glance. You can size the start menu to your preference.
To partner this you now have a notification centre on the right hand side which aggregates all your notifications. It's a nice touch and well implemented. I've found that Outlook 2013 doesn't seem to use it properly at the moment but (and this is great too) I just raised a bug against it using the Feedback tool.
The built-in Windows apps have improved significantly from their Windows 8 / 8.1 versions but still have some key elements missing. Mail is fast, responsive and easy to use, it needs a unified inbox for multiple accounts and I probably wouldn't use Outlook again. The calendar is really slick and handles my Exchange, Live, Google and iCloud calendars faultlessly.
The media apps are notable in that Windows now natively supports FLAC and MKV. This is a big deal for me on the Music side as I have a Groove (formerly X-Box Music) pass that integrates with the Music app and the app will now match my One Drive stored content and my Subscription albums together alongside my local FLAC files in one place. It messed up a few albums in figuring out where the duplicate tracks were (but it doesn't CHANGE anything in your files so it doesn't go and break your world!) I have over 2,000 albums so having about a 1% match fail ratio is pretty good in my eyes. The MKV support is OK, but limited.
Edge is an immensely fast web browser. There's no two ways about it. It flies. As this evolves this COULD become my go to. It is a bit lacking for now though (and this was expected so it's not really a bad point). Extensions support is coming soon (and will be designed to allow developers to quickly port chrome and Firefox extensions to the Windows Store). It has problems in a few rendering scenarios making some PNGs look crushed and it doesn't seem to respond to resize events like other browsers. I hope these will be fixed in the next few months. I'd like to think about waving goodbye to Chrome's bloat.
The UI has a nasty bug in the Start Menu where small tiles get cut in half. This has been logged repeatedly on the feedback tool, so I should thing someone ant Microsoft is on this now. Having a bug here for launch is a bit poor in my opinion and I've replicated it on two devices.
Some Apps (Music and Mail in particular) tend to crash every now and then - always when trying to follow an action (Music is happy running in the background and Mail only seems to go every now and then when you select a new mail to read) This is annoying but it actually doesn't affect your workload too much - The notification centre tends to become your go to place for new email so simply clicking the next email from there launches mail straight back up again (bugs logged with Microsoft on both of these).
I live in the UK. Is Cortana supported? I think so, but Windows doesn't seem to be sure. When going through the setup for Cortana (which is VERY confusing and badly needs redoing) it sometimes tells me it's not yet available, but then it works - kinda. This feels like a mess to me. Cortana IS going to be great, you can see that quite clearly, when it's ready but right now it's not. Cortana should not have been included in the initial Windows 10 release in my opinion.
For an initial release on day 1 this is a solid operating system, well designed, flexible and it can be whatever the user wants it to be which, I guess, was the main goal. Microsoft have made it clear that keeping thing current through Windows as a Service is key to the strategy moving forward. Some people will not like this and will be very vocal about it. For the vast majority of people this will reap major benefits. I would expect to see upgrades to the OS and to Edge, in particular, over the next 3 to 6 months to be extensive as feedback is processed.
People like to bitch and moan but please, people, this is a unique development. We have an opportunity for the first time ever where non-techies can actively influence the feature development and direction of their operating system. Linux has always been a community effort. Windows is taking some of this on board but in a different way. You, the end user, now decide what you what Windows to be, what services you want it to deliver and what is the most important for you. If you want it to be better use the feedback tool. Suggest a new feature. For the vast majority of people - you may never have to buy another operating system again.
Windows 10 is YOUR operating system. Hit the Start button.