Windows of opportunity?
TECH TALK: David Behrens questions whether it’s worth upgrading.
OUR days from now, if you let it and if the date doesn’t slip, the latest – and last – version of Windows will arrive on your desktop.
Windows 10 is Microsoft’s final throw of the dice in attempting to deliver an operating system that will work across all your devices: home computers, laptops, games consoles, tablets and mobile phones. The company has said there won’t be a successor – just incremental updates once in a while.
In a complete break from tradition, you won’t have to buy Windows 10 – it’s being offered as a free upgrade to users of the previous two versions. But is it any better that its immediate predecessor, the unloved and commercially unsuccessful Windows 8.1?
The short answer is, yes, it’s a little better – but it’s still a close call as to whether it’s worth the time and trouble even a free Microsoft upgrade traditionally involves.
The list of new features in Windows 10 lays bare the catch-up game the company is playing here, not to mention its uneasy grasp on popular culture and imitates Apple’s “personal assistant” Siri, which Microsoft calls Cortana.
The return of the Windows Start Menu signals a U-turn on the move to phonelike “tiles” on the desktop, and the introduction of a new web browser to replace Internet Explorer may tempt one or two users. There are also new apps for email and photos. Unless you also use a Microsoft Xbox, which does benefit from some integration, you will gain little.
Yet the central flaw in Windows 10 is more fundamental still: it is Microsoft’s belief in a one-size-fits-all operating system across multiple devices. The most efficient computers run the leanest operating systems; catch-all Windows is exactly the opposite.
You will have a year from Wednesday’s launch date to decide if Windows 10 is worth your while; after that, Microsoft says the free upgrade window will close. If you’re still running Windows XP, the free offer won’t apply and an upgrade will cost £99. Given that you can currently buy a decently-specified complete PC for £150 from dabs.com, that’s a non-starter.
If at the moment you’re running Windows 7 and you’re happy with it, you will gain nothing substantial by upgrading, It might even slow down your machine. If Windows 8 or 8.1 is your current system, go ahead and upgrade – not because the new system is great but because the old one is worse.
WINDOW DRESSING: Windows 10 is free to most PC users and restores the Start Menu.