Windows 10 – The end of Microsoft?

I promised myself I would not attempt to review Win10 in any manner at all, so here’s a short rant on the surprisingly incomplete, poorly thought-out, much touted “new Start menu.”

What I cannot understand is how this iteration of Windows constitutes a “new operating system.” A handful of superficial (and incomplete) tweaks to the Start menu does not an operating system make. The GUI is a shell, not an OS. And the lame state of so many aspects of what little is new speaks to a superficial and sloppy development effort. I do believe that the super-tech folk at MS probably have the internals buttoned up pretty reliably, but my heavens, how can these trivial little mini-apps be so uninspired? How many hundreds of developers to they have?

All this talk about the Start menu. What? It’s just a list of apps and some uglified icons. That’s all it is! The “vision” of the Windows New Coke predecessor is mostly gone, but the end result is just so astonishingly unimpressive, clumsy, and dull that I don’t know where to start.

Since we’re really not ever going to talk about the actual OS underneath the desktop, and none of the pop writers about MS seem to know anything about an OS in the first place, let’s take one brief glance at Start.

  1. It blows up if you happen to have more than 512 links, of any kind, in your entire Start folder on disc. So if some obnoxious app like Nero happens to install about 40 links for their one product (including links for various languages of help, links for individual sub-apps, links for websites for each sub-app, links to uninstall each sub-app, etc.), you can exceed this New Operating System’s flagship “feature” just by installing it on a real-world PC. Obviously the testers and reviewers aren’t heavy users of the machines they put Win10 onto.
  1. The list of “apps” isn’t capable of differentiating the (entirely unnecessary) uninstall links from the actual apps. Or the (entirely pointless) seven language links for each help file. So not only does it blow up at 512, it also has to show you all the pointless links in one painfully tedious scrolling list. The full-screen sideways scrolling list in Win8.1 was actually much more user friendly and usable, since you could at least glance at 100 links/icons at once instead of treating your desktop PC like it’s a 6″ smartphone.
  1. The endlessly scrolling cramped list of apps cannot be organized, structured, arranged, sorted, or manipulated in any way other than vertical A-Z scrolling. This is simply unconscionable, given that Win7 had an ugly but eminently flexible alternative. Even Win8.1 grouped the endless sideways list by publisher. But Win10 just spews them out and lets you go blind trying to find something by its position in the alphabet, as if that has anything to do with the way we use apps. No folders? No hierarchy? No “don’t display this”?
  1. Kudos for the right-hand tile section letting you put the tiles where you want them. Although they do tend to rearrange unpredictably when you reboot. (See Win8 rant.) But the joy, such as it is, ends there. Why, oh why, do we need these ugly tiles in the first place? For years designers have been laboring over bigger and more beautiful icons, and the visual benefit of unique easily recognizable icons is well established. So now Win8-10 leaves the icons in their smallest form factor and surrounds them with garish primary colors, like a backyard full of vinyl lawn toys. Instead of showing the 64×64 or 128×128 full-color icons that MS insisted designers create, they stick with the 32×32 icon and then place it on a huge ugly square—and they don’t even let you choose the colors of the squares. And when you choose the Small size, instead of using the 32×32 icon, they bit-strip it smaller, so its recognizability can still be overshadowed by the ugly tile background. Usability is significantly enhanced by allowing all these icons to be grouped and displayed in a visual style that enhances the way they fit into our work-flow. This is human factors 101. The tile approach almost completely eliminates the value of icons and does obliterate any hope of color-associations with categories of apps.

I guess I’ll stop there. This kind of superficial and incomplete, even incompetent, cosmetic “improvement” does not bode well for the longevity of this giant ossified organization. I had my hopes up, but they aren’t fulfilled at all. Well, I’ll give them credit for getting the upgrade install working pretty well, but all this quick-n-dirty evolution? It’s a joke, and nobody’s laughing.

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