It's beginning to look a lot like Windows ... 10

Windows 10 proves that Microsoft is on a quest. Much like a physicist working on a Unified Theory of Everything, Microsoft is doing its best to build a Unified OS for Everything. Tablet, phone or PC; one system to rule them all, one system to bind them ... so on, so forth. In theory, it's not a bad idea. In theory.


Windows 10 red ribbon

In practice, it gets a little tougher. Phones and tablets operate by touch, which is convenient and quick for short computing bursts, but clunky for anyone trying to get substantial work done. In those instances, one breaks out the laptop or boots up the PC, both of which (much to Microsoft's surprise and chagrin) are still primarily operated with a keyboard and cursor.


Microsoft's apparent assumption that even laptop and desktop computers would soon be touch-operated led to the Windows 8 OS, a technically solid system that nonetheless managed to be immensely frustrating to many users with its bizarre dual interfaces.


Now approaching their task a bit more realistically, Redmond developers are giving it another shot with Windows 10. Users running 10 with a mouse and keyboard will have their start menu, but 10 also has "tablet mode" in which the start button opens up a start screen instead, populated with application tiles.


Instead of having strict separation of windows and apps, apps open inside windows, which can be dragged and will "auto-dock" in any half or quarter of the screen. Microsoft is also integrating their OneDrive cloud storage into the system, so that certain items will automatically be backed up on the user's free OneDrive account.


(There will also, at some point in the near future, presumably be an entire suite of certifications devoted to Windows 10. Hopefully those will be longer-lived, and of greater eventual utility, than the Windows 8 certs. At least Windows 8 will always have Ayan Qureshi, the 5-year-old who briefly turned the IT certification world on its ear by passing a Supporting Windows 8.1 exam in September to become the world youngest ever Microsoft Certified Professional.)


It seems that most consumers are hedging their bets about the new system. There are always a few die-hard fans, as well as those who refuse to bury the hatchet about past systems, but for the rest of us Windows 10 is like the water of unknown depth at the base of a cliff: We'll wait to see if the first jumpers survive before we try it for ourselves.


For Microsoft's sake, we hope they do. Despite many of 10's features being derivative (its multiple desktop feature is nearly a carbon copy of Mac's command center interface), what it's trying to accomplish is excitingly fresh. Trying to build an OS that runs just as well on a smartphone as on a desktop is like trying to design a car that works whether you use a V12 or a lawnmower engine.


If Microsoft succeeds, they'll have cross-platform compatibility unlike anything we've seen yet. In an age where your phone and PC can talk to each other without your prompting, where the line between laptop and tablet is getting increasingly blurry, and where mobile applications are big moneymakers, having one system on everything could make Windows 10 an incredibly headache-light choice for consumers.


And it's not just the system for its own sake, either — a strong cross-platform operating system could make gimmicky laptop-tablet hybrids like Microsoft's own Surface Pro viable contenders in the hardware market as well.


When all is said and done, Windows 10 is a great experiment. Go ahead and jump in — I'll watch to see where you land.


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author
David Telford

David Telford is a short-attention-span renaissance man and university student. His current project is the card game MatchTags, which you can find on Facebook and Kickstarter.