It all began with a Start Menu. When Microsoft removed the useful little button in the bottom left hand corner of the PC screen, it began a negative reaction to Windows 8 that never really went away.
Windows 10, set to be unveiled later today, is Microsoft’s chance to fix that, and it’s already said that the Start Menu is coming back.
The company was so desperate to escape the legacy of the unloved operating system that it missed out the number 9 entirely — and putting further distance between Windows 10 and Windows 8 will be a key focus of the announcement.
Windows 8’s problem was partly that it was too new, and had too many innovations. It was built for tablets as well as PCs, and emphasised touchscreens. It also brought performance improvements and new security features, though those were mostly forgotten in the outrage about the visual changes.
The new features led to complaints of Windows 8 being confusing and difficult to get to grips with. For people using PCs without a touchscreen, the large buttons and tablet-style views were odd and felt useless. The visual change was vast, and those that were sceptical about the changes had much to complain about.
Some of those problems were addressed in the Windows 8.1 update, which rolled back many of the things that people had complained about. Windows 10 is likely to continue to strip those out.
New things, too
But it will also introduce new features, even if they’re largely to get rid of the problems of old versions of the operating system.
It is widely expected to announce its new browser, codenamed Spartan. It will be streamlined and able to use Chrome extensions, getting rid of the heavy and widely-mocked Internet Explorer as the default browser.
It could also announce new gaming features, helping the operating system win back some of its fun feel. The head of Xbox is set to speak at the event. New gaming features could help it hit back at Apple, whose Mac OS has been taking market share from Windows.
But it won’t be giving up on business users, either — many of whom had the worst experience with Windows 8, finding it installed on their machines and disliking it. A new suite of enterprise features are expected to be added to Windows.
The company has not yet announced pricing for Windows 8, and some have speculated that it might make it available for free. That strategy, which Apple has already switched to, could help take scrutiny away from the release and
Microsoft tends to cycle between updates that do well and those that do badly. The much-loved XP was followed by the disliked Vista. Windows 7 was hailed as a return to form before the problems of Windows 8.
When the company takes to the stage today, at 5PM GMT, it will be hoping for once that the pattern holds true.