One of the biggest stories of 2015 has been Windows 10, and it's spun off relative big stories like privacy, performance, updates, Windows as a Service, lack of update details and momentum of the install base, plus multiple cumulative updates, a constant stream of first party app updates in the Windows Store and the first major update to the operating system, the November Update.
Heading into 2016, you can expect two big OS updates, code named Redstone, with one expected in early summer and the other one in the fall. Just last week Microsoft shipped the first Redstone build for Windows Insiders so things are ready to crank up development in the new year. You can also expect the continued regular update cycle, confirming that we've moved into Windows as a Service, plus the beginning of development work on the next major update to Windows 10.
But what else could we expect? Or what could we want? These are the top five items on my 2016 wish list for Windows 10 and first party apps.
1. CENTRALIZED/SYNCHED ACTION CENTER AND NOTIFICATIONS
Microsoft introduced the Action Center as part of Windows 10, and it is available on every device running the new operating system. One thing the new center lacks is the ability to sync read/cleared notifications between devices. If an alert is cleared on one device, then that alert should not appear on any other device, and this state should be synched across all of your Windows 10 systems.
This should also prevent a string of alerts from popping up on any subsequent device you log into which is something that can be very irritating.
This is the main reason I keep my alerts set to Quiet Mode on all of my systems.
2. FEATURE PARITY IN WINDOWS 10 MOBILE APPS FROM MICROSOFT, ESPECIALLY WHEN COMPARED TO THEIR IOS AND ANDROID COUNTERPARTS
I spent nearly six months of 2015 using an Android device, the LG G4, and tried out Microsoft’s apps and services on that platform. There were too many times when an app on Android was more capable than the same service/app on Windows.
One app that really brought home this gap in user experience: the difference between using the Microsoft Account app on Android and the Authenticator app on Windows Phone/Windows 10 Mobile. Although both allow you to use Two Factor Authentication (2FA) with your Microsoft account, you have to manually copy a six-digit number from the Authenticator app into a 2FA form while the Microsoft Account app on Android allowed a one button action to validate a 2FA log in attempt.
3. FAMILY GROOVE MUSIC SUBSCRIPTION
In June 2014, Apple introduced their own family music plan that allows up to six family members to share a subscription for $15 per month. Just last week, Google announced a family plan for Google’s Play Music: up to five family members can share a subscription for $15 per month.
Yet Microsoft’s Groove Music service retains its annual subscription at $99 per person. The individual subscriber has the ability to use this service across multiple devices and on the web, but that is only allowed under one Microsoft account per subscription.
A family subscription plan would put Microsoft’s service on the same level as Apple and Google, plus it would reward the loyalty of their users on Windows 10.
4. VIRTUAL DESKTOP IMPROVEMENTS
In my unofficial polling, Virtual Desktops are one of the least used features in Windows 10. The concept is perfect for extending desktop space on a single monitor system, including laptops and tablets, but it can be cumbersome to fire up and set up each desktop at the start of a session.
So I would like to see is a new set of capabilities added to Virtual Desktops:
- Create and save desktops by name
- Select specific apps to open when a Virtual Desktop starts up
- For multi-monitor systems allow a default monitor to be selected for each Virtual Desktop
- Include an option to automatically start up these pre-configured desktops on system log in
- Allow these Virtual Desktops to be synched between devices
With these type of changes, I think the feature would be more convenient to use, and that in turn would increase overall usage by the end users.
5. SYSTEM RELIABILITY IMPROVEMENTS
In September, I wrote about the Windows 10 Experience Variable. The premise of that variable is "the wide swing of user experiences on the operating system, and in some cases between people running the exact same hardware."
Windows is an operating system that runs on the widest range of hardware and form factors imaginable. When Windows 10 had been installed on over 75 million devices, after nearly a month of public availability, data showed that it had been installed on more than 90,000 different hardware configurations.
So the variation in hardware is certainly linked to the different experiences that are had by users, but there are cases where two systems using the same exact hardware, drivers and configuration have vastly different levels of reliability.
Another factor that impacts system reliability is the OEM drivers and OS support for their hardware under the new operating system. Unfortunately, that is not a variation that Microsoft can completely control for OEM hardware. However, since they are a hardware manufacturer they need to be better at solving the driver related issues on their own devices such as the Intel Driver Display crashes that plaque Surface 2 and Surface Pro 3. That issue has been solved with a recent firmware update to Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book which were launched back in October.
I have recently begun recommending that those upgrading to Windows 10 from their previous OS perform a clean install once they have their Digital Entitlement established for the free upgrade. In comparing my own clean install Windows 10 experience to my colleague Rod Trent, who has only upgraded his systems, our experience variables are on different ends of the scale – even on the exact same hardware with the HP Spectre x360.
Reliability is critical to the success of any operating system and Microsoft needs to improve the experience on Windows 10 if they want to maintain the operating systems momentum.
BONUS WISH: MORE DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT UPDATES
I am adding this as an extra. So far, since the release of Windows 10 in late July, we have survived without getting extremely detailed summaries about what is contained in each -- or any -- of the cumulative updates. To a certain extent, detailed update summaries are not critical to running Windows 10.
In some situations, this also applies to first party apps. In fact, some first party app teams have introduced an app first run experience that gives a brief run down of the key updates in that update. It is unobtrusive and works very well.
On the OS side, those updates are much less verbose. The standard phrasing is that the update delivers performance improvement, bug fixes and as of late a new phrase has surfaced that indicates the update offers improved functionality for Windows 10 Version XXXX. Not a whole lot to work on in those statements is there?
For most power users these vague entries do nothing to establish any trust in the target of the update. Quite a few of those power users, including Windows Insiders, like to dive in and test/check out the fix to see if it is resolved and that can be a very useful thing.
Now Microsoft has promised better details to Enterprise customers about updates but it is not clear if that will eventually extend to other users.
Just like flipping on mandatory automatic updates is a positive for everyday users, limited info about what is in an update is not important to those same everyday users. Power users are a different story and they are the ones who are vocal. Taking the right steps to keep power users informed can only result in positives down the road as they support the update and take a closer look at it.
So, do you have any wish list items for Microsoft’s Windows 10?