Microsoft isn’t talking about its big Windows plans at Build 2021 this week, and that’s because the company is preparing to detail what’s next for its PC operating system separately. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella teased this announcement during his Build keynote this morning, revealing he has been testing “the next generation of Windows” in recent months.
Windows is in a bit of a rut. As far as its core frameworks and lower levels go, it’s an incredibly solid, fast, extensible, and yes, secure operating system that can chug along just fine. The user experience, however, is a garbled, confusing mess consisting of bits and pieces dating back to Windows 3.11 (if you look hard enough). Almost every part of the operating system has multiple sides to it with different user experiences, looks, and feels, and if you come from a modern Linux distribution, the update experience, installing and managing applications, changing settings, and so on, are just downright laughably bad.
The user-facing part of Windows doesn’t just need an overhaul – it’s had countless overhauls over the years, all leaving various bits and pieces around that you still encounter today – but a complete redesign. I think the lower-levels and core frameworks are more than fine, but everything on top of that needs a clean start.
Microsoft has promised countless of these “next generations” of Windows, and aside from the move from Win9x to Windows NT, they’ve all been thin, patchy veneers atop all the thin, patchy veneers that came before. After so many empty promises, it’s just hard to take them seriously. Mark my words: this “next generation of Windows” is nothing but a few nips and tucks to the current, existing UI to make it slightly less of an inconsistent mess.
I don’t understand why everyone waxes lyrical about the fact that some of the management utils of Windows are stuck at a Windows 2000 look-and-feel (with icons to match). It’s still much better than what you get on Desktop Linux, which is a terminal and some conf files that you have to edit by hand.
What is annoying about Windows is that instead of Microsoft iterating on top of .NET and win32 (and yes, there is stuff to iterate on, for example adding permissions and making them mandatory for new signed exes, ability to install stuff without elevated priviledges in a manner similar to Android, better SDKs, and adding touch support), they instead went ahead with the Metro UI which no user I ‘ve met likes, and all kinds of “foreign” new runtimes which no big application vendor uses.
I mean, what are the chances of Adobe rewriting their main apps to Metro’s runtimes just for the privilege of having to pay a 30% cut to the Microsoft Store and with no user-facing benefit? None.
Even Microsoft’s own Office team hasn’t made the move in full, with the win32 version of Office being the “real” version of Office. Nice confidence in Metro there from Microsoft’s own divisions. Imagine if it was the Windows 95 era and the DOS version of Word was the real one you wanted to get. Of course, that didn’t happen, because win32 offered immense usability benefits, so making the switch was worth it.