Windows 10: The Final Windows

So, I installed Windows 10 the other day, pretty much exactly when Microsoft offered me the download.  I’m going to give some first impressions about Windows 10 here and make the prediction that Win10 may be the last Windows you ever use.  Note I won’t comment about the “phone home” things that seem to be getting everybody in a tizzy..

So first, the install process. Aside from some install issues (it didn’t want to install at first for some weird reason) the upgrade process from Windows 7 was painless and pretty smooth.  If it wasn’t for the redesigned application bar at the bottom I wouldn’t have even noticed I was running a different version of Windows.

Games that ran on Win7 seem to work just fine on Win10.  I haven’t done an exhaustive check of everything I have installed, but the important things run, and even some unimportant things seem to run as well.  I haven’t tried any of the weird things (like audio or video rippers) but as a general purpose OS it seems to do the trick.

For the first time I feel like the “new Windows” was actually an upgrade.  Windows 8 always frustrated me: it seemed like the Metro stuff was way too forced, and the whole UI was “tablet-y” and annoying for use on a desktop.  I did have a Win8 tablet, and every time I had to use it for conventional Windows applications it annoyed me.  But in Metro with a touch screen?  Worked great.

And that brings me to why Windows 10 is “The Final Windows.”  Microsoft failed at mobile, and Windows 10 proves it definitively.  They actually tried to make a UI that worked great for tablets, and everybody just shrugged and went back to their iPad.  Mobile screens are now king, and Microsoft is a distant third in market penetration, and it appears that’s never going to change.

Because of this, it appears that Windows will forever be tied to “desktop”, and that is going to be a low-growth market probably forever.  Everybody who needs a computer has one, and we are now seeing processor clock speeds plateau and (to a very large extent) high end computers made three years ago can still keep up with the latest.  I have a four-year-old Republic of Gamers machine that still “hauls ass” and plays the latest games nearly perfectly.

What’s changed nowadays is not speed, but overall performance.  The kids building “hot rod” machines today are focusing more on things other than raw speed: they are focused on IO performance, video capabilities (MOAR PIXELS!), overall storage capacity and reliability (SSDs for boot, spinning disk for mass storage, often in RAID arrangements and/or NAS boxen), and other things.  These were important before, granted: but they were not the focus.  Overall SPEED was, and that’s not the focus now as I flip through websites.

And why should it be?  The processor in my Chromebook is a lowly 1.7 GHz ARMv7 dual-core chip, in many was inferior to the chip Samsung is shipping on high-end Android phones.  It’s a little shy of the processor power in the latest Raspberry Pi, for crying out loud (that has a quad-core ARMv7 processor running at half the clock speed, just by comparison).  And yet, it does everything I expect a small “disposable” laptop to do: it browses the web, plays the occasional streamed movie, and is responsive enough to type things up into WordPress.  It can even run a few modest-performance games.

Point is, this is now the performance level we can deliver in a box of Cracker Jack’s.

We’ve reached the point with computers that they don’t need to go much faster.  They need to be more efficient, and Moore’s Law is delivering on that.  Faster processors in smaller spaces.  More “high-performance” general purpose CPUs (like the ARMv7 and [grrrr] Intel’s Atom) are now available to hobbyist single-board computer projects.  Even Intel’s Edison, which I view as crap compared to the Pi, delivers an awesome punch for the sub-$100 price.

And that’s why Windows 10 is the Final Windows.

Don’t get me wrong, Windows will likely exist until the end of time.  But it will have to disappear into the computer as a mere component, just the thing that makes the browser work, if it is going to survive at all.  ChromeOS, Andriod, and iOS have all proven that a lightweight OS designed to deliver enough of an API to run a competent browser is all you need.

The Cloud has taken over, and people are now getting used to the fact that everything lives on a server and not on their local machine.  Even I find that as Google starts inserting more fingers in more places I don’t have to maintain my large personal music library anymore, it’s all on Google Play Music ready to stream.  Google Docs delivers basic word processing and spreadsheet functions without any software, on my phone, tablet, and laptop.  All these things are only going to make the general purpose computer disappear into your tablet or phone.

And this world needs Windows… how exactly?

Consider this thought.  There have been more ARM processors shipped in the last year than any other general purpose CPU in history. 1    And Windows?  …doesn’t even run on ARM at all.

Show 1 footnote

  1. Intel was so proud of shipping 40 million processors in 2014. In 2013, the latest year with hard numbers available, ARM Holdings shipped 10 billion, that’s with a B, and they have stated that sales were up for 2014 and the first half of 2015, buoyed by a still-strong low-end smartphone market

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