Windows 10 : Windows 8 :: Windows 7 : Windows Vista

I’ve been using the Windows 10 Technical/Insider Previews (slow ring, now build 10130) on my primary work laptop since October, and it’s clear to me that in Windows 10 Microsoft has successfully salvaged the Metro/WinRT technology, introduced with Windows 8, to create a winning new OS version.

by Peter Schay, President and CEO of TAC.

I’ve been using the Windows 10 Technical/Insider Previews (slow ring, now build 10130) on my primary work laptop since October, and it’s clear to me that in Windows 10 Microsoft has successfully salvaged the Metro/WinRT technology, introduced with Windows 8, to create a winning new OS version.

Beginning with the introduction of Windows Vista in 2007, Microsoft seems to have fallen into a cycle of overreaching “failure” followed by corrective success in its Windows versions (keeping in mind that for Windows, “failure” still means hundreds of millions sold).

(I should point out that, in the case of Vista, TAC was far more positive in our assessment than most pundits at the time [see SmartTip “Cutting through the Nonsense about Windows Vista, Windows 7, etc.”].)

As explained in the SmartTip cited above, the highly successful Windows 7 is basically a “cleaned up” version of what Vista should have been, with mostly incremental improvements. The one major new feature in Windows 7, Windows XP Mode, was added specifically to address the application software compatibility problems that plagued Vista.

Our advice regarding Windows 8 was, like the product itself, bifurcated. Microsoft’s emphasis on the “mobile first,” touch-oriented Modern (a.k.a. Metro) side of Windows 8 was an immense turn-off for desktop users with non-touch PCs, i.e., most of the Windows-using world. At the same time, the development of the Modern environment was an absolutely essential strategic move for Microsoft in the face of the Apple iPad and various Google Android tablet devices. (See the blog postings below, “Windows 8, BYOD, and IT Leadership,” “Yes, Windows 8 Is Bad…,” “Windows Reimagined,” and “A Learning Curve with Windows 8? Much Ado About Nothing, but Stick With Windows 7 for the Enterprise,” for our comments at the time.)

Now, on the threshold of the July 29 general availability of Windows 10, there is no doubt that Windows 10 is to Windows 8 as Windows 7 was to Windows Vista. The clunky awkwardness of the dual Windows 8 environments has evolved into a more-or-less seamless — and far more desktop friendly — experience which, on 2-in-1 devices (e.g., Microsoft Surface 3, Lenovo Yoga) includes the “Continuum” capability of automatically adjusting on-the-fly to changes in physical configuration.

Bottom line, Windows 10 is a winner. Any organization that has not yet deployed Windows 8 devices should wait for Windows 10.

Windows Phone 8 GDR2 update with Lumia “Amber” – Windows Phone Gets Even Better

Since April of this year, I’ve been using a Windows 8 phone on the Verizon network; specifically a Nokia Lumia 822. I loved it when I got it then; I’m more in love with it now that Microsoft and Nokia have released their updates.

Since April of this year, I’ve been using a Windows 8 phone on the Verizon network; specifically a Nokia Lumia 822, Verizon’s “free” Windows phone (when I received it – I dislike laying out money for handsets). I loved it when I got it then (Read Windows Phone 8: a Very Worthy Underdog); I’m more in love with it now that Microsoft and Nokia have released their updates.

Included in the Microsoft GDR2 and  Nokia Lumia “Amber” updates are better camera functionality, phone storage improvements, bug fixes etc., but some of the best updates for this user are also the most decidedly simple.

Glance Screen

Nokia has had this feature in the past, and now that it’s back, one has to wonder why it ever went away. Using the camera to sense a change in lighting, the Peek Screen shows the time and battery and ringer statuses without having to press a single button on an inactive phone. Having stopped wearing watches long ago because my phones have had clocks in them, it’s really nice to be able to simply remove my phone from my pocket, glance down at the time, and put it back without going through the gyrations of finding the power button and pressing it to see the time, then pressing it again to shut off the lock screen. When the phone sits on my desk, I simply wave my hand over the phone to see the time. After 10:00 PM, the “night mode” kicks in and the time is displayed in red so as not to disturb others in a darkened room.

FM Radio

Nokia sells its phones predominantly in European markets where monthly data plans are almost nonexistent; most people opt for prepaid services. In order to conserve data, Nokia has included an FM radio on the chipset they use in many of their phones. Windows Phone 7 supported FM radio, but the original Windows Phone 8 release did not. The GDR2 update brings back support for this functionality, and I use it almost constantly. Again, a low-tech feature, but one that lets me listen to ballgames and other local radio stations without using my precious data allotment and some app wanting to gather data about me before allowing me to listen. By plugging in a wired headset which the phone uses as the radio antenna, I can listen anywhere, even when there is no WiFi, or even cell service.

Flip-to-Silence

Another simple feature and another win for Nokia. Have you ever been in a meeting with a client or your boss and your phone starts ringing? You then have to find the “ignore” button, hit it, and apologize. With the Nokia 822 (and other Nokia phones) simply turn the phone over and it goes quiet. One has to wonder why this feature isn’t on every phone.

In Conclusion:

The new update has not been out for long, but I’m already spoiled by the added functionality. It’s like getting a new phone for free all over again. The new functions and improvements, added to an already great user experience, make me very happy indeed that I “took the risk” and went with Windows Phone instead of an Apple or Android product.

If you’re looking for a new smartphone, I would recommend that you at least take a look at the Windows offerings; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Windows Phone 8 – A Very Worthy Underdog

WP8 uses the same “Live Tiles” setup as Windows 8, the OS I currently run on my laptop. If anything, the WP8 experience is everything Windows 8 on a laptop wants to be. The start screen on the phone is easy to use. The OS is blazingly fast using 4G or WiFi and there are plenty of visual themes to play with. Voice recognition is excellent and the phone takes commands and dictation well.

I’ve always been the fan of the underdog. I can go through “March Madness” rooting for one team, and then switch teams in the final game, just because the team I was rooting for became the favorite. I’m a Red Sox fan, and was long before they won a World Series. My tablet computer is an HP Touchpad (now running a dual-boot of WebOS and Android). Until recently, I had what Verizon “lovingly” called a feature phone. When it died, I was faced with the realization that there was really no good replacement for it. I would have to upgrade to a smart phone. So, with the choices available to me, I quickly narrowed the field to one… I went with a Nokia Lumia 822 running Windows Phone 8 (WP8).

WP8 uses the same “Live Tiles” setup as Windows 8, the OS I currently run on my laptop, so I can’t really even say that there was a learning curve at all. If anything, the WP8 experience is everything Windows 8 on a laptop wants to be. The start screen on the phone is easy to use. Tiles can be sized (3 sizes) and arranged so you can group your apps by importance, function, or any other way you feel like arranging them. The OS is blazingly fast using 4G or WiFi (I haven’t been in a situation where I’ve had to use 3G yet) and there are plenty of visual themes to play with. Voice recognition is excellent (at least it is for me), and the phone takes commands and dictation well.

In addition to all of this, the phone comes with Microsoft Office.

TAC (The Advisory Council) recently went to the cloud with Exchange 365, and as I said before, I run Windows 8 so I figured it should be an easy task connecting exchange to the phone… and it couldn’t have been simpler. It was, in fact, easier than connecting my laptop. My contacts, calendar, and email sync effortlessly, regardless of which device I use to enter information.

Let’s talk about the Apps and accounts for a minute. Email accounts set up very quickly, and if you have several accounts as I do, you can link (aggregate) them together in the email app to minimize clutter on your start screen. I have all of my personal accounts under one tile, and my business email under another one. Calendars are also aggregated under one app, with selectable colors for each calendar so your personal calendar events appear differently than your business ones.  Appointments are as easy to set on the phone as they are on a laptop with Outlook.The “People Hub” aggregates your contacts from Exchange, Facebook, and pretty much anywhere else you have contacts located. Just like with email, you can link contacts together so you don’t have 5 John Smith’s in your address book, all of whom are the same person. Getting your content (pics, music, movies, etc.) on and off the phone is done through an app that sits on your Windows 8 laptop or desktop. again the app is well designed, and easy to use.

While the app store is not as full as Google Play and Apple’s App Store, it has the apps that I need; primarily productivity and social media apps. There are even several “Siri-like” apps that work very well, although they don’t have Siri’s sense of humor. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress all have apps, and where an app is missing, there is generally a third-party one to take its place.

True multitasking (something you still can’t do on an iPhone) is simple; switching between open apps requires a “long hold” on the back button exposing the open apps, then scroll to the app you want and tap it. The only quirk in WP8 is that the only way to shut off an app is to completely back out of it, or go to the phone settings and kill it there. One would think that a swipe down or an “X” in the upper right hand corner would be appropriate, maybe it will be included with the next Windows Phone release.

As for the handset, the Nokia Lumia 822 works for me. For one thing, it was free (with a two-year contract and $30/month Data plan), and I don’t like paying for stuff when I don’t have to. I find the screen to be bright and easy to read, the screen size is more than adequate, it feels good in the hand and it’s not too big in the pocket. Memory is expandable; the unit will take a microSD behind the removable back cover – which means that you can also replace the battery, two things you can’t do with an iPhone. There are an adequate number of ringtones and alert tones, both from Nokia and Microsoft. An 8 megapixel camera with 1080p video is included, as is a front facing low res camera for video calls and “selfies”.

In all, WP8 is what a smart phone OS should be all about; fast, intuitive, customizable, and easy to configure and use. Being late to the mobile game, Microsoft is truly the underdog, but has the pedigree to make believers out of iPhone and Android fans.

I’m rooting for it.