The man machine interface
Windows 10 is out, and determined to become the next great computer interface and succeed where Windows 8 failed, but early impressions are not overwhelming, and we are finding the devil is in the detail.
Reviewers have now had a proper look at the release version of Windows 10 and most agree that it performs its core functions well. It is speedy, it is stable, it has modest hardware requirements, and it has repaired some of the damage done to the brand by the Windows 8 interface. Most verdicts, I would say, are ones of cautious optimism, that reviewers like it, but will probably hold off updating their own Windows 7 machines for a little while yet until any teething problems with 10 are ironed out.
There are some surprises though, and one of those is in the revenue model. Not only does it collect an initial purchase price from you, usually via the hardware purchase, but Microsoft is also looking for ways to leverage ongoing revenue from Windows users. It has taken a leaf out of Google's Android book and opted for tracking and advertising. To use Windows 10 you need a Microsoft email account such as Hotmail or Live, and logging onto Windows 10 on your own computer logs you into your Microsoft account too. This links you to your unique user profile which Microsoft can use to deliver personalised ads, both while you are web browsing and when you are using apps downloaded from the MS App Store. Even a program as simple as Solitaire, a staple of Windows since day 1, now includes a mandatory non-skippable 30 second advert between games, unless you pay $10 a year to upgrade to an ad-free version.
How much data does Microsoft collect on its users? The answer seems to be pretty well everything it can. The small print seems to grant Microsoft the right to collect information about you from your emails, your address book and calendar, your location, your skype calls, the websites you visit, and even the contents of your documents, media, and private files, and to share information with others at its own discretion.
Windows 10 does have privacy options and you can control how much of your data you choose to share with Microsoft, but they are opt-out rather than opt-in. If you go for express installation of Windows 10, as most people invariably do, you have no privacy. Microsoft talks about transparency, but if you try to opt out you discover that there are 45 pages of policy documents and the opt-out settings are split across 13 different screens. Furthermore, opting out of the wrong things may disable malware protection or the speaking assistant, Cortana.
An area where I am disappointed with the initial release of Windows 10 is accessibility. I had hoped that Cortana, Microsoft's answer to Siri, would be the cornerstone of a fully voice compatible operating system, and that accessibility would be absolutely integral to the OS. Windows 10 does support Assistive Technology, it still has the magnifying glass utility, and add-ons such as Jaws do work with it (free upgrade for existing Jaws users), but the add-ons remain just that, add-ons, something that you have to pay extra for, not something you can expect as part of the windows experience.
Microsoft's own advice is that if you use an add on such as Jaws, you will need to use the Internet Explorer browser, because its new all-singing all-dancing browser, Edge, isn't yet fully compatible with assistive technology. Likewise, you should install Outlook rather than trying to use the new mail application, and install an external PDF reader because the PDF rendering engine integral to Windows 10 is not compatible with assistive technologies. Another accessibility complaint is that the ever more important app store gives no indication whether apps are accessible or not.
Its 2015. Accessibility should not be an afterthought.
25th August 2015
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