OPINION: The end of Windows 10?

Windows 10 will have been with us for five years this summer. Five years. In that time, there have been 8 major updates and hundreds of tiny updates. Sometimes there’s one every week. It’s not the longest-lasting version of Windows, not yet. It’s getting close, though. Windows XP was released in 2001 and Windows Vista came out in 2006. We think of XP as having a longer life because people didn’t exactly cheer about Vista. It’s hard to remember why, since it really wasn’t that bad with the right hardware.

Should we be talking about the end of Windows 10?

When Windows 10 launched, it was heralded as “the last Windows version.” While that sounds a little ominous, Microsoft intended it to mean that future changes to Windows 10 would be incremental. There wasn’t going to be a big rollout like we had seen for earlier versions of Windows. It’s a strategy that Apple has employed for its desktop and laptop computers since 2000. That’s right, every Mac made since Y2K has run a version of “OS X version 10.” The OS has been around so long they actually changed the name of it to MacOS. I’m guessing people had literally forgotten there was an OS before OS X.

Microsoft’s Windows strategy also meant that you’d probably never pay for an OS upgrade again. The company made the Windows 10 upgrade free to most current computer users back in the early days and it’s still possible using some tricks to get that free upgrade if you want it.

This focus on free software hasn’t hurt Microsoft too much, and so I don’t think they’ll change. After all, free OS upgrades are pretty much the standard on other devices.

But, it might make sense, just from a marketing perspective, for Microsoft to consider doing some sort of upgrade push just to remind people that the OS exists and that it’s still a thing people use.

Windows 10X – the new version you can’t get

Microsoft is talking about a new version of Windows. It’s called Windows 10X and there’s a good chance you’ll never see it. It’s only going to be available on Microsoft-branded hardware, and probably only for the dual-screen stuff they’re planning on putting out this year. The big difference is the way you interact with the Start menu. It will be optimized for these new dual-screen devices. So, yes, there is a new version but it isn’t really a new version.

Here’s what I want for Windows 11 (or whatever they call it.)

Office365 Built-In

First of all, Office365 should just be tied into it. Forget the mousy Mail and Calendar and WordPad apps. Just toss those and integrate Office365. Office365 is so cheap now, and they could make it even cheaper if they wanted. Just tie it in. Of course that would mean they would have to fix Outlook so it wasn’t so much of a refugee from the 1990s. But they could absolutely do that and retain the power it has now.

Don’t mess with a good thing

Next, they should keep the base OS the same. Don’t rewrite stuff so much that older apps won’t work. No one wants that. Add some new capabilities if they’re really good ones, but don’t mess with the good stuff. That’s what people hated about Vista, now I remember.

Better Sandbox

Windows Sandbox is a great feature. If you haven’t tried it, you should. It opens up a completely new, clean version of Windows for you to play with. When you are done, the whole thing goes away. It can’t transfer malware to your main computer. I would double down on this and allow you to create your own semi-permanent sandboxes. Right now the sandbox you get is a pristine copy of the last major feature update to Windows. I think you should be able to update, install apps, and save that sandbox as is. You can do that if you install something like vmWare, but then you have to disable the sandbox features which are so helpful and safe. Make that part of the OS.

Skinning and customization

Finally, I think the big change should be “skins.” Right now, Windows 10 looks like Windows 10. It would be fun to make it look like Windows 3.0, and it would be equally fun to make it look like some sci-fi movie. There have been third-party skinning tools for years. Just build that in. There are people who really would rather have their desktop look like it’s 1989. Let them.

I think most people wouldn’t actually use these personalization features but it’s a great marketing angle. Your Windows, your way. Doesn’t matter if you prefer Windows 1985, Windows 2000, or Windows 3000. Make it your own. That’s what they could say. People hate going on their PCs. Most people just use them at work. The computer at home sits there gathering dust while people play on their phones. Give them some reason to interact with it.

Because on balance, there’s nothing wrong with Windows 10.

I would be perfectly happy if they didn’t update Windows 10 other than security stuff. But I’d be increasingly bored. And I think that PCs are good tools to have. I want them to survive. I want every home to have one. So you have to build some excitement without making a mess of compatibility. This is one way to do that.

What do you think? Leave a comment below and let’s get the party started!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.