In an attempt to distance itself from Windows 8, Microsoft's next major update — codenamed Threshold — won't be called Windows 8.2, and instead the version will jump to Windows 9. Given that the new version of Windows is expected to arrive in April 2015, there's time for us to draw up a wishlist of features and get it in to Redmond.
With that in mind, here are five features that Microsoft must add to Windows 9 if it is to have a chance of tempting me back into the ecosystem.
#1 - Hassle-free Windows updates
Microsoft needs to take a long, hard look at the Windows update process. The system as it currently stands is so antiquated that it would be laughable if not for the pain it inflicts. Here are just some of the changes that need to be made:
- We need more cumulative updates. Installing updates only for more to appear instantly afterwards is tedious and time-consuming, especially when setting up new systems. Updating a system fully should be possible with just one click, and users should be left wondering if all the patches are installed. Fresh Windows 8 updates can take almost a day to patch, which is wholly inappropriate.
- Windows Update needs to be more reliable. I'm still coming across updates that just don't want to install, and trying to diagnose why can be a long task. Easy, one-click access to a separate installer would help, rather than forcing users to dig through knowledgebase articles.
- Rebooting should be kept to a minimum, and when needed it should recover my PC back to the state it was before the reboot, opening up the apps and files I was using.
#2 - Over-the-air Windows recovery
If a Mac suffers a catastrophic disk failure, then the operating system can be recovered over-the-air without the need to dig out discs, USB keys, or rely on a recovery partition.
Windows needs to be able to do this as it makes bringing back to life an ailing system much easier. And if Microsoft could add a feature that could download a diagnostics package containing tools, a virus scanner, and fixes for common problems for flatlined Windows system, that would be awesome. Having to rely on third-party tools to fix Windows system is frankly crazy when Microsoft should be able to do much better.
#3 - Separation of OS, applications, and data
It's 2014. Drives are cheap. It should be easy – and by easy, I mean as close to automatic as possible – to set Windows to notice when a system has multiple drives and use one for Windows and programs, and the other for data.
Taking this a step further, I'd like to see Windows isolate all applications from the operating system in such a way that I could, with a click of the mouse, either blitz all the settings of a specific application to default, or even remove that application from the system, deleting all of its setting with it. This would go a long way to eliminating the bitrot and slowdowns that affect Windows as time goes on. Windows 8 already has a feature that rolls Windows back to an "out of the box" state, but this is a very blunt instrument.
#4 - Pure desktop experience mode
If I have a desktop or notebook PC that isn't touch-enabled, then I don't want to have to suffer through a user experience compromised by features aimed at tablet users. Just give me the Windows Desktop and the Start Menu and let me get on with what I want to do.
#5 - Transparent backup
If there's on trick that Microsoft should learn from Apple, it is how to make backup easy. The Time Machine mechanism in OS X is simply awesome, and takes all the strain out of backing up a system, and after the initial setup it is a total "fire and forget" system.
Data is the single most important thing that users have on their systems, and giving users of all backgrounds a quick and easy way to ensure that their data is safe is a no-brainer.
A few other things I'd like to see changed
Before I close, here are a few more things I'd like to see changed in Windows 9:
- Get rid of all the pointless Start Screen tiles from a default install. If people want to add weather or search or financial info, tell them how to do it, but don't add to the user's cognitive load by throwing a bunch of ever-changing tiles into the mix.
- Tone back the animations. I want an operating system, not a Pixar movie.
- When it comes to touch, gestures need to work better. Right now they're a mess, and different sensitivities on different devices make them even trickier to use.
- Microsoft needs to figure out battery life, especially if Windows RT is dead. Windows 8/8.1 is far too much of a power hog compared to OS X, even on cutting-edge hardware.
- Fix the inconsistent user interface. Bolting on a touch UI to the existing Windows UI has made matters much worse.