Windows 10 and the Future of Consumer Devices

Windows 10 is just about with us, it builds upon Windows 8 and 8.1, yet perhaps its key significance for consumers has not been fully realized.
I have long argued that it would be a good thing if all our devices would use the same operating system; that way at least you wouldn’t have to learn a new way of working every time you bought a new piece of kit. Let’s be honest, it can get frustrating when you get a new phone or camera and you have to spend time learning how it works when all you really want to do is get out there and use it!
Windows 8 offered that facility for the first time and I feel Microsoft should be congratulated for taking that brave leap. At last the operating system on our laptop could be the same as on our tablet device and on our smartphone. Well almost.
Windows 8 never really proved popular with users for various reasons. The interface was very much designed to work on a touchscreen and not everybody could get on with a touchscreen on their laptop, indeed not everybody was prepared to buy a new laptop just to use a touchscreen. It is true to say that Windows 8 could be used without a touchscreen but trying to remember keyboard shortcuts or getting used to operating the screen from a trackpad, would frustrate many users. The most commonly heard complaint, though was the removal in Windows 8 of the ‘start’ icon; which is ironic in a way because previously the biggest complaint or joke about Windows had been the use of a ‘start’ icon particularly when you wanted to shut down the computer! Some of the issues in windows 8 were addressed in version 8.1 but still it seems that the whole windows 8.# experience has not been a fully happy one for users.
At the heart of the matter, though, I believe is a more fundamental issue. Most users were not ready to use their laptops in a different way. In essence, users were not ready to start using their laptop in a similar way to their smartphone or tablet device. This, I suspect, is still going to be a key issue with Windows 10 devices, people will need to change the way they utilize their devices. Not so much in the way they use the applications but in the day to day interfacing with their laptop. The principal change must be not to switch off your laptop; just as you would rarely fully switch off your mobile phone and, even more rarely, switch off your tablet device, so the user’s laptop needs to be kept on or go to ‘sleep’ and be instantly available when necessary. You know, there was a reason why Microsoft hid the ‘power off’ icon deep inside the ‘charms’ menu and I’d suggest that reason was that they didn’t expect/want users to be switching off their laptop!
There is another key issue. We have always believed that technologists and electronics geeks were up for change, well, perhaps as they’ve gotten older they are less accepting of change and want to stick in their old ways of working! More importantly, technology devices are no longer the preserve of geeks, they are now everyday items for everyone and, hey, not everyone likes change. So here we reach the paradox that we want to have the same operating system on all devices so that users don’t have to encounter change with each new device but, at the same time, the user has to adapt to changes in order to interface with the new operating system!
So while it may be great in the future to have the same operating system on your laptop as on your smartphone and your tablet and your TV or home entertainment system and on your car and your camera …etc., users still have to face a degree of change and learning in using that operating system. That is part of the challenge facing Microsoft for the future.
Now let’s ask ourselves a question; do we need all those different devices?
Or, could we learn to use just one device which then interfaces with all those other devices?
The latter would seem to be the approach being adopted by Apple. Already your iPad tablet can interface with your Apple smartphone to make and take calls and messages. It also has more limited interfaceability with your Apple laptop or desktop computer in that you can ‘hand off’ applications from one to the other so work can, say, be carried on via your tablet once you’ve left your desk. There is even degrees of interfaceability between your tablet device and your TV. So this, then, would suggest another approach, whereby the user only needs to learn to operate one device but that device can then interface automatically with other devices to perform specialist functions, one only hopes such interfaces can be ‘seamless’ and more stable/reliable than Bluetooth or wifi!

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