I’m excited about the upcoming release of Windows 10 – which is good, since I’m writing a book on Windows 10 (Please E-Mail me to subscribe to my E-Mail list to be in the know as soon as it’s released). I think the return of the start menu is a fantastic thing. I am looking forward to the voice activation features Cortana will bring (even if they’ll only be available to several countries at launch), and I’m ambitious about the possibilities of the new Windows Store making it safe again for people to download addon software without extra addons they didn’t ask for (see this warning about every major Windows freeware site and this warning about Sourceforge and this warning about ‘free’ Anti-virus software – in fact, while you’re on HowToGeek, and if you only read one article, make it this article about 12 common PC myths with references those others as well).
I do however, have one big reservation about Windows 10, which will resonate with anyone who has been through a major system update and uses adaptive technology (third party software which makes the PC accessible to those with various disabilities) – and indeed for anyone who relies heavily on any piece of third party software. Microsoft have announced that as part of the Windows 10 experience you won’t be able to delay updates in Windows 10 home edition. Windows 10 will come in a range of flavours, much like the versions before it, so if you are using Windows 7 or 8 home, you’ll get a free update to Windows 10 home. If you’re using Windows 7 or 8 Pro, then you’ll get the update to Windows 10 Pro. While traditionally, Windows updates have mostly been security patches and bug fixes, with the occasional Service Pack which might introduce some new functionality, Microsoft have generally held over on major system and interface updates for new releases of Windows.
Now however, Microsoft have announced that Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows – meaning that instead of bringing in new features in a few years and repackaging the lot in a major update called say Windows 11, Microsoft will simply add these features as they are developed into your regular Windows updates. On the one hand this has the potential to be really handy – One day suddenly new options and settings will appear, Cortana will work in Australia, and other things will be changed and improved. But will that always be a good thing? Imagine if you were happily using Windows 7 and then one day got a Windows update you couldn’t defer and all of a sudden you lost the start menu and had the Windows 8 metro tile interface? With user interface and feature enhancements being brought into regular Windows updates, it is possible. Since in Windows 10 home edition, you won’t be able to defer updates, you won’t be able to do much about it if it does happen. With Windows 10 Professional, and Windows 10 Enterprise, users have the option of taking updates after a few months, only after they’ve been extensively tested on home users (see previous link) – which makes using Windows 10 home great if you like being an early adopter and trying out new things (you can also sign up to be a Windows insider and download early builds of Windows 10 now before they launch, and get new features in future even before they are pushed out to Windows 10 home users.
For home users, the idea of not having a choice about installing security updates is actually not so bad, as it will ensure that security updates are in fact up to date, and Windows 10 won’t be quite as in-your-face about updates as they have been on occasion in the past, but rather will download updates and install them as you reboot, as has been happening recently so many users won’t even notice except that the PC will take a bit longer to shut down on those occasions.
The problem comes in when features are added or how existing features work changes. While some 3rd party programs are very quick to respond to changes and ensure their programs continue to work, others are not always so fast, and it depends on the changes within Windows – some changes may require a 3rd party app to make only minor adjustments to continue working, or even none at all, but some may take a major rewrite – again consider the changes necessary for a screen reader to understand how the Windows metro tile interface worked in Windows 8, and then again to make all the changes necessary to support a new start menu (with some metro like tiles) in Windows 10. What this means is that screen reader company would need to have someone in the Windows Insider program, testing new features, and responding to those with program updates, hopefully before those features go live for home users, otherwise, those home users who rely on that screen reader, will not have access to at least that feature of Windows until their screen reader is able to work with it. maybe not such a big issue if the broken feature is in Microsoft Paint, but potentially crippling if the feature is the Start menu or system tray.
Probably the safest option for users relying heavily on third party software such as screen readers, could be to stump up the extra $100 to upgrade their Windows home license to a Pro license.
Potentially you could even upgrade to an Enterprise license which would allow you to still upgrade to Windows 10 but not receive incremental feature upgrades at all. Of course you can still stay with Windows 7 or 8.1 – Windows 7 will receive support up until 2020 – although the free upgrade offer is only valid for the first year so if you do stick with Windows 7 or 8 beyond July 29 2016, you’ll have to pay for the new version.
For most users, I’d recommend not necessarily upgrading on day 1, and potentially considering upgrading to Windows 10 pro. Because of the big incentive to upgrade by it being free, it will most likely be something that majority of PC users will find themselves using, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. What are you planning to do about upgrading? Are you going to be a day 1 adopter? or are you going to hold out and decide whether to upgrade in about May 2016?
EDIT: I’ve been asked a few questions and had some discussion about this post, so I’ve collated some further information into a supplementary post
Share your thoughts in the comments!