Windows 10 will start to roll out on the 29th of this month and these events are especially meaningful to me because it was the roll out of Windows 95 that really jump started my career as an analyst and leading pundit. I’m likely the longest sitting Windows launch analyst and this has been a decades long experience that has more often been painful than it has been amazing. One of the most annoying parts has historically been Microsoft’s failure to learn from past mistakes. Well, I’m happy to say, that this time they seem to be dotting the “i”s much better and while this roll out may be the biggest in Microsoft’s long history it may also be the most painless let me explain.
The Windows 95 Support Problem
Windows 95 was the first and last Windows launch that had long lines waiting for the new OS, folks were chomping at the bit to get what they thought was going to be an amazing magical experience and, compared to earlier versions of the product, it was significantly improved. However Microsoft hadn’t thought through what was going to happen when millions of people, on the same day, tried to install this on the massive variety of PCs in the market. In my own brilliance tried to put a copy on my CEO’s laptop effectively bricking it and that was one of several times that year I came very close to getting fired (in fact I expect, given how often that happened, some thought I’d developed some kind of crazy job risk addiction). Some equally foolish person at Intel put Windows 95 on machine that ran one of their largest FABs and crashed the factory (it can take weeks to bring up a FAB once it crashes) and I’m pretty sure he was fired.
There was breakage at a level no one had ever seen before and the head of service at Microsoft, in her infinite wisdom, limited the wait lines on the service call lines so that the vast majority of callers got busy signals and they weren’t amused. Oh, and to add insult to injury, most of the executives and launch staff took off on vacation so Microsoft was understaffed.
Windows 10 Is So Much Better
Now I’ve been running Windows 10 on all my PCs, Windows tablets, and laptops most recently as part of the Windows Insider program for nearly a year now and it has steadily improved. I even put it on a Windows Vista All-In-One which didn’t have Windows 10 drivers and while I got installation errors, the system is actually working just fine (though I’m sure it isn’t optimal). I build most of my own PCs so this cuts across Intel, AMD, NVIDIA and a variety of mother board and OEM brands.
But when you are rolling out a product in the millions even small percentages of breakage can be catastrophic. So I was sweating a disaster anyway and then Microsoft posted their process for the roll out and it takes into account the prior problem. They are going to do a slow roll out, blocking installation on any machine that doesn’t appear to match a known configuration to avoid a service incident. They’ll capture the configuration and once they are reasonably sure it will work they’ll allow the upgrade to continue.
Now categorically it is always safer to start clean with new hardware and a fresh hard drive so if you decide to buy a new PC you’ll always get the best experience and if you are coming from Windows 7 and especially Windows 8 your personalized setting should transfer along with any apps you bought on-line from the Microsoft store. The rest you’ll likely have to reinstall from disk while someone that upgrades in place will have a higher probability of not needing the legacy disks.
Once You Are On 10
I have to say life on the other side of Windows 10 is wonderful particularly with regard to migrations. The only annoying thing that remains is having to reinstall Office but I’m told that will be baked by launch. Once on 10 if you ever need to start over with clean hardware because you want or need a new PC you just go through a log-in process and all of your store apps, settings, and unique customizations transfer while you can kick back and do something else. If you’ve been using OneDrive even your files all migrate back from the cloud which is, particularly if your last experience was Windows XP, a huge improvement.
You can get a list of the new features in a variety of places but actually the best part of Windows 10 is that you don’t need to learn them. For the most part the product blends the best parts of Windows 7 and 8 into a far better experience and now it will be wrapped with a well-orchestrated launch process for once.
There is a lot of good to say about Satya Nadella’s Microsoft but, perhaps the most powerful, is that the firm now appears to be learning from past mistakes and not repeating them. This is resulting in better products, better launches, and an overall better consumer and business user experience which has been a long time in coming. It things continue like this Windows 10 will be a huge successful feather in Satya’s hat and change a lot of folks minds with regard to Windows. And I’m particularly pleased to say that, for once, the migration process for Windows is on par with and could actually be better than, that on the MacOS. This is the one place that Apple has always been significantly better, and this time, that may no longer be the case. Even getting close to Apple in this regard would be amazing given the huge historical gap just showcasing that, with the right leadership, a firm like Microsoft can do amazing things.
You know, I’d like to say I’ll miss the drama of all of the old launch problems, but honestly, I won’t miss it one little bit.