Many of Windows 10’s best features showed up in Mac OS X years ago, including virtual desktops, Expose-like window management, and a notification center. Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite has some other ideas Microsoft should copy for version 10 of its own operating system, too.
All operating systems copy from each other, and that’s a good thing. This isn’t about who invented what first — it’s about improving the operating systems billions of people use every day.
Okay, this feature isn’t new in Yosemite — it came around in Mavericks 10.9, last year. All Mac users can upgrade to the latest version of Mac OS X for free. Microsoft should do this, too — at least let Windows 8 users upgrade to Windows 10 for free. There are rumors Microsoft might do this, but they’ve refused to confirm them. They may still charge everyone for the Windows 10 upgrade — they’re leaving their options open.
Microsoft could get everyone on the latest version of Windows so developers could more easily target it. Users could take advantage of everything from those new “universal apps” to the latest version of DirectX 12 for improved gaming performance. Developers wouldn’t have to stay stuck in the past supporting all those old versions of Windows, so they could embrace new technologies like DirectX 12.
This doesn’t necessarily mean making Windows itself free. Microsoft could still charge Windows licensing fees. Every new computer would need a Windows license, and that licensed computer would then be eligible to upgrade to future versions of Windows for free. Computers wouldn’t be stuck in the past because people don’t want to shell out $100 for a Windows upgrade.
Yosemite upgraded the Mac look to include more transparency — technically, translucency. They call it “vibrancy.” Windows 7’s Aero Glass look was well-loved, and Microsoft totally abandoned it with Windows 8. Windows 8’s desktop has a lot of white and chunky window borders with a single flat color. There are no shadows or transparency — although the taskbar is still transparent and other Aero features are still present.
Windows 10 is a bit smarter about this, offering drop shadows on the desktop for a bit more visual depth. Microsoft should look at adding Windows Aero-like transparency back to Windows. After all, when they introduced Aero, they said it would have a negligible impact on battery life — and modern hardware is even more battery efficient. If you don’t like it, that’s fine — Yosemite includes an option to disable the translucency. There’s another feature Microsoft should copy: Choice. It’s something that fell by the wayside with Windows 8.
A Desktop App Store
Yosemite includes the Mac App Store, which isn’t new. But Windows 10 would do well to copy it and allow desktop apps into the Windows Store for easy installation. They may already be doing this — a deleted blog post that went up on Microsoft’s official blog said Windows 10’s Windows Store would “add desktop apps.” (Source) An official-but-deleted blog post is pretty good confirmation, but Microsoft could still change their mind — they haven’t officially announced this.
This shouldn’t mean the app store is the only game in town. On a Mac, you can get apps from outside the Mac App Store and install them after clicking through a warning. Microsoft should allow this for the Windows Store, too. The only reason to prevent sideloading and force “universal apps” to go through the Windows Store is to protect users. And Microsoft didn’t try keeping scams out of its Windows Store until we publically shamed them for it, so they might as well just let people bypass the Store after clicking a scary warning.
Continuity makes your laptop or desktop work better with your smartphone or tablet. This includes everything from handing off an email you’re writing between your smartphone and laptop, to sending SMS messages from your desktop, and receiving phone calls on your laptop. It’s about making the devices you own communicate better with each other.
It goes without saying that this feature is a great idea. Chrome OS is already gaining some similar features that make it work better with Android devices. Windows 10 should at least be able to do this with Windows Phone.
Microsoft now wants to be a cross-platform company that integrates with all the devices you own, so perhaps they could go one step further and make their own Continuity-like features work across Android phones and iPhones, too. Sure, it would be a lot of work, but it might be worth it since so few people own Windows Phones. That puts Microsoft at a disadvantage here.
New Icons and a Visual Redesign
Yosemite includes a big visual redesign that sees a lot of new, updated, and more modern-looking icons. Windows desperately needs this. The Windows desktop didn’t receive an icon update in Windows 8, so all those Windows 7 icons look very out of place. Windows also still contains a lot of icons and interface elements going back to Windows XP or older versions of Windows.
Microsoft has the money — they should be able to hire an artist to create some updated icons so Windows 10 will look like a more cohesive, modern operating system. This isn’t a new problem — with every version of Windows, Microsoft has taken a patchwork approach, updating some of the icons and interface elements and ignoring others.
The nicest thing about using Mac OS X Yosemite after using Windows 8 is that Mac OS X knows it’s a desktop operating system. It doesn’t have two completely separate interfaces that you’re switching between, one with an entirely different set of underpowered apps that you’re being pushed to use.
Luckily, it looks like Windows 10 is finally learning this lesson and just letting a desktop or laptop be itself. Using a computer without feeling like a guinea pig in Stephen Sinofsky’s grand experiments is quite nice. Windows 10 will hopefully restore that feeling for Windows users.