Today, Microsoft took the wraps off the next version of Windows. You’ll be able to install a free, unfinished “technical preview” version this week, or get it in final form sometime next year. It’s called Windows 10.
(Why is it Windows 10? What happened to 9? Making sense of the Windows naming sequence is like solving one of those Mensa “What’s the pattern?” puzzles. So far, we have this: Windows 1, 2, 3, 95, 98, 2000, ME, XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10. OK, whatever.)
If you use Windows 10 with a mouse and keyboard, the Start menu is back. Not just the Start button, not just the secret Windows key+X utility menu of Windows 8.1 — the real Start menu.
And TileWorld is gone. No more screen of big flat tiles taking over your monitor.
Tiles aren’t gone completely; they still pop out of the regular Start menu, a little weirdly.
And what about all those TileWorld apps that could run only in TileWorld? Since TileWorld is gone, these apps now open up on the desktop, in regular windows with regular title bars and window controls. You can still see your desktop, and you can see TileWorld apps and regular Windows programs side by side.
There are also some useful new features (new to Windows, anyway). Search results now include listings from the Web as well as from your computer. There’s a new “task view,” modeled on Mac OS X’s Mission Control, which shows you miniatures of all open windows when you click a button on the taskbar.
And you’ll be able to “snap” windows together so they all occupy part of your screen.
What about Windows Phone? It will resemble Windows 10, although it won’t have the desktop view. Microsoft says that laptops, tablets, and phones will all get their apps from a single, unified app store. (It’s not clear if that means the same apps run on all those platforms; I’d guess not.)
Windows 10 looks as though it will be far more usable and less confusing than Windows 8 and 8.1. It’s too bad the whole tile design is still mixed in there for desktop PCs, but at this point I guess it’s too late for Microsoft to abandon the whole misbegotten tile thing altogether.
But at least mouse-and-keyboard folks won’t sacrifice productivity in the name of the touchscreen revolution that never came, and tablet fans won’t have to work (much) with tiny window controls.