AMD CEO Lisa Su let the cat out of the bag: Microsoft will be releasing Windows 10 in late July.
My first reaction: "That's not possible!" Then I thought about it some more, and my second reaction was, "That's just crazy talk!" Then I tinkered some more with the latest Windows 10 beta -- Build 10061, if you're playing along at home. And my considered opinion is:
"This is beyond crazy! It's a category-killing idea! What kinds of drugs has CEO Satya Nadella been taking?"
I'm not spewing anti-Windows venom here. Yes, yes, I called Vista junk from day one. But junk it was. And if it's possible, I disliked Windows 8 even more. But I'm hardly the only one to feel that way; the masses seem to be with me on that judgment. No, I know Microsoft can make good operating systems, and when it does, I acknowledge that. I liked Windows XP SP3 and Windows 7.
Ah, yes, Windows 7. Do you remember that OS? Of course you do; two and a half years after Windows 8 was launched, Windows 7 is easily the most popular desktop operating system in the U.S., installed on 41.5% of computers, according to the U.S. government's Digital Analytics Program. Windows 8.x, meanwhile, has proved a complete flop, sitting at 11.1%.
So what about Windows 10? I've been using the beta since late last year, and it isn't bad. I'd even go so far as to say it's promising. Mind you, I can't see retiring any of my favorite desktops -- Linux Mint, Ubuntu and Chrome OS -- for it. But I'd use it as my Windows desktop as my Windows 7 machines age out of my office.
After all, Microsoft is finally giving us back a real Start menu, and it's de-emphasizing that annoying Metro/Modern interface. My test systems work reasonably fast, and I seldom see a blue screen of death. I'm not damning with faint praise here. Those are big improvements. And I'm not going to jump all over a beta OS for having some bugs; with a beta, you expect even major failures.
On the other hand, there's some scary stuff in 10061's release notes. Some of the most outstanding ones:
- Win32 (desktop) apps won't launch from the Start menu.
- Mail and Calendar apps included in this build (17.4008.42281.0) have a known issue that causes every typed letter to appear twice.
- Downloading music in the Xbox Music and Music Preview apps is currently broken.
- When you minimize an app playing audio, it may stop playing once its minimized.
Still, it is beta. You expect stuff to break, and there's already a fix for the Mail and Calendar app problem.
The problem isn't that there are problems. It's a matter of timing. You see, AMD indicated that PCs with its chipsets would be in stores for the big back-to-school PC shopping season. That means that in just over three months, Microsoft and OEMs will be shipping Windows 10 out to users. And that means that the Windows 10 code will be shipping to OEMs far sooner.
How can I put this? Bluntly, I guess: There's no way Windows 10 will be ready.
I'm not saying Microsoft won't ship it Windows 10 when it says it will. I'm sure it will. But given that long list of release notes for the current build, those back-to-school PCs will be outfitted with a bug-ridden OS that's guaranteed to frustrate users.
Why would Microsoft do this? Because it's desperate to get Windows 8 out of sight and mind. To do this, it is shoving Windows 10 out the door as fast as possible. And Microsoft is showing its desperation by giving Windows 10 away.
I thought fast-tracking a new version of Windows was a bad idea back in January 2014. Nothing has happened to make me change my mind.
I fear that Microsoft, by running at breakneck pace with its Windows 10 launch, will find that instead of washing away the bad impression left by Windows 8.x, it will make its loyal users even more unhappy.
This is sad because, as I said, Windows 10 shows real promise. Given time to mature, I think it could be the next successful Windows launch. By rushing it to market prematurely, Microsoft is going to trip over its own feet, and major bugs will push users to Chromebooks, tablets and smartphones. Instead of re-enlivening the moribund PC market, Windows 10 may end up killing it.