Windows 10 is looking pretty good. No, really!
I still don't think it will be ready for prime time. But it will be decent -- for a late beta.
Regardless of my thoughts, it's a safe bet that Microsoft will be releasing Windows 10 in late July. So should you buy a Windows 10-powered PC?
For many of you, the answer is no. But that's not because of any quality issues. It's because Microsoft is offering free Windows 10 upgrades to consumers and small business customers already running legal copies of either Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 on their PCs.
That will help Microsoft get Windows 10 adopted at a fast pace. After the Windows 8.x fiasco, Microsoft needs to show that there's life in Windows.
Unfortunately, while that may help Microsoft look good, it won't help PC OEMs. Indeed, IDC thinks there will be a further, 6.2% reduction in PC sales. In part, that's because Microsoft will be giving Windows away, but it's also because people are turning from PCs to tablets and smartphones -- markets where Microsoft has no traction.
Leaving aside the woes of PC manufacturers -- I'm looking at you, HP! -- what should you do?
Well, it depends on you.
First, if you've been using Windows 8.x and hating it, you should upgrade to Windows 10. The new Windows won't be mature, but even a wet-behind-the-ears Windows 10 is better than a lame, limping Windows 8.1.
Just be sure to use Chrome or another Web browser. Windows 10's new default Web browser, Microsoft Edge, is not IE 11 with a new coat of paint. It's an entirely new browser, and I'm still finding it, as of release 10122, buggy as hell. It's also noticeably slower than Chrome.
Edge, since it dumps a lot of the backwards compatibility that gummed up IE, may eventually be a good Web browser. For now, though, it's a deal breaker.
I also wonder, for companies that made the strategic mistake of designing Web apps to work with IE, if Edge is going to prove a two-edged sword. In other words, it will require you to finally rewrite all those old Web apps that you've been using for years now.
Which is, by the way, one of the reasons why I can't see enterprises moving to Windows 10 anytime soon. After all, Windows 7 is now the most popular Windows by a wide margin, and it still has just under five more years of support life to go. You can also still buy Windows 7 Professional from OEMs. Popular, cheaper versions of Windows 7, such as Windows 7 Home Premium, are no longer available.
It will cost you more if you continue to buy Windows 7 machines. For example, the cheapest Windows 7 laptop from Dell currently runs for $549, and the lowest-cost one from HP will ding your corporate credit card for $400.
I don't see small businesses moving to Windows 10 anytime soon either. Small business owners that were dismayed by the Windows 8 fiasco and stuck with Windows 7 to stay out of it are probably inclined to hold off and see just how thoroughly Windows 10 rectifies matters. If I were a small business owner considering new computers for my staff, I'd give serious thought to the far more affordable and easier to manage Chromebooks.
So who will buy Windows 10 systems? That's a good question. I have a feeling Microsoft isn't going to be happy with the answer.
For example, parents will be buying students new PCs at about the same time Windows 10 will be released. Good news, right? Maybe not.
Sure, some people, out of the ingrained "buy Windows" habit, will get Windows 10 machines. But Chromebooks are cheaper and their sales rate keeps growing. And who buys Chromebooks? That would be students, by Gartner's count; 72% of all Chromebooks are headed to the education market. It doesn't look to me like the "back to school" computer market will help Microsoft that much.
So, when all's said and done, I think that compared to the very weak performance of Windows 8, Windows 10 will be successful. But it won't reach a Windows 7 level of adoption anytime soon.
Me? I'll still be running Linux on most of my PCs and Chrome OS on my Chromebooks. On my machines I reserve for Windows, it's going to be Windows 7 for at least another two years.