The web is rife with rumors that for the first time in years, Windows 10 will get ‘a major OS upgrade’ in 2021. The upgrade, code-named Sun Valley, is expected to offer “new Start menu and Action Center experiences…, an updated Taskbar built with modern code, and an improved UI for the legacy File Explorer.” In addition, expect more rounded-off windows, better dark mode support, and more consistent use of Microsoft’s Fluent Design rules.
Be still my beating heart! Can you stand the excitement?
To call those features a “major OS upgrade” shows just how low expectations have sunk for anything new in Windows 10. Once upon a time, they would be considered minor tweaks. But these days, you find barely any new features in Microsoft’s twice-a-year upgrades. So an updated Taskbar, tweaks to the Start menu and Action Center and subtle design changes sound like big breakthroughs to a tech press wanting something to sink their teeth into.
There’s a simple reason Microsoft won’t spent the time and resources to create something more groundbreaking for Windows 10: Windows isn’t Microsoft’s future — or these days, even its present. The company has in essence become a cloud company. Azure and OneDrive are two prime examples. But Office has become cloud-based as well, with Microsoft pushing Office 365 subscriptions rather than the client-based perpetual version.
Windows 10 is a workaday solid, useful, relatively stable operating system. And for Microsoft, that’s good enough. But that’s not good enough for me. And it shouldn’t be good enough for you, either. I’m after something more than rounded windows or a new Action Center “experience.” With that in mind, here are four things Microsoft should put into Windows 10.
Finally, deliver Sets
Back in 2017, Microsoft announced it was bringing a truly innovative feature to Windows 10: Sets. Sets would put tabs into applications, not just browsers, and let you create documents that would combine multiple apps — for example, a Word document that had browser tabs on it for accessing any online research you’ve done. Sets would allow you to use your computer in the way you actually work in the real world. So you could create a single document about a new product you were launching that would have Excel tabs in it for financial analysis, Word tabs for press releases and product documentation, PowerPoint tabs for marketing plans, and so on.
When Sets was announced, I thought it would become the most important Windows feature to come along in years. But now, three years later, it’s still nowhere to be seen. On several occasions, Microsoft slipped it into Insider preview builds, and then pulled it. Microsoft never explained why it was pulled. But I think the reason is simple: The company doesn’t want to spend the money and resources it would take to get it right.
So if Microsoft really wanted to deliver something of value, forget tweaking the Start menu. Give us Sets instead.
A better Search box
We’ve all gotten used to the barely useful Windows Search box, and so we just assume that’s the way search should be. But it isn’t. Microsoft could do better. And it wouldn’t take much to improve it. How about letting you easily narrow your search documents on your PC by folders? By date? How about something even better, like searching for documents that contain a specific word that’s found with the same paragraph as another word? But Microsoft isn’t interested.
When it comes to the Search box, Microsoft appears to have settled on “good-enough.”
A push-button to kill bloatware
Buy a new PC and it comes filled with gunk, bloat and assorted software junk. We’ve gotten so used to it that we often don’t even bother to clean it all out. But we shouldn’t have to put up with it. So Microsoft should design a button that with a single click kills all bloatware. This would take barely any work on Microsoft’s part.
Millions of Windows users, including me, would rejoice.
A secure operating system
How about this one: An operating system that’s reasonably safe. We’ve gotten so used to how insecure Windows is, that we don’t even see it anymore.
Consider this – during the recent election, it required an all-hands-on deck partnership between federal intelligence agencies, security companies and Microsoft to make sure the U.S. election wasn’t disrupted by foreign governments and hackers. Enterprises shouldn’t have to spend so much money fighting off attacks, either. Neither should utility companies and local and state governments.
Since the election, I’ve heard plenty of people celebrating that we fended off those kinds of electoral attacks. Maybe that’s cause for celebration, but it’s also a sign of how we’ve accepted that Windows is inherently insecure and dangerous — and we’re happy simply when bad things don’t happen.
I know full well that hackers and foreign governments target Windows because it’s by far the world’s dominant operating system, so it’ll always be under siege more than macOS or Linux. But that doesn’t mean we should give Microsoft a pass. Being the world leader means you have more responsibility to provide a secure experience. We shouldn’t have to go to extraordinary efforts to make sure our voting, businesses, utilities, government operations and more are safe.
Will Microsoft deliver on any or all of these? Not likely. Instead, we’ll get rounded windows. But we can dream, can’t we?