Windows 10 – It’s cool to hate, but actually…

On the 21 January 2015 Microsoft held a conference all about Windows 10 and it was… long.  However it did contain a number of interesting announcements.

  • Windows 10 is designed to support all devices it runs on, so keeps stuff synced up between all your Windows 10 devices.
  • It will be a free upgrade for users of Windows 7 and 8 in the first year.
  • Cortana is coming to Windows, the virtual assistant currently on Windows Phone has been integrated right in to the operating system.
  • Start Menu is back, the Windows 8 Start Menu screen is now compacted into the traditional Start Menu many still love.
  • Project Spartan, Internet Explorer is dead so long live Spartan. Microsoft have a new browser coming that aims to allow people to share and make notes directly on the website itself.
  • Xbox App for Windows 10, the familiar activity feed on Xbox One is coming to Windows. Allows messaging, sharing content etc.. on PC.
  • Game DVR, like the Xbox One Microsoft are building in their Game DVR directly into Windows 10. Users will be able to hit Windows + G and record footage from any game running in Windows 10.
  • DirectX 12, is coming. From the short demo it seems to be far more efficient than version 11.
  • Stream Xbox One games to Windows 10 devices, if you own an Xbox One you will be able to stream the games you own to your other Windows 10 devices.
  • Cross Platform play is coming, Fable Heroes will be playable between Xbox One and PC players.

 

Now its easy to look at the above list and think its all a massive waste of time, indeed nearly all the people who hate Microsoft will state that regardless. It’s what they do. However for me it kind of seems like they are really trying to get things right this time. That is, assuming these things work as intended…

 

Game DVR

Operating System level built in game recording must be a good thing? I think so. Yes there are many options to do this on PC but having it as part of your OS is a bonus. Assuming it allows options. My fear with this is it will be too restricted for people to really get on board with.  If we end up with a 720p 30 fps restricted video each time then most people will continue to use other software making it pretty pointless.  I really hope that Microsoft have thought about Game DVR in Windows 10 properly.

 

DirectX 12

Not alot was said about this, but I really hope this is some serious tech. If it can streamline performance while giving us all the shiny new effects this could really boost both PC and Xbox One games.

 

Streaming

Streaming tech has a long way to go, but for me (when the TV is in use) if I have the option to play my Xbox One games via my PC I will be pretty happy unless its a terrible experience… Happy to give it a try though, would loved to be proved wrong on this front ans see something on this front that actually works.

 

As a PC, Xbox One and Windows Phone user this is all pretty exciting, the only reason I moved to a Windows Phone over an Android one was that it made sense to have one main account across all these platforms. Windows 10 seems to be pushing that focus even more and this pleases me. I just hope they do a decent job of it, not expecting it to be perfect but decent would do 😉

I look forward to jumping on the Windows 10 upgrade once its available to find out how it all works.

 

Goodbye iOS, hello Windows Phone!

Probably worth kicking off with a disclaimer, I own an iPad so I still have access to iOS apps that I might miss. So maybe this affects my feelings one way or another? Who knows.

 

I have had an iPhone since I first got an iPhone 3G, I loved it. My first smart phone and the geek inside me was as happy as could be.  I had something on me all the time that could do all these things, its like a dream come true.  So every couple of years I went through the motions of upgrading to the latest version, I got an iPhone 4 next (actually queued at launch day for this, less said about that the better!) and then the iPhone 5.

I loved every version, iOS got updated along the way to keep things (kinda) fresh and the phones got nicer along the way.  One thing you cannot deny about Apple is their hardware is beautiful. I was content with my phone.

Then this year happened, the iPhone 6 is a few months away and my contract is up but there was a problem. I knew I wouldn’t have the money to get one due to various reasons but mostly due to having a wedding to pay for. This meant I had to look at my options, do I switch to Android or Windows Phone?

Android would of been the obvious choice I think, the geek in me would of loved tweaking that to death to get the phone I wanted. However I have seen how infected Android systems can get with ads, this was not something I ever wanted to have to bother with on my phone. The safety of iOS is something I wanted.

That left Windows Phone, and in particular Nokia devices.  It seemed there was a new Lumia about to come out that ran on Windows Phone 8.1, the Lumia 930.  After some research it seemed like the perfect upgrade, well in all but one way. The Windows AppStore is pretty terrible.

I did some checking and it seemed the basic apps I used everyday existed so that wasn’t so bad. So I made up my mind and took the plunge and waited for it to be released in the UK.

Release day arrived!

God it was a big phone, the 5 inch screen made this a much bigger phone than I was used to with the sleek iPhone. Also the power/lock button is on the right side rather than the top, I mean wtf?! What have I done.

My Live TilesIt’s a nice bit of kit though, it may be ‘sturdy’ but it feels great in your hand(s) and Windows Phone it turns out is really easy to use.  It also has what I think is the best home screen layout of any phone due to Live Tiles.

They just make the home screen such a lovely thing to look at as they cycle through their various screens and show you bits of information. So much nicer than the boring grid view of iOS I have stuck with so long.

Plus you only need to put your most used apps on your home screen, all the others can be tucked away in the side menu. No more pages of icons like in iOS.

 

Was also nice to get some freebies with the phone:

It’s not without its issues though, lock screen notifications don’t really exist like they do on iOS, the pull down action centre you get is a similar thing and is just about enough but it could be better. Web support is a bit all over the place, some apps cant open web pages internally so open it up in a separate IE window which is kinda annoying. I miss the Steam app, my banking app etc.. also a button to make the phone silent aswell as the option to set quiet times, although I hear this is coming with Cortana.

I guess ultimately as with all things there are pros and cons, but I am happy to see there is life outside of Apple when it comes to phones. Windows Phone seems to of come a long way and with a bit more support on the app front I think its a perfectly viable option for a modern smart phone.  I do however know that come the iPhone 6 launch there will be a small pang of jealously as it will no doubt be a nice bit of kit but for now I am fully integrated into the Microsoft collective with everything linked, my PC, phone and Xbox One.

So for now its goodbye iOS, hello Windows Phone!

 

Why I would of liked a digital only Xbox One

2013 was full of ‘next-gen’ talk, with Sony and Microsoft battling for gamers affections. The biggest talking point during the year was Microsoft’s decision to have an ‘always on’ console, which basically meant that it would act much like gaming PC’s with Steam do now and have done for years.

 

Gamers were up in arms about this, no one wanted their console to need internet access or not allow them to trade in or share games… when I say no one I actually mean people who shouted the loudest and probably bought a PS4 anyway.

 

Having owned a Xbox One since launch there is nothing I would of liked more than Microsoft to of stuck to their guns and followed through with this plan, because… well its bloody convenient!

Xbox Ones OS seems to of been designed around getting around things quickly, with voice controls ideally.  This actually works pretty well until having to start a game that needs a disc?  You can no longer say ‘Xbox goto Need for Speed’ unless the disc is already in the drive.  It works just fine for any title bought digitally, you can switch between these games at will.  If Microsoft had kept to their original plan disc games would install to your console and then wouldn’t need the disc any-more, thus meaning you can switch between games without having to go looking for your disc. Happy Days!

The other benefit of this ditched system is that it would mean you could buy a game at retail for a better price than digitally but have the same benefits. Even happier days!

 

Now I understand there are some down sides to always being online, but if you are in the lucky position where the console is unlikely to ever be without an internet connection it would of been nice to still have the option of what Microsoft originally wanted for the system, if they offered the chance to switch back I would do so without hesitation.

I guess being a PC gamer has somewhat prepared me for this future more so than people who just use consoles, Steam has worked this way for years and is a nice system once you accept the benefits.  We haven’t been able resell or swap games for a long time now but I guess this is offset by lots of cheap sales? Mind you, I have never been big on trading in games.

 

This all being said I am sure Microsoft can revert back to their plans once the masses catch on, I just wish we had an option from the start.