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Top Takeaways From Our Windows 10 Test Drive

NEW YORK — Windows 10 becomes available on July 29, finally answering the question if Microsoft can overcome its last big miss of an OS (otherwise known as Windows 8). The company has made a beta version, known as Windows 10 Insider Preview, available for trialing purposes, and we gave it a go for several weeks here at TWICE. Here are just a few initial impressions, with always keeping the beta part of this in mind.

It’s like Windows 7 and Windows 8 had a baby.

Those of you who never grew to love the touchscreen-friendly layout of Win8 will rejoice over how much more like Win7 the new OS appears. But rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater, Microsoft kept some of the more usable Win8 details, such as notifications.

And, yes, the Start key is back. Thank God. This isn’t to say it’s completely the same as in 7 — it’s more like an enhanced version of Start. Clicking on it brings up everything you’re used to in Win7, along with scaled-down tiles that are familiar from Win8. You can even drag and drop the tiles to customize and organize as you see fit.

One new feature Win7 users will appreciate: Right-clicking on the Start menu enables you to immediately access such management features as the Control Panel, Settings and the Device Manager.

It’s beta, but …

As the OS was tested on a remote desktop over a VPN, I won’t comment on the speeds, as that setup likely affected response times. I will say, however, that it was still quite buggy, with the Start button often completely ceasing to respond. Although the email app readily loaded my Gmail account, it failed to universally update when I deleted messages. I would have to either delete them from my phone or via a web browser to make it stick.

Which brings us to:

The apps are arriving.

If you paid attention during Microsoft’s Build conference in April, you might have noticed that CEO Satya Nadella was high on the term “platform” over “OS.” This single platform is meant to let developers easily bring over apps they’ve already created. The Windows 10 beta version is already boasting a respectable number of apps, both in productivity and entertainment. (Crossy Road!)

At first glance, it really seems that Microsoft might have gotten it right this time around. The OS is fresh, but still familiar, and the apps provide nearly limitless possibilities.

One sticking point remains: Will the one-year free upgrade period be long enough to accumulate a large enough user base to force change? At the Build conference, Terry Myerson, executive VP of OS, said Microsoft intends to have Windows 10 running on 1 billion devices in three years — so clearly the ambitions are there.