Windows 10 may be saved by games

A laptop featuring Windows 10.
A laptop featuring Windows 10. PHOTO: REUTERS

Windows 10 will be released on July 29 as a free upgrade for all Windows 7 and Windows 8 users.

I have been testing the Technical Preview version for several months now, and I have to say that there isn't anything to make me go gaga over Microsoft's new operating system. Windows 8 was simply a disaster for many of us already familiar with the Windows user interface, once Microsoft took away the Start button and Start menu.

The reason was obvious.

Microsoft was a laggard in the smartphone and tablet space and it wanted to use its hegemony in the PC world to force on users a new version of Windows designed for the touch interface of tablets.

Like many Windows users, I absolutely hated Windows 8. The only reason I have been able to live with it for the last few years is that I bought a special software that makes my Windows 8 machines look and work like Windows 7 computers.

So, my first glimpse of Windows 10 sparked an immediate attraction. Because it looked like Windows 7 again! With that familiar Start button and menu.

As I delved deeper, I found some cool features, such as snapping four apps or windows onto the screen. You can also customise multiple virtual desktops, creating one virtual desktop for work-related apps and programs, and another for favourite games and video channels. Moreover, you can switch between them on the fly, so your boss will think you are actually doing work in the office.

But these are just incremental improvements, rather than changes that Windows users would consider ground-breaking.

That makes Windows 10 feel as if Microsoft is repeating what it did with Windows 7 and Windows XP. Both were much-loved versions of Windows which replaced previous versions that were detested.

When I was at the E3 video games conference in Los Angeles last month, I realised that the only really cool stuff to come out of Windows 10 were the parts that dealt with video games.

First up is the ability to stream Xbox One games to a Windows 10 tablet or PC. So if my daughter is hogging the living room TV, I can play Halo 5 on my laptop.

Unlike the Sony Playstation 4, the Xbox One does not have a virtual reality headset solution. But with this streaming capability, you can connect an Oculus Rift headset to the PC and use it to play your Xbox One games in "virtual cinema" mode. This is better than not being able to use the Rift at all, but it pales in comparison with Sony's Morpheus which runs real virtual- reality 3D games for Playstation 4.

The next cool thing is the new Xbox app which, when run on a Windows 10 PC , makes it look just like your Xbox dashboard. The app paves the way for the launch of new cross-platform games such as Fable Legends and Gigantic where players on Windows 10 and the Xbox One can play the same game together.

The idea of launching such cross-platform games is not new.

Microsoft had tried this with Shadowrun back in 2007 when Windows Vista made its debut. But it never quite took off. One main criticism was that gamers had to pay for a full-priced game with only multiplayer game elements.

Microsoft has clearly learnt its lesson here, which explains why both Fable Legends and Gigantic are free-to-play.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2015, with the headline 'Windows 10 may be saved by games'. Print Edition | Subscribe