I have been using smartphones and tablets a lot for the recent years, including several years using Windows Phone and a year using a Windows 8.1 tablet: the Dell Venue Pro 8. I would say that Windows 8.1 works great as an OS for both consuming and occasionally producing content on the tablet; however, it is not excellent as an OS for connected consumer devices.
Below are several things that I hope Microsoft will sort out before the launch of Windows 10 next year. Those are also the features that have not been introduced or those that I have never heard any rumor about on Windows 10, so Action Center (coming for sure) or Cortana (definitely coming sooner or later) will not be included here.
- Allow more stuffs residing on SD card. I own a 16GB Dell Venue Pro 8; I can say that it is a decent tablet, but the more useful it is, the more insufficient the 16GB internal storage becomes. It supports SD cards, so in theory you can extend up to 128GB, but Windows does not treat SD cards the same way as internal storage. You cannot install Store app on SD cards; you cannot put your OneDrive on SD card; SD cards are not recognized very early to the boot sequence, so even Dropbox will complain that it cannot find the SD card (yet) when you turn on the tablet.
- Action/Notification Center on the lockscreen. Badges with a number do not work and 1 or 2 lines of notification for only a single app does not work either. I believe Microsoft need to put the full featured Action Center directly on the lockscreen. It would be even better if users can customize the amount of data that will be exposed there ranging from showing only the app icon (again, not the made-for-eagle-eye badges here) to showing the notification content, quick actions and even more stuffs. Tablet should become useful immediately after you unlock it.
- Have a full feature File Explorer app. The OneDrive app is enough to access OneDrive data, but it is terrible as a replacement for File Explorer on the desktop. There are so many useful features in the desktop File Explorer that is no where to be found to tablet users (and the File Explorer is so difficult to use with your thumb). The current interaction model of using appbar and swiping to select is good enough, but I hope there will be more such as customizable Favorites, tabbed browsing (or multiple app instant), network drives, media server discovery. There are some apps that do quite a good job as a replacement such as Modern File Explorer, but even that one still lack the productivity of the desktop File Explorer.
- Much better built-in apps. Mail, Calendar and People apps provide necessary functions for daily work, but unfortunately they do not have any unique selling point. For example, Mail app should be able to synchronize in the background; the blue band on the left should be able to collapse to a small strip to show more email content; in snap view, there should be Next/Back buttons to jump from email to email (just look at Nextgen Reader). For the Calendar app, at least we should be able to zoom out on the week view to see the whole day from the morning to the evening. I think all built-in apps from Microsoft, except Windows Store and those Bing apps, are so much primitive and receive absolutely no update since Windows 8.1 launch; I expect much better apps from a software giant that also makes the whole OS and a very good Office desktop application. Moreover, so many people evaluate the quality of Windows based on the apps that are installed out of the box, and those app can also be considered as the standard for other 3rd party developers, so please spend more effort on them (and please not the kind of 1 time effort).
- Standardize the behavior of audio and display driver (at least for all the tablets without dedicated audio or graphic card out there). Currently there is no universal behavior for the audio volume and screen brightness when it comes to Windows tablets. For example, the default audio driver allows separate volumes for different audio device (speaker vs. headset), while the OEM’s ones usually don’t. On the other hand, it seems that the default graphic driver has no support for adaptive brightness, and it is now quite complicated to turn on/off adaptive brightness. I truly hope that turning that on/off can be as easy as locking screen rotation.
- Improve Sharing. The sharing charm works fine, but it has to be improved. For me, the current behavior of the sharing charm is very annoying: tapping out and it closes immediately, the sharing process may run for a little more or be cancelled, and you have no way to tell. So if you are sharing a big file, you’d better sitting there, getting bored, waiting for the progress ring to spin and for the Share charm to close in its own.
Sharing must be an operation that can be done in the background for as long as the app needs with some kind of progress indicator. Microsoft can mimic the behavior on Android where share progress is indicated in the Notification/Action Center, or only minimize the Share charm to a very thin band on the right, allowing user to tap to get the full view again. I believe people will accept their battery burns faster if they share a lot, and their low-end computer/table might be a bit slower when something is sharing.
Moreover, there should be a way to tell if Share is support at the moment. Microsoft once discourages developers from putting dedicated Share button, but Microsoft then does not provided any visual cue for the availability of the Share capability (which is page-based, not even app-based).
- Offline Map. It might sound funny for a connected device to support offline function, but for be having reliable map all the time is so crucial for tablets that I carry around. Currently on Windows 8.1, we can already use Here map app and enjoy the offline functionality, but that kind of convenience is not shared with other apps on the device because it is not a OS-level function.
There are also some other welcoming improvements that hopefully will be put in Windows 10.
- Modern-style Task Manager. Task Manager in Windows 8 is awesome, and it would be even better if there is a Modern app for tablet.
- A better music playback control. How can we activate the music playback control without pressing the volume buttons? I really hope that the control can be stick permanently (or at least there should be an option for that) on the lockscreen, so it is fewer steps to do simple stuffs such as changing songs. The playback control should also be able to show more information (e.g. and extensible playlist would be great)
- Folder Tiles. Just be as good as those on Windows Phone would be enough.
- Better Skype integration. This might be hard, but I really hope that Skype can be more responsive when receiving calls. At the moment, after you press Answer on the popup toast, you will have to wait a very long time for Skype to launch and then connect. So far on Windows, Skype still feels like a separate app with toast notification for incoming chats and calls.
- DLNA. Windows 8.1 already have good support for sending media to DLNA devices (including the Xbox One). However, it lacks native support for behaving as a receiver. We can current open the desktop Windows Media Player for that function, but activating the feature is no way intuitive and the software is not touch-friendly.
What else that you also want to see in the next version of Windows? Leave a comment below.