From the very beginning, Windows 8 was developed as a 'touch-first' operating system - one that was created primarily to work with touch inputs, but which could be used just as comfortably with a good ol' fashioned mouse and keyboard.
Of course, things didn't quite go according to plan, and many users quickly began to complain that the non-touch experience on Windows 8 was less than satisfactory. In fact, this is precisely why Microsoft made so many improvements for mouse and keyboard usage when it launched Windows 8.1.
With Windows 10, Microsoft is taking a rather different approach. There will still be touch-focused environments - including phones and tablets - where finger inputs will reign supreme, but will co-exist alongside other optional input methods, such as mouse, keyboard and pen. Hybrid devices - with both touchscreens and keyboard/cursor inputs - will be able to switch easily between tablet and non-tablet modes, with the UI adapting to the input methods available.
For users on more traditional form factors, including desktops and notebooks, Microsoft has designed the new OS to work best with mouse and keyboard first, with touch being used to 'extend' the user experience "so it feels natural", according to the company's Joe Belfiore, who emphasizes that Microsoft remains "committed to supporting these touch scenarios".
Microsoft accepts that its Windows 8 efforts in trying to unify touch and non-touch inputs in one harmonious interface were not exactly a resounding success, and in fact, Belfiore stated as much today. He said that Windows 8's "focus on touch - the large Start screen, the notion of apps running full [screen] as they do on tablet devices - was trying to salute the idea that people would be productive on these touch devices, but we didn't quite get it right."
Whether or not Microsoft has managed to strike the right balance with Windows 10 remains to be seen, of course. The Technical Preview coming tomorrow will give the world a flavor of what's to come, but many features - particularly consumer-focused ones - won't be unveiled until early next year, and it won't be until mid-2015 that customers finally get their hands on the finished product.
It will be some time yet before its efforts with Windows 10 can be fairly judged - but for now, Microsoft seems to be making the right noises about what it got wrong in the past, and how it aims to do better in the future.
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