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Opinion: the Windows upgrade cycle gives me face ache

Stability and security, or new bells and whistles?

What do you want from your PC's next operating system - stability and security, or 'exciting' new features? I know what I want...

Speech recognition has been around for a while, and it's good. Excellent, in fact. Using Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking it took little time for even this northern oik to reach 98 percent accuracy when wittering away. And navigation using Windows 7's built-in voice-recognition is a hidden gem: try it (Accessories, Ease of Access).

Short incorporating mind reading, it's hard to see how speech recognition could be  much better. But we're not all talking to our computers. Unless you're incapable of typing it's always quicker to use your mitts to control a PC. And before you disagree, imagine an office full of people barking at spreadsheets. Far from being futuristic, it'd be like working in battery farm (with less intelligent squawking).

Which is not to say the technology is a dud: Nuance's iPhone app is proof of that. Composing SMS messages and emails by voice makes sense: we use our phones with our mouths, and we're all used to revising words and spellings as we txt, r8? But speech recognition is a horses for courses proposition: on a desktop PC the original methodology remains the best.

Touch input is a similar tale. When Microsoft launched Windows Vista and Windows 7, touch was a major part of the sell. But few desktops take advantage. When you factor in the cost of a touchscreen monitor and a boatload of screen cleaner there's just no compulsion to touch up your OS. And this when we're living in the age of touch - your average smartphone or tablet PC user wouldn't be seen dead with a hardware keyboard, but if you're writing an essay, tapping away is best. 

Sad but true.

Trouble is, Microsoft needs to flog software. The curse of dominating a market is that there's no-one left to sell to. If you're happy with your current OS you require a reason to upgrade, the thinking goes.  So despite XP's success Vista and Windows 7 came with fresh bells and whistles. And so we're already hearing about 'exciting' new features in Windows 8.

According to leaked documents Windows 8 will bring us facial-recogntion security, accelerometers and location-awareness, as well as instant boot times (which is less a new feature, more a sign of a working product). Excited yet?

It's impossible to accurately predict how we will interact with our PCs in the future. But I know this: I'd much rather have a stable, secure operating system than use my face to log in to my computer. Aside from anything else, my fizzog has a tendancy to get bigger as the years go by (and anyone wishing to hack in would need only to get hold of a beach ball to log in).

It pains me to say it, but Apple has shown that it's possible to  finesse an OS every couple of years, and still make sales. But Apple is a hardware manufacture.  The cycle of operating system change and renewal may be helpful only to Microsoft's bank account, but simple economics suggest that the rumours are true and it's here to stay. Better get on a face diet.

See also: Make your own Windows 8 wishlist

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