Unlike Windows 8, it's been easy to follow along with the Windows 10 journey and see how the OS has developed, from an early work in progress, through the release version and the major updates. With the latest Anniversary Update, Windows 10 remains a very usable and flexible operating system that's proving a success, even though the process of constant change can produce hiccups and false starts. There are few situations in which we wouldn't unequivocally recommend Windows 10 – but remember that you will now have to pay to upgrade.
Another key idea behind Windows 10 is also sound: that it should be available on as many devices as possible. That's why there's Xbox One and HoloLens and the Internet of Things version that works on a Raspberry Pi; Microsoft is embracing the way PCs have moved away from the traditional idea of what a PC is.
Windows 10 performance continues to impress, as does its reliability, and Microsoft has carried on evolving the interface, which now satisfies both the Windows 7 faithful and the few Windows 8.1 fans.
Core features like search (through Cortana) are absolutely rock solid. Like Spotlight on OS X (soon to become macOS), you'll always find what you want, whether it's your PowerPoint presentation or the Power options. The Settings app (a disappointment even in Windows 8.1) is now a worthy replacement for the Control Panel. It's testament to the newfound strength of Settings that, while the Control Panel is still present, you'll hardly ever go to it.
Under the covers, security is improved, and with Windows Hello and biometric support, we're just on the verge of being able to get past passwords (if websites and apps join in).
The Ink Workspace brings some attention – and some nice new tools – to an underappreciated Windows feature and we're looking to see it evolve as Cortana has. In Anniversary Update, Cortana goes from being a simple search box to a much more powerful assistant that you can use to store information and see reminders from across the room from the Lock screen. The Action Center gets more useful as well, as does the calendar that pops up from the clock.
The Edge browser continues to improve. As a new browser it's still behind on features but adding extensions is a big improvement, and the better battery life it offers is very welcome. Power users will want to hang on to their alternatives but Edge continues to impress, especially on performance.
And with Anniversary Update, there's even a bonus for users who aren't upgrading to Windows 10 – with the free upgrade offer finished, the nagging upgrade prompts on other versions of Windows have gone away.
There are still some features that should be clear winners for Windows 10 that Microsoft hasn't got quite right, and plenty of new developments that whet your appetite but are still works in progress. The OneDrive app is no replacement for integrating OneDrive properly into Explorer (and Office) and while placeholders confused some users, it's now been two years since Microsoft promised to replace them with something more polished.
The Ink Workspace is yet another way to use Ink in Windows, which is great – but as Ink has been in Windows for over ten years, it feels like this should be a stronger and more integrated way of using Ink. Hopefully this will arrive in time, but Microsoft needs to solidify what it has rather than starting over too many times.
The Windows Store continues to feel slow, although reliability is gradually improving – but it's plastered with lists, collections and ads for featured apps.
We love the way Microsoft keeps adding new features, but we're less keen on the catch-me-if-you-can upgrade notification which warns you about upcoming reboots, because you have to mark at least 12 hours of your day as non-working time when reboots can happen. And sometimes those new features come with glitches, like the recent problem with webcams.
There's something for everyone in Windows 10 Anniversary Update, from dark mode to running the Ubuntu version of Bash, through security improvements to the way Cortana is getting more useful syncing notifications from your phone.
That said, it has its share of irritations, and there are some people who are so comfortable on Windows 7 (or even 8.1) that they won't want to upgrade until those operating systems get long in the tooth (or they replace the older peripherals for which hardware makers haven't put out device drivers – HP, we're looking at you).
Microsoft remains committed to the idea of universal apps, which now run on Xbox One (and HoloLens, for the few people who have access to it) as well as on Windows Mobile, and Store apps in general (which, confusingly, might not).
The quality of these remains mixed: Mail and Calendar are competent but a long way behind the versions on Windows Mobile with Outlook, Groove is shaping up to be an excellent media player (although you need to pay for a Groove Pass or put your music on OneDrive to make the most of it) and the Skype Preview has gone from laughable (no dialler in a phone application) to usable. Edge has also moved from being experimental to usable. And not only have desktop apps not been pushed aside, Microsoft is working on making them look better on high DPI, multi-screen systems.
But mostly, Anniversary Update solidifies the success Windows 10 has shown itself to be over the last year. Installation is simple, performance is generally excellent, security is improved (with more options for businesses) – and the most compelling thing about Windows 10 is that it just works. There's not really a learning curve as there was with Windows 8 or 8.1. Even if people don't get to grips with features like the taskbar search or Task View, it won't actually take anything away from their core experience of the OS. Pretty much everything that most people will need is in the Start menu or Action Center.
The Anniversary Update doesn't mean Microsoft is slowing down Windows 10 development either – there are already new Insider builds for those who want to stay on the very latest version, and there are fixes in progress for issues like the webcam problems. That makes Windows 10 more like a mobile OS than any amount of apps.