Windows 10: The OS Microsoft Really, Really Wants You to Use

In December, Windows 10 apparently displaced Windows 7 as the most popular desktop operating system in the world. This is according to NetMarketShare. I say “apparently” for a couple reasons. First, these things are educated guesses —nobody really knows for sure. Second, the graph shows one thing (Windows 10 on top), while the table shows another (Windows 7 in first place). The computer press, who presumably follow these things a lot more closely than I do, are reporting that lines have crossed and Windows 10 now has the greatest share of desktop OSes.

It has taken almost three and a half years for Windows 10 to reach this point. What’s more, Windows 7, in second place among desktop operating systems, is now more than nine years old.

Microsoft has carried out its campaign to move users to Windows 10 like siege warfare, slowly wearing down the enemy (AKA customer) until eventually, inevitably, getting the desired result: Windows users will have the software Microsoft says they will have, the so-called “last version of Windows.” Windows as a service. Windows 10.

There were two major Windows releases between Windows 7 and 10. Most people who can count would guess that they’d be called Windows 8 and 9. In reality they were 8 and 8.1. The smart, quirky folks at Microsoft definitely can count, so what happened to Windows 9? We don’t actually know. An interesting discussion of the question was published on a site called ExtremeTech the day before Windows 10 was released.

Anyway, Windows 8 was a version that nobody I know ever wanted or asked for. It was Microsoft’s attempt to push a touch-centered user interface on customers. It had a garish collection of buttons or “tiles,” some of which updated constantly, and it completely abandoned the Start menu that had been a major feature of Windows since 1995. That’s right, got rid of it. Gone.

Windows 8 is one of many examples of Microsoft seemingly forgetting — or not caring — that there were a gazillion people who already knew how to use their product.

Windows 8.1 was a free upgrade that probably mattered most to those who had the miserable 8.0 or who needed to replace a computer running another version of Windows that was no longer sold or supported.

If you never had a computer running Windows 8, you didn’t miss much. In 2013 I had the agony of supporting Windows 8 in the rollout of a bunch of overpriced, under-powered tablets to a new line of business, in a new office, under very tight deadlines. It was a perfect cluster, which is now enshrined as a success in the LinkedIn profile of the IT director who oversaw it. He left the company less than a year later, getting walked out of the building for other bad judgment/behavior, and the entire IT operation was outsourced. I digress.

After Windows 8.x, practically anything that brought back the Start menu would be viewed favorably, much as Windows 7 was seen as a partial return to sanity after Windows Vista. But Microsoft would take no chances. Windows 10 was given away as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and 8.1 users for a year. Microsoft got pretty pushy about it, in fact, effectively tricking some computer users into installing a new operating system when many of them were happy with what they had.

Microsoft has also been none too subtle about the reasons that people should upgrade anything earlier than version 10: security. In another year (for most of us, anyway) Windows 7 will become unsupported. That means that it, along with its major components — like the bundled browser, Internet Explorer — will become increasingly vulnerable over time, and NOTHING will be done about it. Other software built to run on the unsupported OS will also, over time, become unsupported.

What does it mean for an operating system to become unsupported? It means that using it in connection with other computers becomes insanely risky.

“That’s nice data you got there. It’d be a real shame if anything should happen to it.”

So using the newer operating system — the one Microsoft wants you to use — is a no-brainer, right? Well, they say that if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product.

I repeat, for a full year, Microsoft gave Windows 10 away free to Windows 7 & 8.x users.

Microsoft badly wants people to use this product.

Windows 10 is not, in itself, a bad product. It is, however, a product that seems to have an overwhelming interest in what people are doing with it. From Cortana to browser news feeds and web searches to updates, Windows 10 wants to be incessantly helpful and involved. So helpful, in fact, that the decision whether and when to install updates is made for you. A lot of decisions are apparently made this way, and Microsoft thinks you should be OK with that.

Microsoft releases “feature updates” twice a year and seemingly won’t take no for an answer. Microsoft will add features and remove features as they see fit. Microsoft will fix bugs and patch security problems as they can. Feature updates are cumulative, and each is supported (for most users) for 18 months. What happens after 18 months if someone manages to avoid updating? Does the OS stop working? Is the user banished to Unsupportedville?

Windows 10 still shares some of the architecture and program code of earlier Windows versions, which means it shares some of the same vulnerabilities that just haven’t been exploited. Yet.

Most of us who have used computers in the workplace are accustomed to various degrees of constraint in how we might use them. We’ve also become accustomed to having no expectation of privacy where the company computer and phone are concerned? What about our personal computers? Who’s calling the shots there?

Microsoft makes its case for Windows 10 privacy settings here. It’s an interesting read. Some of the statements sound like they were written by Bill Clinton: “We don’t use what you say in email, chat, video calls or voice mail, or your documents, photos, or other personal files to choose which ads to show you.” OK, how do you use that information?

There’s also a link to the Microsoft Privacy Statement and a history of revisions, starting in July 2015 (which coincides with the introduction of Windows 10). A little light reading.

It’s perhaps ironic that Windows, which was originally named to describe frames containing different programs and content, now describes a product that is giving a lot of insight into what its users think, say and do, where they travel and what they like.

Has Windows 10 become too much of a window into our lives? If so, what can we do about it?

Stay tuned…

 

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