The Windows 10 Crash Machine

September 16th, 2015

So if you’re listening to Microsoft, Windows 10 has been a huge success, so far, with over 75 million downloads the very first month. Unlike previous versions of Windows, except for a brief period before release when people buy an older version, Windows 10 is free to users of Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Except for enterprise customers on contract, they can download the upgrade, or reserve the download, depending on the judgement of Microsoft’s cloud servers.

The official release date was July 29, although not everyone got their upgrade then. Those who joined the Windows Insider program had first dibs. That was payment for putting up with betas, although the prereleases weren’t really so bad. It was encouraging to see Microsoft undo some of the excesses that made Windows 8 one of the most poorly-received versions in recent history. It was even worse than Windows Vista.

However, it may well be that Microsoft is going overboard anticipating who might upgrade. So I’ve read reports that some Windows users are suddenly finding their online bandwidth sharply reduced by background updates to prepare them to upgrade to Windows 10, whether or not they’ve expressed that choice. You may think that a few gigabytes more or less is not a significant issue, but when someone doesn’t have a big allotment, or has used most of it that month from binging on Netflix, it may result in overage charges or reduced performance. That is, if the ISP doesn’t cut the customer off completely until the following month. So does Microsoft take responsibility? Of course not!

Now those of you who have already upgraded to Windows 10 might notice there have been loads of updates. Not just for Windows Defender malware protection, but core updates for the OS. Remember, it’s just a little over six weeks since the original release, yet all this stuff is flowing down from the mother ship, mostly to fix early glitches.

It’s certainly normal for bugs to infect the first releases of a new operating system, and Apple is not immune. Indeed, some suggest it took the last two updates to OS X Yosemite to address persistent Wi-Fi glitches. But there have only been five updates so far. Windows 10? I’m not counting, since they come forth in tiny increments, or as large updaters.

Again, it’s all in six weeks and more are coming.

So what’s up with Windows 10 anyway? Well, I’ve read several articles from sites usually friendly to Microsoft, such as ZDNet, in which the author complains about serious stability problems. The Mail app has been a persistent source of trouble, with one report suggesting that the app was mysteriously “stuck” for several days in August and totally broken by September. A latter update really broke the app, zapping all user accounts.

For those of you who fret over the ongoing troubles with Apple Mail, and I’ve seen a bunch over the years, I don’t recall any that, all of a sudden, deleted my accounts. And I have seven counts configured, so this can get complicated. Yes, I suppose I should simply combine everything into my Gmail or iCloud accounts, which would eliminate five of them. But I’d rather have the granular control over these setups, and depending on some other company’s free service puts the fate of these accounts in someone else’s hands.

But there’s more.

One report complains about unstable behavior of so-called “Modern” apps, the ones sporting the interface formerly known as Metro. So it sometimes takes multiple taps to launch one. In other cases, a running app will mysteriously vanish, which appears to indicate some sort of crash without any prompt to indicate something went wrong.

Other complaints include freezes when awakening from sleep mode, and ragged scrolling. Now it’s possible these problems might be traced to the Surface 3, so maybe calling Windows 10 “the most unstable release since Millennium Edition (ME)” is overstating the problem.

Some suggest Microsoft was too eager to push Windows 10 out the door, and maybe the pressure of the failure of the previous version was the main reason. Microsoft usually releases OS upgrades in the fall. But if the promised updates fix many of the problems, and add some of the missing features, maybe things will be all right by the holiday season.

But even if Windows 10 is in pretty good shape by then — and I have used it under both Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion on my iMac without serious glitches — it doesn’t mean PC sales will suddenly soar. Most anyone with a fairly recent PC doesn’t have to worry about paying for an upgrade, since it’s free. So there’s no incentive to buy a new PC to get one, or avoid paying for a shrink wrapped box at the local consumer electronics store.

Apple has been criticized for thrusting products and services into the marketplace without sufficient testing. That’s probably true, although sometimes it takes a wider audience to reveal some inconsistent bugs. Maybe Apple’s public beta programs will result in more stable iOS 9 and El Capitan releases. We’ll see. My experiences have been extremely positive.

But Microsoft has had public beta programs for years. Millions had a chance to work with previews of Windows 10, so Microsoft should have learned a few things from user feedback. Or maybe it would have been far worse if there had been no input from the public.

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