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  • The OS Update Dilemma

    February 5th, 2016

    Editor’s Note: I missed a few deadlines due to a nasty flu virus, so I’m playing catch up. I’ve got lots to write about, though, so stay tuned.

    Now we know that Windows 10’s upgrade pace has been  slow but steady. Sure, Microsoft claims that over 200 million PCs were upgraded as of January. It sounds like a huge figure, but don’t forget that the Windows user base is 1.5 billion. So it’s not nearly as compelling as you might think.

    It’s not that Microsoft isn’t doing everything possible to push updates. It’s free for consumers, at least until the time when it won’t be. They even downloaded the installer in the background on an unknown number of PCs, without your permission, so you’d take the hint. More recently, they claimed that many PC buyers of equipment with the new Intel Skylake chips must use Windows 10 for full compatibility even if they prefer Windows 7 or, perish forbid, Windows 8/8.1. But they’ve also distributed a list of products that can escape that requirement.

    So is something wrong with Windows 10? Well, it was a little shaky out of the starting gate, but Microsoft has released a slew of updates that fix bugs and add missing features. So it ought to be OK now, but does that make it a must-have?

    Certainly it undoes some of the really bad choices of Windows 8/8.1. The Start menu is back, and the user interface is not so different that the Windows 7, so the user should get acclimated in short order. Windows 10 also offers integration with 2-in-1 or convertible note-books that double as a tablet, though certainly not the sort of tablet you see from Apple. It’s also supposed to support mobile handsets from Nokia and whatever other makers Microsoft can entice to run its relatively unpopular mobile OS.

    By the same token, businesses are examining Windows 10 for performance and compatibility, but right now they’re sticking with Windows 7, which still dominates over half the user base. So when the free download period ends, does Microsoft relent and extend it? Or will those who would otherwise have to shell out $119 and $199 for the upgrade be left to their own devices? How will that speed up adoption anyway?

    My expectation is that Microsoft may relent on ending the free update policy for consumers if the adoption rate isn’t a lot higher come this summer.

    But it’s not just Microsoft who might be confronting resistance to its newest operating system. The adoption rate for OS X El Capitan appears to be tapering off.

    Or at least, that’s what a certain blogger claims. But when you look at the figures, it may not be quite so bad. So the adoption rate as of the end of November was 38%. This would seem to be a pretty good share, but its predecessor, Yosemite, had a 44.5% share as of the end of December the previous year.

    The comparison is based on the fact that Yosemite arrived a couple of weeks later in 2014, and being 6.5% ahead more than two months later somehow makes it quite a bit more successful. I would think, however, that a proper comparison would stop at December 16th. It would seem that El Capitan would still run somewhat behind Yosemite, but by a smaller margin.

    Now Yosemite was a troublesome experience for some. It took several updates to vanquish Wi-Fi connection problems reported by some users. Indeed, both Yosemite and El Capitan received tepid reviews from the Mac App store, a mixture of extreme satisfaction and extreme disappointment. That said, perhaps some people would rather not bother until things settle down.

    After all, the promise of El Capitan was fewer new features and improved stability. The App Store reviews are all over the place, reporting problems with Mail (which also exhibited problems with Yosemite), Safari, and such services as Wi-Fi and USB. Some report printer issues, and I suppose that could be the result of a driver conflict. None of the printers I’ve used, from Brother and Epson, display any glitches, and I have several USB devices, including an external SuperDrive and a mic mixer, which work just fine.

    Overall performance, including boot times, was said to be slower for some, but not for me. Some of the complainers state that they ended up reverting to Yosemite to solve the problems, and I presume that required backing up and restoring their systems.

    No doubt the unfavorable reviews represented one factor in dissuading some from upgrading to El Capitan. It may also be that the new features just aren’t compelling enough to persuade people that it’s a must-have. That’s particularly true if there are bugs of one sort or another that are still not resolved as of the recent 10.11.3 update.

    Unfortunately, the problems do not appear to be consistent. I have not had any notable issues with El Capitan except for Mail, which as of 10.11.3, still freezes for a brief time. I’m told this bug has been addressed with the 10.11.4 update that’s currently being tested by developers and public beta testers.

    What is most troubling is that a huge number of Mac users have had access to the betas, but there are still reports of rampant problems. So is that the fault of testers failing to report serious problems, or Apple not taking such reports seriously?

    When Tim Cook talks to the public or to Apple employees, everything is coming up roses. I understand why he wants to put positive spins on the situation, but still.



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