Microsoft is Desperate to Force Customers to Upgrade to Windows 10

May 27th, 2016

According to current estimates, Windows 10, released in July, 2015, has over 15% of the PC operating system user base. Based on the most recent totals, the total user base is approaching 300 million, which sounds impressive. But when you look at the  percentages, not so much. Indeed, it appears that the migration rate slowed rapidly within a few months after the initial release.

Until July 29, the Windows 10 upgrade is free for consumers. That makes it the same, at least for the first year, as OS X upgrades. But whereas Apple gains huge numbers of upgraders during the year of an OS’s existence, the same isn’t true for Windows. One reason is that Windows 10 isn’t every PC user’s cup of tea.

True, it’s closer in approach to Windows 7, particularly when compared to the poorly-received Windows 8/8.1 release. But it retains the lame interface elements of the latter, along with the too-thin lettering. However, the Start menu now works like a proper Start menu, and some of the new features might be useful. So there’s a virtual desktops feature similar to Apple’s Spaces. In addition, Cortana, the digital assistant, is present. That’s being touted as a huge advantage, especially since Apple hasn’t yet introduced Siri on a Mac. This is something that may debut under the next OS X, which may be called macOS to unify the branding.

Coinciding with the arrival of its first anniversary, Microsoft is touting a major upgrade to Windows 10, referred to as the Anniversary Update. Once again, Microsoft’s skills at catchy branding is lacking. But the ads for Windows 10 aren’t so compelling either. They are focused on silly lifestyle concepts, which is peculiar, since the main audience for Windows still consists of enterprise users. Indeed, few expect large numbers of businesses to upgrade from Windows 7 — or even Windows XP — anytime soon. It may take years before they switch to Windows 10 or one of its successors.

That said, Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to entice — or trick you — into upgrading your PC. Over the past year, the company has been criticized for downloading Windows 10 in the background whether you wanted it or not. If your PC has a small SSD, or limited capacity on a regular hard drive, victims of this unwanted behavior may find their computers robbed of gigabytes of free storage. Indeed, I often wonder how Microsoft gets away with this stunt, since downloading something sight unseen — without your knowledge or approval — is one of the classic definitions of a malware infection.

To make matters worse, Microsoft is altering a long-time user interface convention to trick you to launch the upgrade installer. So on a Mac, PC or even a Linux computer, clicking the “Close” button should dismiss a dialog, right? Well, Microsoft is now pushing a notification dialog that alerts you to a Windows 10 upgrade. You would expect that clicking the “X” in the upper-right corner of the dialog would simply dismiss it.

But, based on an obscure interface change, that action authorizes the upgrade instead. I’m serious! This is the sort of behavior that is, plain and simple, unethical. Indeed, traditional Windows programming guidelines state that, when you click Close or Cancel in a dialog, it should, “Never give it the same effect as OK.”

Well, not till now!

Perhaps most PC users will just groan and bear it! Maybe they wanted to try Windows 10 anyway, and this is a good opportunity, ahead of the time when you’ll have to pay upwards of $119 for a consumer license. But that doesn’t make this stunt any more acceptable.

I suppose this comedy of errors won’t make so much of a difference on a consumer’s PC. The enterprise is under more severe controls, so unwanted OS upgrades would traditionally be blocked. But I can imagine how it might impact the small business with a handful of computers.

So a few weeks back, I was listening to a well-known radio talk show host lambasting Microsoft for forcibly upgrading one of his work PCs to Windows 10 — while he was on the air! These shows use a PC to track callers to the show, and list the people waiting to speak to the host. But not while that Windows 10 upgrade was going on.

To his credit, the host, Thom Hartmann, talked about this stunt on his show. He regarded it as spyware. He pondered whether he should just switch to the Mac and be done with such unwanted behavior.

To be sure, Microsoft, despite reporting decent revenues and very high profits, is in trouble. PC sales are tanking. In order to entice skeptical users to upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft made it free for a year, and when the upgrade pace declined, turned to unsavory tactics to force the installers, unwanted, onto PCs. This latest maneuver, to change the user convention for clicking an X in a dialog to trick you into upgrading your PC, is just going too far.

Fortunately for me, my sole forays into Window are courtesy of a Parallels Desktop virtual machine on a Mac. If a Windows 10 update doesn’t work properly, I can always restore it to a previous version courtesy of a Time Machine backup. Or dump the PC virtual machine altogether and try something else.

PC users who don’t want Windows 10 might be forced to restore their PCs, potentially a long and annoying process. When it comes time to buy a new PC, just say no and switch to a Mac. Apple won’t force you to upgrade anything by chicanery. If you don’t want a download, just turn of the options to update your OS, plus the “Automatically check for updates” option in the App Store preference pane. You can then go on with your business free of spyware or other unwanted intrusions from the OS maker.

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4 Responses to “Microsoft is Desperate to Force Customers to Upgrade to Windows 10”

  1. DaveD says:

    If Microsoft is basically forcing a free upgrade of Windows 10 to its consumer users, then there is no longer a business case for charging a retail Windows OS.

  2. dfs says:

    I agree with the premise that forcing an OS update on unsuspecting customers is ethically problematic. But then (on admittedly a much smaller scale) doesn’t Apple do the same thing regarding the OS for Apple TV?

  3. dfs says:

    I think you still have the option, Gene, but what bothers me is that you don’t get notified when an update has been installed. It’s nice to know what you’re getting. And if Apple ever releases a bum OS, I don’t see how in the world one could downgrade to an earlier version.

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