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Microsoft and Stupidity

Let’s put this in perspective; In July of 2015, Microsoft made a solid effort to rid itself of the stench of Windows 8 and 8.1. Windows 10 was meant to embrace all the cool new technologies, including convertible notebooks and smartphones. Smartphones? Well, yes, after everything else failed, Windows 10 was meant to work on all computing devices.

Microsoft also hoped to establish a huge online Windows Store in the spirit of the App Store. But Microsoft no doubt realized customers would be skeptical, so they made Windows 10 free for customers to build a large user base. Businesses who paid annual support contacts, which include all Windows updates, would continue to pay.

In any case, after a short flurry of early adopters, the upgrade pace slowed as the fall and winter of 2015 approached. Now I can’t say that I have any deep insights into Microsoft’s corporate decision-making process. But somewhere something stupid happened. Maybe it was part of the desperation to move things along, and so a few shortcuts were taken, shortcuts that stretched the bounds of legality.

Indeed, if you wanted to be technical and all, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that a few regulations were stretched and broken. In short, it seems that Microsoft attempted to take a hint or two from the less legal elements of the computing community. The first was to send you an unwanted download of the entire Windows 10 installer, in the background. That way, if you really wanted to upgrade, there it was just a few clicks away.

Now how did Microsoft get away with that foolish stunt? Maybe because you specified that you wanted to receive Windows upgrades, so here was one all ready for you. But upgrading to a new version is not the same as receiving some patches to fix bugs and combat security lapses. It’s not the same thing at all.

Now consider the plight of someone who has a PC with a small SSD. A few gigabytes can mean the difference between having enough space for your stuff, or hitting the breaking point. This is the height of irresponsible behavior, and maybe some people were encouraged — or coerced — into migrating to Windows 10.

But the worst sort of behavior was to quietly change an well-known interface convention; make that reverse it. So under normal circumstances, you’d click an “X” to close a dialog and just say no. But the ever-so-subtle change allowed for an insidious alternative, that if you chose to exit a dialog about instilling Windows 10, Microsoft would take that as a “yes,” meaning the installation would commence against your wishes.

Even worse, the installation would sometimes begin without any action on your part. This happened to one Windows user that confronted havoc running a business when the unwanted upgrade was installed. According to published reports, Microsoft ending up settling a court case for $10,000 for this unwanted behavior. Serves them right.

Talk show host Thom Hartmann confronted a unwanted Windows 10 installation while he was on the air. His PC was used to manage scheduling and listener call-ins. But not while that confounded installation was happening. He vowed never to use Windows again, and even talked of switching to a Mac. To be fair, one of his listeners suggested he consider Linux, though I suspect he wouldn’t be able to use the proprietary software his show requires. Indeed, there may not even be a Mac version, forcing him to use a virtual machine, such as Parallels Desktop, with which to run Windows.

While all of this untoward behavior received coverage, it didn’t become a major scandal. This is where Apple exists in an unequal world, for if they pulled a stunt of this sort, it would make worldwide headlines of months. TV talking heads of all political persuasions would be complaining, and they’d be right. Some might even demand the FTC consider some sort of action. Lawyers around the world would be looking into class-action lawsuits.

Yes, a double standard! But Apple has long had to confront this lack of fairness.

After a year, Windows 10 became a typical paid upgrade, with different versions costing $119 and $199, depending on the version. Predictably, the upgrade rate has tanked. Why should a PC user buy something that used to be free? As people buy new PCs, however, they will receive Windows 10 as part of the process.

As to that unified Windows OS, well, mobile market share continues to tumble. Thousands of Nokia employees have lost their jobs, and Microsoft is clearly engaged in winding down the operation. I suppose Microsoft could keep the mobile platform going of a while to save face, but it has little impact on the industry. The last market share report I read gave Android and iOS 99% of the market. BlackBerry appears to be embracing Android more and more and Microsoft is the outsider. What a change from the way it used to be!

Understand, I do not dislike Windows 10. It had a shaky rollout, but has become a pretty decent OS overall. It’s certainly the best Windows OS I’ve ever used, and if you must exist in that other platform from time to time, it’s a fine place to go. With Parallels 12, just released, Windows 10 launches in seconds on my iMac. It’s fast, reasonably stable, and some of you might actually like the Cortana personal assistant. Clearly Apple did if you take Siri’s arrival on macOS Sierra as an example.