Tony Bradley is Community Manager for Tenable Network Security and Editor-in-Chief of TechSpective. Tony has a passion for technology and gadgets–with a focus on Microsoft and security. He also loves spending time with his family and likes to think he enjoys reading and golf even though he never finds the time for either. You can contact me directly at email@example.com. For more from me, you can follow me on Twitter, subscribe to me on Facebook or add me to your Circles on Google+.
The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
It seems that Microsoft has decided to fashion its Windows 10 strategy on the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
First, Microsoft did its best to make the new operating system inviting. It reversed gears on many of the controversial features that made customers object to Windows 8 and Windows 8.1—making the Windows 10 experience and interface much closer to Windows 7. Best of all, though, Microsoft made the upgrade to Windows 10 FREE for systems running Windows 7 or later.
It should be a no-brainer to upgrade. And yet, there is still a large percentage of Windows users who refuse to make the switch, even for free. Part of that backlash is a function of privacy concerns. Windows 10 is much more seamlessly integrated with the cloud than previous versions, and many of the features of Windows 10 and the Cortana virtual assistant rely on access to email, calendar information, and location data. There are definitely benefits to sharing this information with Windows 10, but many consumers just don’t trust Microsoft.
Of course, Microsoft hasn’t done itself any favors in this department, because it keeps doing shady things seemingly designed to surreptitiously force users to upgrade to Windows 10. The invitation to upgrade earlier Windows systems for free evolved into an obnoxious, pushy pop-up. The options offered are “Upgrade now” or “Start download, upgrade later”. Microsoft apparently doesn’t accept the possibility of “I’d prefer not to upgrade”.
There were reports of many users receiving the complete Windows 10 installation file on their systems even when they hadn’t requested or approved it. Microsoft just wanted to be proactive and plan ahead by putting the file there. You know, so it’s ready when the customer inevitably decides to pull the trigger. Just in case.
Last week Microsoft announced a change in its support policy. Essentially, on new hardware Microsoft will only support the latest OS. In other words, if you buy a new Windows 10 system and then downgrade it to a previous version of Windows you will risk losing access to support and updates from Microsoft.
Microsoft does explain the logic behind this policy shift. “Windows 7 was designed nearly 10 years ago before any x86/x64 SOCs existed. For Windows 7 to run on any modern silicon, device drivers and firmware need to emulate Windows 7’s expectations for interrupt processing, bus support, and power states- which is challenging for WiFi, graphics, security, and more. As partners make customizations to legacy device drivers, services, and firmware settings, customers are likely to see regressions with Windows 7 ongoing servicing.”
It does make sense on some level. Given the strong-arm tactics Microsoft has used thus far with Windows 10, though, it also seems very much like a strategy to force more users to make the switch.
I should pause, and just say that I believe you should upgrade to Windows 10. I feel that the privacy fears are exaggerated, and that sharing personal information is a reality of technology today in order to take advantage of the latest features and capabilities. Windows 10 is an awesome operating system and I recommend it.
That said, I question Microsoft’s draconian Borg-esque strategy. I will say this: Microsoft doesn’t have that much to lose. What are your options? You can switch to Mac OS X—but Apple AAPL +4.95% has been playing by these “Our way or the highway” rules for much longer so you’ll still be facing the same issue. You can switch to Linux—but that’s been true for decades and yet Linux still owns less than two percent of the market.
Microsoft has more than 90 percent of the desktop OS market, and that isn’t likely to change. You can be stubborn and choose not to upgrade, but then Microsoft just won’t support your system any longer, so at least Microsoft won’t be wasting resources writing updates for outdated platforms.
Microsoft may piss off a lot of people along the way, but the simple fact is that you will most likely upgrade to Windows 10 eventually…and then to the next version of Windows. Resistance is futile.