A Year of Windows 10: What Has Microsoft Learned?

Last year at this time, Microsoft released Windows 10, a better follow up to the not-so-well-received Windows 8 it released in 2012. It was long awaited, included many interesting features and marked the return of the Start Menu. Among the major points of the new OS was the Free Upgrade scheme (which has ended now), and as per our human tendency, looking at the word FREE, many hopped on board. It seemed like public had accepted Windows 10 with open arms as the number of users making the transition stood at 75 millions in just four weeks!

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Microsoft was also thrilled at the response, and saw its ambitious target of having over 1 billion devices running Windows 10 by two years, fulfilling. To make sure it reached that target, it initiated a number of methods which opened flood gates to criticism, controversies and even lawsuits. So let’s see where Windows 10 is after one year.

The Controversial Release

Even before the release of Windows 10, there were rumblings that Microsoft is being more intrusive with Windows 10. The first signs of concern occurred when Microsoft announced that it was going to disable Defer Updates option in the Home edition of Windows 10. Many saw it as Microsoft’s attempt to take control of user’s OS. Then soon after the release more details started pouring out. Microsoft had offered plenty of Privacy settings in Windows 10 but conspicuously did not explain what they meant or did. Also the forcing of Microsoft Account on everybody was another thing that could have been avoided.

Fiddler W10
The covert connections | Pic courtesy ArsTechinca

Gradually, the can of worms opened. Some inquisitive users finally found out what happened behind the scenes. Monitoring with a Web Debugger revealed that the OS contacted Microsoft’s servers countless times. Disabling Web Search in Start Menu & Cortana did nothing and a connection was made to Bing and other MS servers even for simply typing something in search bar. And those Privacy options Microsoft provided to opt out of this? Well they where as effective as MS’s stand on privacy. Finally the whole free-upgrade-for-pirates offer was another pre-release fiasco that is best left untouched.

Forced Updates

One would think that after seeing so many red flags, Microsoft would try to steer its ship to the direction of redemption but it didn’t listen to any of the criticism and instead doubled-down its efforts to push Windows 10 to everybody’s PC, without their permissions. After that, it’s history as we know it.

Win10 On I Pad
If Microsoft had its way we would be seeing this

Various publications and tech sites covered the issue constantly and MS was in the spotlight for the wrong reasons most of last year. People’s PCs were upgraded to Windows 10 overnight with many losing their work and peace of mind. This turned out worse for people having an internet connection with limited data. And those greeted with a hefty bill rightfully didn’t sit quiet and took Microsoft to court. The low point came when Microsoft tried outright deceiving users by making the (X) close button on the update dialog box to do nothing. This desperation is even more than someone constantly searching for Pikachu in Pokémon Go.

Latest Bone of Contention

Several news reports surfaced last week stating that Microsoft was going to remove certain important features of Windows 10 Pro in the upcoming anniversary update. I will touch upon the features shortly but first we need to understand why Microsoft is wrong here (again). Legacy users on Windows 7 had these features and they upgraded to 10 assuming that the same features will be available. But the deactivation of these features, or as a matter of fact, any such feature constitutes to what is generally known as bait and switch, because such users can’t revert back to Windows 7 and are thus trapped. And it’s illegal, so we can expect more of the lawsuits coming up in addition to the ones already filed for incessant poking around.

Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, people don’t pay for the software. Someday they will, though – Bill Gates, 1998

And that’s not it, new installation of Windows 10 can’t install any Unsigned Windows Kernel Mode drivers. This is inconvenient for users and a pain for developers as they have to shell out a hefty fee for the sign-up process.

The Affected Features

The features in question are Application Virtualization (App-V), User Experience Virtualization (UE -V) & Group Policy Editor, as explained below:

Application Virtualization (App-V): As the name suggests, applications are not installed on the user’s (clients) computer but are loaded from a Central Server. This can be compared to the Nextbit Robin where apps are stored in the cloud, but not in the exact way. The benefits of this are saving of space on client computers and control over application access per user.

User Experience Virtualization (UE-V): This feature ensures that irrespective of the computer a user logs on, the desktop, settings & apps are synced across PCs. The simple comparison for this is your Google account on Android & Chrome. It was introduced as an better alternative to Roaming Profiles.

Group Policy Editor: This is a powerhouse for tweaking many aspects of user accounts, important OS features and much more. It includes options which are beyond the realm of Control Panel and explaining it in detail is probably impossible, even if we do a separate piece on it. While the whole Group Policy Editor is fortunately not disabled, some of the important policies explained below, are neutered.

Win10 Policies
For Policies regarding Tips & Tricks | Microsoft

As you might have guessed, the above features are useful only to organizations as is Windows Pro. Among them, the last one, Group Policy Editor is critical one for power-users, because as reported by ghacks, it disables the ability to turn off Microsoft Consumer Experience (Telemetry Data), Windows Apps and Lock Screen. Seeing a general trend, aren’t we? As for the first two features, there are alternatives, such as Thinapp, but those are not easy nor feasible to implement. While this only affects Windows 10 Pro, Home edition users should also take a note, because in the not-so-distant future Microsoft could pull the same trick on them.

A Silver Lining?

If you are with me till now, you might be anxious and worried, even ready to switch to open source options, but wait. Yes, Microsoft’s tactics made Windows 10 look like a pain in the ass, but on the flip side, it also delivered on many of the promises. The re-introduction of Start Menu was sleek and great, it sorted out the weird 2-in-1 mode using Continuum and bought general overall optimization to make it faster and less bloated.

Win10 Anniversary Update
Flicker of hope

And it’s getting better (at least for non-Pro users) with several new features such as Bash Support, Dark theme mode & Notification Syncing through Cortana app coming in the Anniversary Update. Now if only Microsoft mended its ways, it will be better for everyone and maybe even convince more users to upgrade, whom they scared away earlier. But that’s a big if, and seeing as we are writing this piece in such a tone, makes it clear that Microsoft has a lot to learn.

We have contacted Microsoft on this issue but are yet to hear back from them. We will update this post if we get a reply. So how was your year with Windows 10? Or you have not upgraded at all? Share your thoughts with us.

ALSO READ: Windows 10: A Quick Round-up of What You Really Ought to Know

Last updated on 02 February, 2022

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