I became involved in the Windows 10 Preview back in October of 2014 as one of the very first to sign up. As an IT professional and a VERY long-term user of Microsoft products back to the earliest releases of MS-DOS I have been a member of MSDN since its inception. Microsoft had some ethical issues, especially with the Netscape/Internet Explorer warfare. But a lot of the ‘evil’ is really not, it is actually aggressive marketing. All in all Microsoft ended up providing what amounts to the world’s premier operating system with a +90% market share of desktops and a significant portion elsewhere.
My interest in Windows 10 was, in no small part, due to the overall bad perception of Windows 8 and 8.1. While I had no real difficulty in understanding the direction they were taking I also understood the concerns of the legacy users, and especially of the corporate world, regarding the huge changes to a well established and successful Graphical User Interface (GUI). My involvement with the preview program, like that of many others, was to help ensure that the finished product did its best to address the concerns of legacy and corporate customers while NOT losing sight of the ultimate, and necessary, changes in the way we will be interacting with computers in the future by way of new, and far more human, input methods. All in all I think we have a great start. It is just a start, so keep that in mind.
The reason for the title I have chosen is due to observations I made during the preview regarding some users that now seem to have also targeted the publicly accessible components of Windows 10 as a contiguous platform. In all honesty they PMO! I understand why the people at Microsoft can’t do anything about them, but I can. So let’s look at the behaviors I am referring to.
First understand that the preview was opened to millions, Microsoft didn’t choose who participated it was open to anyone that had the desire. Upon entering the program you were required to accept a special license agreement acknowledging that you understood that the software was “experimental in nature and not even at BETA level”. What this means is that things may appear like buttons and functions that actually have no relevant code so they don’t actually “do” anything. Further we were all advised that Microsoft recommended that the Preview NEVER be loaded onto a production system, never be used for critical processing, that privacy couldn’t be expected due to the need for telemetry monitoring so personal and confidential data should NOT be stored on systems running the preview software. Lastly there was a small risk that you could lose data, or even suffer a catastrophic hardware failure due to use of the software. From day one we legitimate testers would have to put up with 100s and even thousands of continuous complaints about Microsoft actually keeping their promise regarding all these negative events. Now that the system is publicly available much of the concern about the privacy of the OS is actually based on these same monitoring tools even though they were deliberately removed by Microsoft two weeks prior to July 29th with the release of the final test build 10240. This is NOT to imply that privacy is not a concern. Many of the features this new OS offer are contingent upon a user wanting to use the feature. Things like text-to-type and Cortana for example NEED to send your data, including your voice, in order to ‘learn’ how you interact with them in order to function correctly. This isn’t actually new tech, we’ve been using similar utilities like Dragon for years and nobody bothered them about harvesting your voice data to make the program work. Handwriting recognition is as old as the very first OCR scanner. Now it is built into the OS it suddenly is an issue? iPads and iPhones have been doing it for over 5 years but because Windows 10 does (by the way this is actually old in Windows too) it is suddenly an issue? Microsoft still depends a great deal on government and corporate users that include doctors and lawyers, for example, that must be able to comply, and prove they comply, with rules regarding data privacy. Microsoft software has never had a problem with meeting those standards and Windows 10 still doesn’t, it just requires more user involvement if you desire that level of privacy and a clear understanding that you must give up some of those features if you do. However nothing in my experience to date convinces me that Microsoft uses that data for anything more than what the license agreement states which is, “to improve the functionality of the feature and thus improve the overall customer experience.”
Then we get to the really immoral “users”. I put the quotes around the word users for a simple reason. I reading their complaints and issues I have come to a simple conclusion. They are either complaining about a product, or service, they have NEVER actually used or they are, in a word, liars. Microsoft is unable to call these people out. But amongst testers in the forums we other testers had no problem with identification and then calling them out. They would target a specific function which we, the real users, had already received notice that the function was deprecated (which in IT terms means removed or non-functional). Or, and this is even more common, they would complain about something NOT working while the rest of us had no problem at all. This last is a bit difficult to identify because in the real world (outside of Apple, Inc.) there actually are situations where a specific group of software and/or an unusual hardware configuration could result in stoppages and errors that only affect a minority of systems. Where it become immoral is when the Microsoft engineer, or another user with the same hardware/software configuration, is “unable to duplicate”. The words in quotes are the term we used in software support when a customer complained about something in one of our products and we couldn’t get the sandbox to do the same. At my end of the pipe I would request further details in order to discover what was special about the users system that caused the failure and use that information to replicate the error, discover the root cause, and issue a fix. Time after time we asked these individuals to please engage Microsoft Support (it was completely free to Insiders) only to be rebuffed and informed how “hard it was”, “support would hang up on them as soon as they identified themselves as an Insider”. Probably true if they didn’t use the dedicated Support lines and chat boards set up for us.
Now I have to sit and watch as these same behaviors appear in the public’s eye. Today I simply wanted to purchase an app from the Store to play my DVDs. I was using a free FOSS package from VLC but wanted to use the Windows 10 app they recently released as my spouse couldn’t learn the much more complicated free version. So I open the Store app and do the search locating the Windows DVD Player. It is rated at a woeful 2.3 with 14 ratings of 1! I read the reviews and they are terrible including comments such as “will not play ANY of my personal or purchased DVDs”, “Can’t resize the screen without losing some of the picture”, “Sounds like a cartoon”, “Will not autoplay my DVDs no matter what” and things of similar content. There are also 7 “5” ratings (that is as high as you can go) and one each of “3” and “4” with not a single “4”. Right away I am suspicious due to the lack of a “4” rating. In any store that I have ever used be it the Apple Store or Google Play there is always a few “4”s. So many “1”s usually indicate an utter disaster of an app yet this one is still available. I have never seen an app so badly rated last more than 48 hours on any store. So despite the $14.99 cost I go ahead and purchase because to get it free on the systems I originally had WMC on requires a full reinstall of the OS and then a brand new upgrade to Windows 10 which will take a few hours per machine. My time is worth more than $15.00. You can imagine my surprise, and anger, when this “POS app” as described by one user turned out to function perfectly even playing Sony disks which have some of the most restrictive DRM controls and most complicated Codecs in the industry.
So it seems Microsoft’s toughest hurdle is going to be a battle against FUD. Made up bad press by rude and an almost criminal group of users (most seem to be Linux users incidentally) that have a hate for the company so ingrained and deep that they can’t seem to deal rationally with any product put forward.