The Windows 10 update conundrum [Q&A]

Question

Windows 10's growth seems to have stalled for the moment, despite the software giant's best (and worst) efforts to get consumers and businesses to upgrade.

I spoke to Charles Cho, senior Microsoft architect at PCM, Inc., about why this is, and why Microsoft is so desperate to get users to upgrade. He had some interesting insights on the update conundrum.

BN: Why is Microsoft so eager to have users update to Windows 10?

CC: The top reason Microsoft wants users to upgrade is for their own benefit -- so they are on the latest and greatest security technology, and experience improved speeds, and support the latest peripherals, technology, and applications.

Microsoft wants users to upgrade for its own benefit also, as it would reduce a large amount of support costs that are involved.

Additionally, upgrading and having as many devices on Windows 10 helps Microsoft get towards its goal of trying to have some OS ubiquity among multiple devices and systems.

BN: What are some reasons behind users not updating?

CC: Firms are busy running their business and once they have something smooth and humming, they stick with it. They don’t really have much of an impetus, time, or money to upgrade to Windows 10. The point of an upgrade for a business is because they need to and/or because they have to.

They’ve already either learned or heard of Windows 8 and the wrong direction it took and this left a mental impression.

Some businesses have applications that are not compatible with Windows 10 in the version they are currently using. In order to run Windows 10, they will often have to upgrade their other business line applications and in some cases start new development or customizations to match their current application configuration. All of these costs add up.

BN: Are they worried some of their apps won't be supported?

CC: Yes, businesses are worried that some of their apps won’t be supported, at least not without an upgrade.

If Microsoft wants to push companies to upgrade to Windows 10, my advice would be to invest and help major business application developers improve and upgrade their products to work best with Windows 10 and have exclusive features, and help them develop upgrade paths that are the least painful for businesses.

BN: Is cost a factor?

CC: Yes, cost is a factor; not so much with Windows 10 itself, but the costs involved with planning and performing a company-wide upgrade, any work stoppage caused by it, and the upgrading of other business applications that need to be upgraded to support Windows 10.

BN: How does Windows selling/Apple giving updates away for free affect user behavior?

CC: These are actually two different things. In the case of Windows, giving updates away for free does a few things. It keeps people on the same operating system longer because some of the OS updates add support for newer technology, giving it a longer life and fixes issues that might cause it to break and become annoyingly unusable. It also would make the users have much higher expectations and demands for a more robust and secure product. I think that because of this, users are a bit more lenient, expecting Microsoft to fix issues and therefore are willing to try or live with Windows if they find that it has some minor issues or annoyances.

With Apple, the firm not only provides updates, it give upgrades to the OS for free; new versions. Apple can do this since the OS basically runs only on its hardware platforms anyhow, so the investment is already made by the user as opposed to Windows which runs on most systems, including Apple. Users tout this and don’t complain and I think are even more pliant on OS issues. What choice do they have if they are using Apple hardware? However, it gives Apple a loyal following and most update to the new OS almost immediately as most software tends to continue to work as well or is quickly updated by the respective manufacturers.

BN: Has updating from XP to Vista and Windows 7 to 8 given people pause before updating?

CC: I definitely think that Vista and Windows 8 threw users for a loop and made them upgrade shy.

Anecdotally, there is a common IT saying that Microsoft’s OSes are literally a repeated hit and miss in that order, meaning each subsequent version is a hit and the next is a miss, then a hit and then a miss, etc. It’s perceived that most users didn’t like Windows 95, but liked Windows 98, then they didn’t like Windows ME, but liked Windows XP, they didn’t like the next version which was Vista, but liked Windows 7, then of course Windows 8 was considered a miss by many, but many have touted that Windows 10 is a good OS.

BN: How long should manufacturers support their operating systems?

CC: It would depend on who you ask. From a user’s perspective, for as long as that person would use the OS, however long that might be.

From a business’ perspective, until the business or supporting applications or technology require them to do so. This would also include if the upgrade will save them money, improve efficiency, open new markets, level playing fields, etc. Basically the question to ask here is what benefit is it to the business to do an upgrade? The obvious response is does the gain outweigh the cost?

From manufacturers’ perspectives, as soon as possible, preferably before earnings reports.

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