The upcoming Windows 10 release from Microsoft will decidedly be distinctive, if not revolutionary for Microsoft, because it will be distributed as a free update –and no more as a shrink-wrapped new product. That is, in a world where software is king in the manner of apps or services, the software that enables other software to run will no longer command a premium price. Which, in turn, makes some sense as the OS is no longer seen as a benefit in itself, but as an already-paid-for extension of a hardware device.
This, of course, should benefit users –not only because free is the best price assuming of course that the quality is there– but also because OS upgrades should become a nightmare to no longer be lived or remembered. Anybody who had to upgrade from WinXP to Vista, and from there to Windows 7 or even Windows 8 will be happily relieved.
However, users might also be negatively impacted in subtle ways. Aside of a need for retraining and missing old software, such as Windows Media Center, what might be more insidious is a loss of privacy and a loss of control. The loss of privacy is not unique to Microsoft, but common to all software vendors that move to the Cloud and –presumably– use the information stored, as well as usage data, to monetize this for third-party marketing and consumer profiling. Certainly the advantages of the Cloud make of many a user a true believer, but it is unclear if the average Windows 10 user will appreciate how much privacy is lost when using some features of the software. Windows 10 is supposed to, in a way, be invisible to the users and their tasks (hence, for example, system updates for the Windows Home edition have been reported as not optional and not controllable by the user).
This suggests, for example, that features such as Cloud storage will too happen under the covers –perhaps beyond the awareness of many users. Up to Windows 8, which is still the new kid on the block compared to Windows 7 and the ubiquitous though unsupported WinXP, there was no concept of the OS being a platform for advertising. Though Windows 10 does offer control (in the form of settings in the privacy tab) the generic dictum of “some apps will not work as intended if you turn this and that off” will likely result in many users not fiddling with the default settings.
Of course, only time will tell if Microsoft will be able to make a profit by collecting and using this information –not to say re-energize Windows in the consumer market. Yet, unfortunately, only time will tell if users will be able to safely manage their information sharing and privacy and remain protected from hacking and data breaches.
Feature Image, Microsoft
Privacy Settings, Windows 10 Preview Build 10130