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Opinions of Windows 10 run hot and cold for IT experts
The past year was a roller coaster ride for Windows 10. Microsoft had to put out fires with the October 2018 Update, but it also announced welcome changes to the Edge browser.
As 2018 gives way to 2019, opinions of Windows 10 range from praise to disdain.
For some IT pros, the operating system is a big step up from Windows 7, and hiccups such as the October 2018 Update file-deletion problem are just business as usual with any technology.
"Everybody makes mistakes, and [Microsoft] rolled it back in a hurry," said Willem Bagchus, a messaging and collaboration specialist at United Bank, based in Parkersburg, W.Va. "No company and no technology is infallible."
For other experts, it's a sign that Microsoft doesn't listen to its customers and a gateway to bigger problems.
"Their insiders told them they had a major problem," said William Warren, owner of Emmanuel Technology Consulting, an IT services company in Brunswick, Md. "Microsoft released [the October 2018 Update] anyway. I guess they figured nobody was going to complain."
No matter a person's opinions of Windows 10, the past year was anything but smooth for the operating system, with the last few months in particular making headlines -- and not always for the best reasons.
Windows 10 update approach comes under fire
The biggest problem Windows 10 ran into in 2018 was issues with the October 2018 Update, which it released on October 3. Microsoft recalled the update only three days after releasing it because users reported missing files after they updated. The company did not re-release the update until November 14.
"If you try to push [updates] wholesale to everyone, invariably, you're going to find some problems and you're going to look bad," said Jack Gold, principal and founder of J. Gold Associates, a mobile analyst firm in Northborough, Mass.
The entire Windows-as-a-service model, which includes two major feature updates a year and limits the amount of control IT has over who gets what updates and when, has elicited strong opinions of Windows 10 from IT experts since its inception.
"Microsoft decided they know better than everybody," Warren said. "People are advocating disabling Windows updates and doing everything manually once there's been a few patch cycles."
Microsoft relies on customers, particularly Windows Insiders, to serve as testers for updates to ensure that there aren't bugs or other problems. This puts pressure on IT pros -- who have their own systems to worry about -- to identify and report any issues. Microsoft's decision to release updates at such an accelerated pace compared to past versions of Windows means that even as it tries to fix issues, the company continues to add more code and features to the OS.
"They try to fix things in the monthly updates that they've screwed up from the biannual updates," Warren said. "It's just not a good way to write software, but they're determined to do it."
William Warrenowner, Emmanuel Technology Consulting
These issues are forcing some IT pros to delay updates. Warren purposely keeps some servers four or five updates behind to prevent his clients from running into issues that cause downtime.
"You need to have more options that allow people to delay if they want to," Gold said. "Not forever, but maybe one major update back. Something that lets the rest of the world work with the update for a while and see where it goes."
Security and Windows 10 updates
Regardless of IT pros' opinions of Windows 10 updates, security is a key concern. The fact that a serious issue, such as the one that deleted user files, got past Microsoft set off alarm bells for Warren.
"[Without] proper testing there's going to be issues that you won't know about until the bad guys find them," he said. "Then you have even more problems."
The service model approach can have security benefits, however, because it prevents users from working with unpatched versions of the OS, which can be a gateway for attack.
"It's like putting a seatbelt in a car," Bagchus said. "Because computers are what they are, the magnitude of the risk of having unprotected computers on the internet cannot be overstated."
Edge gets an overhaul
One area where opinions of Windows 10 seem in sync is that Microsoft Edge needs changes. In December, Microsoft announced it would discard EdgeHTML as Edge's code in favor of the open source Chromium. It's not a major surprise considering Edge -- the default browser in Windows 10 -- was a distant fourth in terms of usage behind Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer as of November, according to NetMarketShare.
"It's about time they grabbed somebody's code that's standards-based," Warren said. "Make their own browser, but make it standards compliant."
One of the problems with Edge today is that it only works with Windows 10 and does not support certain features, such as ActiveX controls and X-UA-Compatible headers. In addition, certain sites don't load right on Edge, Gold said. Chromium can help eliminate these problems and open the browser up to work on other operating systems, including Apple macOS.
"The Edge compatibility issues have stood in the way of Windows 10 rollouts," Bagchus said. "This is a step in the right direction for more than just their browser."