I was so excited to hear Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella voice my “mobile first, cloud first, Windows best” mantra during his appearance at the Windows 10 event on Wednesday. And I thrilled to hear him say that Microsoft wanted people to love Windows. But I have bad news, Mr. Nadella. No one is ever going to love Windows until you fix this single glaring problem.
“We want to move from people needing Windows to people choosing Windows, to loving Windows,” Mr. Nadella said. “That is our bold goal with Windows.”
It is a bold goal. But despite all the good news coming in Windows 10—across devices as diverse as smart phones, tablets, detachables, PCs, and even Xbox—none of it will matter in the slightest if this company continues down its current path. Because today, there is a group of companies that stands between Microsoft and its customers. And while they are ostensibly partners working towards a common goal, they are in fact actively working to undermine both Microsoft and Windows itself.
I am referring of course to PC makers.
Microsoft can clean up Windows all they want. They can make it work well on all those device types and adapt seamlessly on devices that can transform. But PC makers will continue to do what they do as well. And while many of them create truly excellent hardware at a range of price points, virtually all of them—including well-respected companies like Dell, Lenovo and HP—also destroy the performance, reliability and, yes, respectability of those devices by loading them down with crapware.
Crapware destroys the Windows experience. It makes PCs more bloated, slower, and less efficient. The available disk space—which is at a premium in this age of low-storage devices—is compromised, as is battery life, boot and shutdown times, ongoing RAM and other resources usage, and more. Crapware is unnecessary, annoying—some even display pop-up ads—and hard (or in some cases, impossible) to actually remove.
Microsoft’s solution to crapware is its Signature program, by which they take many popular PC models, strip them of that crapware, and then sell them to consumers through their retail and online stores. I performed a detailed study three years ago examining how these devices compared to the unclean versions provided by PC makers. And the results were startling: Massive reductions in boot, sleep and shutdown times. Cleaner systems that didn’t promote unnecessary and redundant services. An utter lack of fear-mongering AV clients that need to be paid for regularly after a short time. And many other improvements.
I have been a major proponent of Signature ever since. I buy my own PCs through the Microsoft Store when possible, and enjoy the clean experience. But Microsoft Stores are not everywhere in the United States and international availability of even the online store is very limited. Microsoft Signature is a great idea—and yes, Surface devices are by definition Signature devices, no surprise—but it simply can’t reach everyone who will buy a Windows 10 PC or device in the years ahead.
So something has to give. And I have a solution.
Microsoft needs to make the pure Windows 10 Signature experience a requirement for any hardware maker that wants to license this OS and sell it on new devices to customers. The software giant can no longer allow PC makers to ruin the Windows experience in order to focus on short-term revenue—they get paid to put crapware on your PC—at the expense of the long-term. Today, customers are running to Mac and Chromebook not because they offer better user experiences, applications, or features. They’re running to those platforms because they’re cleaner. Because they just work.
Windows PCs and devices need to just work. And until Microsoft takes this painful but obvious step, Mr. Nadella’s words about people choosing and loving Windows are just that: words. If he is really serious about this, he needs to lower the boom on the so-called partners that have been undermining Windows for years. He needs to make Signature mandatory.
We can do this. But it needs to happen right now.
Tagged with Clean PC