Windows 10 faces an existential threat. And no, it’s not the iPad Pro, at least not yet. Instead, this threat comes from within. And though Microsoft understands the threat, it still refuses to do the one thing that will solve the problem.
I am referring, of course, to crapware.
Over a year after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella declared that he wanted users to “love” Windows 10, Microsoft and its PC maker partners have only undermined this effort. And they’ve done so in the most horrible way, by being untrustworthy, and by undermining the Windows 10 experience.
Of course, Microsoft is also overly-aggressively and unapologetically jamming a free Windows 10 upgrade down customers’ throats. And while it feels it must do this to reach its artificial goal of one billion Windows 10 devices within two to three years, it is sacrificing long-term goodwill for short-term headlines.
Interestingly, Microsoft and it’s PC maker partners are also making the same basic mistake: They continue to install crapware on the PCs that they sell to unsuspecting customers, and doing so even in the wake of high-profile security and privacy issues, notably from Lenovo and Dell.
If this issue sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a topic I’ve been writing about for years. Last year, I forcefully made the case in Sorry, Satya: No One Will Ever Love Windows Until You Fix This Problem. And this year, I’m back to say that Microsoft has simply refused to cut off the heroin-drip of illicit income that is crapware.
And to be clear, Microsoft could fix this problem. All it has to do is require its Windows OS licensees to adhere to certain requirements related to the installation of extraneous crapware on their PCs.
So you might think, well nothing has changed then. Except that one thing haschanged: With Windows 10, Microsoft is doing it too. Yep, even a stock install of Windows 10 is loaded down with crapware. Especially, but not uniquely, the Home version that ships on consumer PCs. I’m talking 3D Builder, what the hell that is. Candy Crush whatever. Get Office and Get Skype apps. And much more.
Even Microsoft’s vaunted Signature PCs, which have evolved over the years to focus on a cleaner, more reliable, and more stable system image, are thus in some ways loaded down with crapware. Some of which the average user will never be able to uninstall. (Advanced users, and readers of this site, know there are ways around this.)
Paradoxically, it’s even worse on Surface devices, where Microsoft bundles additional apps, including at least one—the New York Times Crossword app—that requires a paid subscription.
Fortunately, the crapware that comes with Windows 10 (and Surface) won’t slow down the PC, especially over time, as is the case with the extraneous crap that PC makers pile on. Indeed, non-Signature PC experiences are reaching new heights of absurdity: While unnecessary third-party anti-virus solutions that crap out in a month were once the source of great ire, today some PC makers are actually displaying pop-up video ads too.
I used to believe that PC makers were the worst thing that ever happened to the PC, but Microsoft is making a strong case for lumping them in the same category. Here we have a company that has righted some many wrongs from the Windows 8 days. But it’s undercutting the experience with in-OS crapware, in-OS advertising, and an overly-aggressive free upgrade that is turning away former fans. Tack on the FUD-based claims of privacy invasion that Microsoft has ineffectually addresses, and you have the makings of a platform exodus.
This is all avoidable. All Microsoft and its partners need to do is look beyond the short term and understand that their behavior today is planting the seed of discontent in customer minds. And when it comes time to upgrade that crapware- and advertising-laden OS, they’re going to start looking around. At Mac. At iPad. At Android. Or at Chromebook.
No, none of those systems is better, let alone perfect. But the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. And Microsoft and its PC maker partners are making it look a lot greener.
So what’s a poor user to do?
Buy an expensive Surface PC, or a reasonably-priced Signature PC, when possible. That will minimize the impact of crapware nicely, and even though you will need to uninstall some Windows 10 crap, none of it will damage the long-term performance or reliability of the system. If you buy a “normal” PC from a PC maker or retailer, try sticking to the business PC end of the spectrum, where the prices are a bit higher but the crapware is less common. (HP and Lenovo are particularly good at this.) Keep up to date on my Clean PC articles, of course. And basically hope and pracy that Microsoft will collectively wake up and start doing the right thing before it’s too late.
You never know.