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Microsoft reverses course on Windows 10’s malware-style upgrade tactics

Microsoft has spent more than a year pushing consumers to upgrade to Windows 10 with increasingly aggressive messaging, but the company has finally taken a step back from that approach with the most recent set of updates to the Get Windows 10 (GWX) application. As we previously covered, Microsoft’s last GWX update changed the default behavior of the program. For most of the past year, clicking on the red “X” at the corner of the window is how you opted out of the upgrade; Microsoft’s silent update treated this “X” as a confirmation of a scheduled update. Instead of telling Redmond that they didn’t want to use Windows 10, customers started waking up to systems that were running an operating system they neither asked for nor wanted.

The outcry from these changes was significant enough to persuade the company to change course. In a prepared emailed statement, Microsoft’s executive vice president, Terry Myerson, said the following:

We started our journey with Windows 10 with a clear goal to move people from needing Windows to choosing Windows to loving Windows. Towards this goal, this week we’ll launch a new upgrade experience for millions of PCs around the world. The new experience has clearer options to upgrade now, choose a time, or decline the free offer. If the red-x is selected on this new dialog, it will dismiss the dialog box and we will notify the device again in a few days… We’d like our customers to upgrade and improve their experience with Windows and Microsoft.

On the one hand, good for Microsoft. When you’ve dug yourself a hole it’s important to stop digging, no matter how big the thing has gotten. On the other hand, the company might have considered customer reactions before it made these changes in the first place — and I guarantee you that there were internal voices at Microsoft that attempted to stress how the firm’s relentless pushing of Windows 10 could backfire in the court of public opinion. The $10,000 judgment against Microsoft on behalf of Teri Goldstein is unlikely to lead to a flood of equivalent verdicts — small claims court cases aren’t exactly the federal circuit — but it speaks to how angry many customers were before Microsoft began upping the ante.


When Microsoft announced it would give Windows 10 away for free, many people wondered if the initial “gift” was just the first move in a planned bait-and-switch, in which Microsoft would suddenly require people to pay a monthly subscription fee to access their operating system. No such plan ever materialized, but the fact that people were concerned about it in the first place ought to have told Redmond that its user base wasn’t sure if its motives were trustworthy. There’s no doubt that Microsoft’s Windows 10 tactics got more users to adopt the OS than would have otherwise done so, but the decision to prioritize rapid adoption over customer trust could cost Microsoft big in the long run. If the company ever wants to release a Windows 11, it may find that promises to provide the OS free are considerably less well-received the next time around.  The fact that it took the firm nearly a month to provide the solution after promising to do so isn’t likely to play well, either.

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