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ExtremeTalk: Does anyone actually love Windows?

It’s the last weekend before Microsoft releases Windows 10, which means that any of you planning to take advantage of the new operating system had best be moving to do so soon. Come July 29, the new operating system will cost significantly more and if Microsoft has plans to offer it for free again, it hasn’t been willing to share them.

When Microsoft announced Windows 10 back in January 2015, Satya Nadella described the operating system’s goal as follows:

“We want to move from people needing Windows, to choosing Windows, to loving Windows,” he said. “That is our goal.”

One might think this was nothing but meaningless feel-good talk from the CEO, but Nadella has said it multiple times since. It’s a phrase that’s popped up at Build ’15 and again last month, when Microsoft declared that it was making changes to the overly pushy, malware-like behavior that GWX.exe had recently adopted. This week, on Microsoft’s conference call, Nadella repeated it once more. “We continue to pursue our goal of moving people from needing Windows to choosing Windows to loving Windows,” Nadella said. “In two weeks, we will launch Windows 10 Anniversary Update, which takes a significant step forward in security.”

We’ve talked a lot about Windows 10 over the past 12 months, from its gaming performance and privacy concerns to the new features of Windows 10’s Anniversary Update. Nadella’s continued reference to persuading customers to fall in love with Windows suggests this question is also fair game, even if it’s much harder to measure.

I’ve been a PC user and gamer since my parents bought our first computer running MS-DOS 3.3. We didn’t upgrade to Windows until Windows 3.1, but I’ve used every consumer OS Microsoft ever shipped — although my experience with Windows ME was bad enough that I left it installed for less than a week before reverting to Windows 98 SE.

I have a great deal of respect for Windows and, by extension, for Microsoft. Windows and OS X macOS are often compared and contrasted with each other, but there’s one enormous distinction between the two: Apple never even tried to support the absolutely enormous range of peripherals, devices, and equipment that can interface with Windows. It took the Windows ecosystem years to mature, and there have been plenty of missteps and mistakes along the way, but the modern versions of Windows are robust, stable, and extremely powerful.

I’ve used previous versions of macOS and dabbled with Ubuntu, but Windows is my operating system of choice. It’s the OS that guarantees I can access programs and data laid down decades ago and the operating system most likely to be supported by any particular game or application.

Nonetheless, after giving the topic some thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t love Windows and never have. There have been versions I liked considerably more than others, but the best operating system is the one that guides your actions and displays information so effortlessly, you forget it’s there at all. When I stop and think about it, I’m grateful that Microsoft created a robust series of game APIs that helped developers create decades worth of amazing 3D games — but I don’t have to think about it very often, because things “just work” virtually all of the time.

With that said, I’m not nearly as fond of Windows 10 as I was Windows 7. I avoided Windows 8 because I refused to pay Microsoft money for what I viewed as a half-baked, poorly implemented, walking UI disaster (Metro) just because it also came with some nice Desktop enhancements. I like Windows 10’s UI just fine, but its privacy practices, telemetry gathering, and update policies have all impacted my opinion of the OS.

I’m going to move to Windows 10 anyway, because I want access to DirectX 12. But speaking strictly for myself, Mr. Nadella, no, I don’t love Windows 10. In fact, I trust it less than I trust any previous iteration of the operating system.

Windows 10 uses unique advertising IDs and far more user tracking than any previous Microsoft operating system. It may not be nearly as compromised as Android, but I don’t use Android for anything I care about. With Windows 10, Microsoft took certain controls and information away from users and it hasn’t given them back in the intervening 12 months. I’ve seen testbeds reboot in the middle of benchmark runs because the OS decided it had to download and install updates RIGHT NOW rather than checking to see if the system was actually idle.

As of this writing, I plan to install Windows 10, update the OS, and then disable Windows Update. I’ll re-enable it periodically to patch things up, then turn it off again. I’m still considering whether or not its worth blocking its telemetry gathering via a hardware firewall configuration, not because I think Microsoft is scanning my hard drive and uploading the contents to the NSA, but because I’m still angry that Redmond decided mandatory access to any information about my system was the price I had to pay to use its software. I’d have paid for the tracking-free version, if they’d bothered to make one that came in a Home or Pro SKU.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Microsoft has moved me in the opposite direction. I used to just use Windows. Now, I need to use Windows to get the DirectX 12 features that I want. I’ll use Windows 10, but I don’t trust it — or Microsoft — to make decisions that prioritize individual privacy, anonymity, or the rights of any user to configure a system and software that he or she purchased in the way they see fit.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?

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