Educational value of Windows 10

Windows 10 according to Microsoft is to be the last version of its operating system in history. Once you got it, your device will continue to get updates until the end of its life. This means you as a user will continue to enjoy the newest features and security enhancements, without having to spend a single penny. This sounds exciting for some people, but others find it a little disturbing as their PC may be subject to changes they may not like or even want. The thing is, they may not have a choice in the matter once they go Windows 10, due to changes Microsoft made in the operating system.

Windows as a product

Before Windows 10 came to market, the OS was like any other product: it was developed with a very distinct look and feel and given number of features. Once it was released to the public, it was patched and maintained. However the product did not change — it still looked and felt the same to the end user, although many changes occurred under the hood. It was reassuring to the user as everything always looked the same. Furthermore the Home/Core edition of the OS allowed to disable the update system altogether, which many people did. During my college years I was always the ‘tech guy’ among my friends and anyone who had an issue with their computer came to me. The popular problem was:

there is a message about some updates, could you hide it somehow? I don’t want it because I have all this data and I don’t want to loose it.

To be clear, it is not the users who are to blame for not wanting the updates, but Microsoft and its lack of communication. Updates where considered something dangerous because no one bothered to explain why they are valuable and important. Most people think of their computers as a tool that they use to perform their daily tasks and don’t want to be bothered with technical stuff. My computer is working fine, so why change anything? You don’t need to update your car to drive it, computers are the same, right?? Well… not quite.

Windows as a forced service

Sticking with the car metaphor, you don’t need to know how the car operates to drive it, but you need to know how to service it properly. Most car owners understand that you need to do a regular checkup of your machine to keep it running properly, but can the same thing be said about computer users? Microsoft is trying to change the situation by introducing the Windows as a service idea. Installing Windows 10 by the free upgrade offer or just out right buying a copy, requires to agree to a licence agreement, which among other things, states that you must accept updates through the Windows update mechanism. In the Home/Core edition of the operating system, there is no official way to even delay the updates, while the Pro edition gives the user limited capabilities. This means that once connected to the Internet, Windows will actively search and install any available updates. Most of them will be security and bug fixes, but one or twice a year you will get a big feature update, where the look and feel may change significantly.

The implications of this are quite significant as from now onward, the update process will become a natural part our routines as computer users. There is simply no way around it, apart from moving away from Windows altogether. Sometimes we will have to wait a couple of minutes for an update to install and once or twice a year we will have to devote some of our time to install a big update and tune our working environment according to our preferences. In return we gain security and improved reliability of our device. The other important change is that Microsoft finally started to talk with users through Windows. During the first setup Windows automatically installs all available updates, while a big message is displayed on the screen explaining that updates keeps you and your data safe. Once an update completes a popup appears with confirmation. Occasionally a popup might come up advising the use to check out a new feature. This kind of communication helps the average user get used to the idea of computer maintenance, although there is still room for improvement. The mentioned popup could mentioned what kind of update was installed for example: Security updates applied. Your PC is now safer, nothing else was changed.

Educational upgrade

Not everything is perfect though and there is still a long way to go. On the 2nd of August Microsoft pushed out the Anniversary Update and many users got it automatically. As expected for some the update failed or caused issues that did not occur before. That is a problem, but I do believe that such issues will be resolved over time. The benefit we are all getting from the new operating system as a service approach is safer computing experience. My hope is that once people get used to accepting updates, it will also transfer to other devices like Android or iOS based phones and tables. We will all start to appreciate the value of updates and demand them from manufacturers. In the long run timely security updates may become another selling point of computing devices. Google is currently issuing monthly security updates, much like Microsoft does its Patch Tuesdays. Unfortunately many brands have not yet decided to push the updates to its customers it requires additional work on their part. This is possible as there is no pressure from the consumer base. When buying a new device we look at price, design and features, but updates? As more people migrate to Windows 10 updates will become more ubiquitous both in terms of security and features. And yes, there will be some hiccups along the way, but it’s good to see that we are shifting from the old ways of paying for enhanced security to focusing on new services that can improve our work flow.