Customers petition Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, demand changes to Windows 10 update practices

'We have a right to know what you are placing on our computers,' says one signer of petition that asks Microsoft to cede more control of updating to users


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addresses delegates during the launch of the Windows 10 operating system, July 29, 2015.

Credit: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Windows 10 users have petitioned Microsoft's CEO to let them not only delay feature and functionality updates, but also ignore them, a plea that if granted would upend the company's model of delivering the OS as a service.

The petition had collected more than 1,600 virtual signatures as of early Saturday.

"To effectively implement and use Windows 10 in our homes and businesses, Microsoft must make changes to both the operating system and the policies the company put in place to support the new OS," wrote Susan Bradley, who initiated the petition a week ago and aimed it at Satya Nadella, Microsoft's chief executive.

Bradley, a computer network and security consultant, is best known in Windows circles for her expertise on Microsoft's patching processes: She writes on the topic for the Windows Secrets newsletter and is very active on the mailing list, where business IT administrators discuss update tradecraft.

In late August, Bradley kicked off a Windows 10 request on Microsoft's own Windows User Voice website, asking the company to provide more information about the OS's updates. The petition was more expansive: Bradley asked Microsoft to also change how it delivers Windows 10 updates.

"We need the ability to delay or hide damaging updates that impact the computing experience, have undesirable side effects such as blue screens of death, or reduce the functionality to attached devices," Bradley wrote. "As long-time Windows users, we understand the need to have quicker and more agile security updating. But this agility should not introduce additional risks to our systems."

Bradley also called on Nadella to push his Windows team into giving users more information than the cryptic, boilerplate text that accompanies each update. "Microsoft should provide detailed information ... along with what system changes we should see. We applaud the cumulative-update model, but the lack of documentation doesn't let us perform the due diligence required for safely deploying and maintaining Windows 10 systems in our organizations."

Supporters echoed Bradley's requests as they added their names to the petition.

"These changes are necessary if Windows 10 is to succeed. Keeping users in the dark and force-feeding updates with no recourse is not acceptable in an era of 'more personal' computing," wrote Dennis Barr on Friday, using the phrase Microsoft has adopted for one of its segments, the "More Personal Computing" group that encompasses Windows and the firm's own devices.

"Having no control of when and what updates are applied to the OS, especially from a business network environment, is folly," added Aaron Jervis, also on Friday.

"We have a right to know what you are placing on our computers," said Jim Mitchem on Saturday.

Numerous petitioners said that they would refuse to upgrade their personal PCs to Windows 10, or push their company's systems to the new OS, until Microsoft recants and gives them more say about what is installed and when.

Those threats -- and the petition itself -- are unlikely to move Microsoft. Not only were the 1,600-odd petitioners a drop in the vast Windows bucket -- Microsoft recently claimed that Windows 10 now powers 110 million machines -- but past pleas on the site have failed to jar technology firms into action.

In 2013, for example, several concurrent petitions pleaded with Google to rethink its decision to shutter the company's Reader and associated RSS feed service. Although the petitions accumulated more than 100,000 signatures, Google ignored them.

But Bradley's petition added to the voices condemning Microsoft's radically-changed maintenance model for Windows 10, which the Redmond, Wash. company has characterized as "Windows as a service." Under that model, Microsoft is to update and upgrade the operating system on an accelerated cadence, with significant changes to the feature set, the OS's functionality, and its user interface (UI) and user experience (UX), about every four months.

Bradley's petition, however, was not directed at that sped-up tempo but rather at Microsoft's new policy of refreshing Windows 10 using cumulative updates consisting of numerous individual changes, bug fixes and security patches. Those cumulative updates will be unified collections that cannot be broken apart into their separate components.

"Unlike earlier versions of Windows, you cannot install a subset of the contents of a Windows 10 servicing update," Microsoft said in a detailed explanation of the Windows 10 servicing plan published last month [emphasis added].

In pre-Windows 10 editions, users and IT administrators can pick and choose which updates they deploy and when they do so; they have also been able to ignore individual updates that others identified as troublesome or even disastrous, or roll back changes that break applications or cripple the PC.

Microsoft has countered those complaints by pointing to Windows 10's servicing strategy, which relies on multiple "branches," or update tracks, and the rights that come with the branches targeting businesses.

"Current Branch for Business" (CBB), for instance, will offer a specific update/upgrade approximately four months after the same update reaches consumers on the "Current Branch" (CB). Devices on the CBB will also be able to defer a specific update for an additional four months, for a total of eight months, from its release.

Microsoft has argued that the staggered release of any one update -- first to participants of its Insider beta program, then to the CB, finally to the CBB -- will result in higher-quality updates that have been tested by millions of customers each step of the way. That testing and the resulting improvements in an update's quality, Microsoft has said, means that users, especially business users, can unilaterally accept each update without worrying about something breaking, or even without the widespread testing IT staffs have historically done when faced with changes.

The problem with that model, even setting aside the philosophical differences between Microsoft and customers who want more granular control, is that the branches model has yet to debut: Microsoft will issue the first update to the Current Branch next month, with the first for the Current Branch for Business in the spring of 2016.

Microsoft has also not completed work on Windows Update for Business (WUB), an offshoot of Windows Update meant for corporate use. WUB, which will not be a product per se but instead a set of features and tools available only to organizations that have adopted the CBB, won't be finalized until sometime next year. In the meantime, resistance to Windows 10 has been building, albeit mostly in the narrow constituency of those running the Insider builds, the only branch that has seen regular updates since the OS launched in July.

Microsoft has also taken heat for other practices related to Windows 10, including its aggressive promotion of the upgrade. Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users, for example, have been getting more vocal in their criticism of Microsoft's pre-loading of the Windows 10 upgrade files on Windows 7 and 8.1 devices. They have also argued that recent moves, like pushing Windows 10 via Windows Update, as well as reissuing the upgrade to customers who have previously declined it, verge on the deceptive. petition for Windows 10

A petition that has collected 1,600 signatures asks Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to make his Windows 10 team provide more information to users about updates, and give customers more control over what they install on their PCs.

This story, "Customers petition Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, demand changes to Windows 10 update practices" was originally published by Computerworld.

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