Microsoft’s response to the COVID-19 threat has been admirable. From free six-month subscriptions to Teams and Bing’s COVID-19 tracker to enormous computing power for immunotherapy research to a joint project with the CDC on an assessment bot, Microsoft has more than lived up to its reputation for pitching in when times are bad.

At the same time, though, those of us who are on the ground, trying to keep things running, are getting hit by some ancient bad decisions. What we need isn’t sexy or the stuff of fancy headlines. What we need is a stable environment to help the first-, second- and third-line responders get on with their jobs.

Some of the decisions Microsoft made years ago have come back to haunt the billion or so people who rely on Windows. It’s time to rethink them.

Postpone the release of Windows 10 version 2004

I don’t know anyone in the industry who supports Microsoft’s damn-the-torpedoes approach to Windows updates. We’ve seen some abeyance in the self-destructive update pace: Nowadays we’re expecting a “major” new version in the first half of the year, followed by a “minor” new version in the latter half. The problem, of course, is that each new version, major or minor, brings significant problems. 

The semiannual tempo may have made sense in a world where the competition was nipping at Microsoft’s heels. But it certainly makes no sense in a world where people’s lives depend on stability. Just look at the problems we had with the only “minor” upgrade delivered to date.

Now we have the nextest, latest, greatest version of Windows 10 waiting in the wings, version 2004. With promises of Cortana getting the ax, more logon options, a taskbar for the Calendar app (ooh!), a File Explorer search that finally works (take that, 1909), reduced overhead in the indexer (where’s Magellan?), customizable virtual desktop names (aah!), and much more, this update — which was frozen in December — offers exactly nothing that’s worth clobbering a machine for an hour or a day.

Isn’t it time to put the old “you gotta get the latest” mentality to bed? Microsoft should re-examine its motivations and take into account the pain that every upgrade has triggered. If 2004 causes just one critical outage or delay, will it be worth the price?

Give Windows 7 security patches to everyone

Microsoft hoped to push most customers from Windows 7 to Windows 10 by cutting off security patches. Demonstrably, that hasn’t worked. Nobody knows how many people dusted off old Windows 7 machines in order to work from home, or let their kids get online for school, but in my experience, the number is considerable. 

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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