Microsoft is at it again with what some are considering “heavy-handed tactics” by forcing Windows 7 and 8 clients into upgrading to Windows 10.
According to the blog HotHardware, “Microsoft is blocking Windows 7 and 8 updates for Intel’s seventh generation Core i3, i5 and i7 (Kaby Lake), AMD’s Ryzen (Bristol Ridge) and Qualcomm’s 8996 processors.”
What this means is that customers who might want to upgrade their processor, or who already have, will stop receiving updates and patches if they have Windows 7 or 8.1 installed.
Microsoft maintains that Windows 7 and 8 was not designed to run on and take advantage of the newer architecture. However, many users have been running the operating systems with no problems on the latest chipsets. Despite the lack of reported issues, the software behemoth has gone ahead and added a processor check to Windows Update on Windows 7 and 8.1.
TechSpot reports that the check prevents “users from download [sic] updates if their system contains a Kaby Lake or Ryzen CPU.”
— TREND GIZMO (@TrendGizmo) January 17, 2016
So clients who have had no complaints previously using Windows 7 or 8.1 are now complaining of getting errors that state, “Your PC uses a processor that isn’t supported on this version of Windows.”
To be clear, Microsoft still supports Windows 7 and 8.1 and provides security patches and bug fixes to those operating systems, except for those running it on newer hardware. Furthermore, it seems that there is not even a technical problem to justify the new restriction.
While Microsoft maintains, “Redesigning Windows 7 subsystems to embrace new generations of silicon would introduce churn into the Windows 7 code base,” nobody has complained or asked them to redesign anything as it all seems to be working fine.
Customers just want the same support and patches that everybody else is getting. They feel that they should be able to decide if they want to take the risk of OS failure, and they resent the company forcing them into a product that they do not want by denying them future security protections. Some have good reason to wish to continue running 7 or 8 because there is still some legacy software that is not compatible with Windows 10, and many of these programs are used in businesses. Despite this, Microsoft feels that its customers will be bettered served by forcing them to upgrade.
Many customers are very troubled by this move, especially as it follows what is viewed as a “malicious” trend that Gates and company have frequently employed. Early last year and in 2015, the company was forcing Windows 10 onto an unwilling section of the public in a push to meet OS migration goals.
— Anton Kolomyeytsev (@RedEvolutionIX) March 18, 2017
Back in June of 2016, Microsoft was accused of using “malware tactics” to trick its base into upgrading to Windows 10. At that time, customers were bombarded with Windows Update popups nagging them to upgrade to Windows 10. While quite annoying, the popups apparently did not have the desired effect because the behavior of the popups changed so that closing the window constituted consent to the upgrade. In a further push, the close button was eventually removed altogether. When clients found that their computers were being upgraded without consent, they were furious. In some cases, the forced upgrades caused serious problems for businesses running mission-critical applications that were not compatible with Windows 10.
At one point, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was petitioned to investigate Microsoft for, among other things, “Tricking or forcing users into upgrading to Windows 10.”
The EFF did not look into the items listed on this petition, but it has looked into past shady dealings with the company. According to the EFF, in 2012, the software giant used Hotmail to track down a thief who had stolen source code from the corporation. Normally, a warrant is needed to access a person’s email records, but since Microsoft owns Hotmail, they just looked into the matter themselves. When they discovered evidence of the crime, they turned it and the culprit over to authorities, thus violating his Fourth Amendment rights by proxy. While this was not a case of stepping on the freedoms of consumers to choose, it does illustrate the company’s willingness to play within the gray areas of the law.
In a case that did have consequences on consumer choice, the New York Times reported that in 2000 Microsoft was ruled by a federal judge to be in violation of “antitrust laws through predatory and anticompetitive behavior.”
— ETC ComputerLand (@ETCCL) May 18, 2015
While the antitrust suit was not against actions taken directly against consumers, antitrust laws by their very nature are in place to protect the consumer’s right to choose a product. By violating these laws, the corporation was showing its disdain for the consumer’s right to choose. The company has repeatedly proven that it is not afraid to throw its clout around and step on the very customers that it claims to serve. So, the denial of upgrades to a subset of current Windows 7 and 8 users through the guise of compatibility issues that do not appear to exist should come as no surprise.
The motivation for this action is clear as well. According to CNN, Microsoft stated in 2015 that it had a goal of having Windows 10 installed on one billion devices by 2017. Today, by the company’s own accounting, the operating system is installed on a total of 400 million devices worldwide. Microsoft has missed its goal for Windows 10 by 60 percent. No wonder there seems to be a renewed push to force users to install something that they do not want. Windows 10 has not even crested the hill yet.
Microsoft may have good intentions for wanting users of newer hardware to switch to Windows 10. There may very well be security and compatibility issues that arise in the future. Wanting to protect their clients from this issues is noble, but denying them access to security patches for the software that they already have is not the noble way to go about it.
[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]