Mozilla CEO blasts Microsoft over Windows 10 defaults

31 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A fresh start: Microsoft’s Windows 10 wins plaudits.

Mozilla CEO Chris Beard has blasted Microsoft in a pair of posts to the organization’s blog, arguing that Windows 10’s default browser settings are a “dramatic step backwards” for respecting user choice.The launch was seen critical for the company, particularly after the poor response to Windows 8, an ambitious redesign that confused many users by ditching the start button menu and introducing a new layout.First, it should be noted that Microsoft says it will be operating under a “Windows as a service” approach from now on, meaning that Windows 10 will be the company’s last major OS release. When people update their devices to Microsoft’s new operating system, their default browsers are automatically changed to Microsoft Edge, the successor to Internet Explorer that’s included with Windows 10.

First, Microsoft released Windows 10 in some 190 countries on Wednesday, and for desktop PC users, it’s an enormous improvement on its predecessor, Windows 8. Wall Street Journal’s Geoffrey Fowler said Windows 10 fixes most of the issues with Windows 8 and improves on Windows 7, Microsoft’s most popular OS in recent years. Microsoft, whose dominance in the desktop operating system market was called into question for the first time in decades by the Windows 8 debacle three years ago, is back in business. Some security experts feel this constant, ubiquitous updating will ensure that no Windows laptop is vulnerable; meanwhile, others see the default automatic updates as a potential vulnerability – since files will be added to one’s computer without the usual manual checks.

In an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Beard said that’s no good, since doing so from Firefox requires three or four mouse clicks (roughly twice as many as before) and scrolling to the bottom of a seven-item list. If an app like Chrome or Firefox wants to set itself as the default it can still generate a pop-up on first launch, but it now throws a Windows 10 user to a new settings page to then choose the actual default app. The company would then make up for any lost revenue by selling services such as Office over the Internet, or cloud. “It’s a step in the right direction. Indeed, the difficulty to turn off automatic updates meant that Gizmodo author Sean Hollister had some issues with his data connection while using a cellular “mifi” connection on a train: Yeah, in case you haven’t heard, Windows 10 updates aren’t optional—and though they’re not supposed to download over a metered data connection, I couldn’t find a way to specify that. “Set up data usage limit” is one of those settings you’ll see in search that goes absolutely nowhere. In a blog post accompanying the letter, the Mozilla CEO said it was “bewildering” that Microsoft made that choice, especially after the company’s antitrust troubles. “The upgrade process now appears to be purposefully designed to throw away the choices its customers have made about the Internet experience they want, and replace it with the Internet experience Microsoft wants them to have,” he wrote.

Mozilla’s argument that this is more complex is fair as there are more steps to take to actually change your default browser and it will likely generate confusion among some consumers. They went back to their core DNA around software and a cloud-centric model and ultimately Windows as a service, a subscription model,” Ives told Reuters. “I doubt it will convert many Mac owners, spur a shopping spree in new PCs, bring in droves of new developers, or save the Windows Phone,” Mossberg wrote.

Every time I’ve tried to do it on a tablet—whether on an iPad, a Surface, or an Amazon Fire—the experience has been so frustrating that I’ve given up. The reality is probably more security-related to ensure apps can’t hijack default settings, and also a slightly devious way to ensure Microsoft Edge remains the default browser. The upgrade doesn’t uninstall competing browsers, and those that check to make sure they’re set as users’ defaults (like Firefox and Chrome) will prompt people who open them after upgrading to move away from Edge.

Windows users who are already running Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 should be eligible for a free upgrade for the next year — so you can wait to install if you want, but don’t wait forever. Beard said he’s concerned not because of Mozilla’s position as the maker of Firefox, but because Microsoft isn’t respecting choices users made when they were using previous versions of Windows. Mozilla voiced similar concerns over Microsoft’s browser changes with Windows RT back in 2012. “We strongly urge you to reconsider your business tactic here and again respect people’s right to choice and control of their online experience,” says Beard. “Please give your users the choice and control they deserve in Windows 10.” Microsoft has responded with the following statement: “We designed Windows 10 to provide a simple upgrade experience for users and a cohesive experience following the upgrade. Those folks should be able to download the new system for free straight from their desktop, via the “Get Windows 10″ app that will appear in the lower-right corner of their screen.

Still, the change of defaults could cut down on the use of Mozilla’s browser, since it could cause some people to abandon Firefox because it’s no longer the default experience on their computers. That’s because it is the first to recognize and embrace the future of computing: a world in which all your devices are just different-sized screens running the same software. It lacks the instant appeal of either OS X or iOS, the openness of Linux, or the lightness of Chrome, and its mobile app ecosystem remains a wasteland compared with Apple’s and Google’s.

For many people, the failure of previous Microsoft products was due to its inability to understand what its customers wanted, and the success of this will be due to whether it can correct that. To do that, you should head to your settings menu and click on the section that refers to updates — “Windows Update” in Windows 7 or “Update and recovery” in Windows 8.1 — to turn on the option to receive important updates. For those who really want a hard copy of the update, or those who may be looking to install Windows 10 on a newly built PC, Microsoft is offering some of those in retail stores. It’s always a good idea to backup important files before you start installing any new system, so be sure to get those key documents, photos or other files onto an external drive or into the cloud before you hit the “Install” button. For desktop users, it restores the familiar, utilitarian layout of Windows 7, including the desktop Start menu, while incorporating some of Windows 8’s more futuristic elements.

And for those using tablets and hybrid computers, it makes switching between a touch-based interface and the classic desktop environment surprisingly seamless. Certain aspects of the tablet mode, such as Window’s “Screen Snap” feature, still need improvement, but as a concept, it seems very useful for users on multiple platforms.

It has been clear for years that PCs, tablets, and phones are converging on similar sets of features and functions—email, calendar, voice and video calls, Web browsing, productivity—as processors continue to shrink. Microsoft Office 365’s service, Azure cloud, Microsoft’s OneDrive – all are examples of the company trying its best to unify customer data in an age when multiple devices means that work is continuous and disk space is irrelevant. It does this with an elegant feature called Continuum, which is best appreciated when you’re using a tablet with a detachable keypad, like Microsoft’s own Surface Pro 3. When highlighting a series of text in Windows’ new Edge web browser, an option will pop up to “Ask Cortana.” Cortana will pull up the relevant information, whether it’s a definition or business hours or directions or a recipe – pulled from Bing – and will show the information in a convenient sidebar without ever leaving the page.

Users can also activate Cortana by saying “Hey Cortana” to their computer, but one reviewer at The Verge noted that he only used that feature to show the functionality to friends and family. Open windows sprout their familiar title bars and shrink out of full-screen mode so that you can drag them around and switch between them more readily. And those same native apps, including Mail and Edge, morph into desktop applications, optimized for a track pad and keyboard rather than a thumb or a finger.

For users who want to switch to Chrome as a default, they will have to dig through many settings to disable a security feature that prohibits applications from setting themselves as default. This can be frustrating, and echoes early concerns with Windows Vista’s User Access Control that prevented users from easily interacting with non-Microsoft products. In its place is the Action Center, a take on Apple’s Notification Center, which collects recent Mail messages, Facebook notifications, and other timely bulletins, along with some key settings. On one hand, Microsoft will no longer release operating systems in this type of fashion, so Windows loyalists will be forced to switch over eventually. It certainly still has its bugs – not everything works and even some features feel as if they’re not finished – but those are soon to (hopefully) be corrected.

You can type your queries into its search bar or interact with it via voice. (It responds to the greeting, “Hey Cortana.”) Other nifty Windows 10 features were clearly designed with traditional desktop users in mind. One of the best, and most overdue, is the ability to create and toggle between multiple virtual desktops, each hosting a different set of open windows and apps. Here live tiles find their true calling, not as hyperactive, oversized icons on a busy home screen, but as nifty little widgets within a customizable pop-out menu that easily stows away when you don’t want it.

And Microsoft faces a challenge in convincing developers that it’s worth their time to develop apps that shift between mobile and desktop as seamlessly as they ought to. It’s that last problem—the phone problem—that will continue to dog Microsoft even if Windows 10 proves to be a hit with the company’s loyal desktop users.

That it doubles as a serviceable touch-based OS is an impressive achievement and another sign that Microsoft is regaining the thirst for innovation it seemed to have lost years ago. It’s also worth noting that, as my colleague Lily Newman explains, Microsoft is billing Windows 10 as “the last version of Windows.” What that means is that Microsoft will deliver future software updates automatically, rather than releasing an entirely new system every few years. That approach might have its drawbacks, but if nothing else it should allow Microsoft to focus on just one operating system at a time, rather than supporting several simultaneously. For those still running Vista or XP—and dare Microsoft hope that some OS X users will make the switch?—it will cost $119 for the Home edition and $199 for Pro. Forcing people to keep track of which mode they’re in and adjust their behavior accordingly is the type of mistake Microsoft has always made in the past.

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