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Ed Bott Issues Win10 Report Card

About two weeks ago, long-time Windows watcher Ed Bott offered an interesting assessment of Windows 10 at ZDNet. It’s entitled “Windows 10 after two years: Microsoft’s mixed report card,” and appeared on 8/3. Given that Ed Bott issues Win10 report card, what kinds of grades does it include? Just as the OS is a mixed bag, so also his assessments. Here’s what grades he handed out:

  • Adoption rate: A-
  • Upgrades and updates: C+
  • Privacy: B
  • Security: A-/B-
  • Apps: Incomplete
  • Tablets and phones: F

As Ed Bott Issues Win10 Report Card, What Do His Grades Mean?

The Adoption rate grade is easy to explain. It reflects the fastest uptake “for any Windows version ever.” But the company’s failure to hit its 1 billion user target in 2-3 years explains the minus sign. What Bott labels a “frantic first-year push” is over. Now, he sees (and I agree) that “Microsoft adopted a much more relaxed upgrade pace.” It relies on new PC sales to boost Win10 numbers rather than upgrades on existing gear.

The Privacy grade reflects wild-haired responses to Microsoft’s broad-based telemetry (and consequent data acquisition). It figures into many, if not most, of Win10’s subsystems and actions. Bott takes issue with the company’s “dry, legalistic and unconvincing explanations” for this data grab. But he also gives credit for halving such data collection, and publication of telemetry data details.

Security gets two grades, one for enterprise and another for “consumer and small business segments …” The higher enterprise grade reflects “an impressive assortment of security features for its enterprise customers.” The lower grade dings their absence in down-market versions of Windows 10. Baseline security features mentioned include Windows Hello, disk encryption, and built-in antimalware. Enterprise security features mention Defender Advanced Threat Protection, Exploit Guard, and Defender Application Guard.

Onto the Less-than-Stellar Report Card Items

The Upgrades and updates C+ grade comes from “two free feature updates per year.” That gets coupled with an 18-month shelf life for each one. Thus, as Bott so rightly observes, “you can no longer stick with an older version of Windows indefinitely.” He (and I) like the new approach of “cumulative quality updates in place of an endless assortment of individual updates.” But he takes issue with forcing updates on end users and notes certain “hiccups” in CPU support. Most notably, that included a “sudden end of support for relatively young PCs based on Intel’s Clover Trail chips.”

The Apps category gets an Incomplete. That’s because of Microsoft’s ongoing struggle to deliver compelling Store apps. Using the Desktop Bridge hasn’t really fired up the app space, either. Bott finds fault with Office mobile apps as “barely adequate and almost impossible to find …” I agree that apps remain a sore point for Windows 10. Indeed, they haven’t captured user’s hearts or minds.

Finally, Bott gives Tablets and phones an F. That’s because MS has let Windows Mobile wither, even as it continues “cranking out Windows 10 Mobile builds…” He characterizes “the company’s capitulation in this category” as “nearly complete.” He goes on to remind readers about the Nokia sell-off and a massive mobile writedown.

Other Noteworthy Aspects of Windows 10 Outside Bott’s Coverage

As somebody who’s covered Windows 10 since the first Technical Preview was released, I’d like to add a few more subjects to Bott’s report card, with some brief explanations:

  • Image construction and management: A-
    Microsoft has moved away from monolithic builds for releases and updates. It now uses an approach to providing updates that looks like “survey what’s present, update what’s outdated, and supply what’s missing.” I also like the increasing capability of DISM and related PowerShell equivalents, to operate on and customize Windows image files. I give it a minus because the syntax and structure of this stuff is not terribly friendly, even for seasoned Windows-heads.
  • Refresh and Reset Windows: A
    The new built-in facilities for performing an upgrade install to refresh OS files while keeping applications and data is nice, as is the reset capability to return a PC to from-the-factory status. Good stuff!
  • Task View: A-
    The ability to define and manage multiple desktops in Windows has always been a good idea, but it’s only recently been built into the OS. This is a handy feature for power users who need to juggle multiple usage scenarios, especially for multi-monitor set-ups.

I could go on, but I only want to make the point that there’s quite a bit to like about Windows 10 for admins and end users alike.