Microsoft has placed their considerable developmental focus on overcoming the debacle that is Windows 8. There were just too many user interface elements that had issues (or were just simply hated) to clean up via dot-something updates, so Redmond put some lipstick on the pig via the 8.1 update then put all their effort into the next version of Windows (much as they did with Vista/Windows 7).
Even for those that didn’t mind the change to the once-named Metro interface the change was drastic one. The whole version has been a recipe for disaster: toss in reworking just about every aspect of the interface and the schizophrenic nature of apps for a touch interface that don’t necessarily work with the desktop interface to get the most reviled version of Windows since Millennium.
With all these issues in mind Microsoft is attempting to circumvent shocking their user base with features and interface changes that seemed like a good idea in development by employing a large public beta test of the upcoming Windows 10 (for some reason they’ve decided to skip 9, but no word if the final project will be Windows OS X). The beta is available free for those that sign up for the Windows Insider Program; early views of the new version show a compromise between Windows 8’s improved functionality and Windows 7’s beloved user interface. While I’m more than happy to stay comfortably nestled in the world of OSX, there are times that my work tasks would have been easier with an installed version of Windows rather than relying on Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection software to log in to a workstation running Windows. My interest in trying out the new technical preview of Windows was extinguished this morning when I read about one of it’s ‘features’.
Apparently Windows 10 is chock full of data loggers, keeping track of how you use the OS to an uncomfortably personal level: information about the user, device category, mail address, interests, browsing and search file history, SMS records, phone calls list, application usage list, preferences, device configuration and so on. While that’s enough to set both privacy advocates and users on edge, some have claimed that the preview even has a keystroke logger.
It’s understandable that a beta of this magnitude needs to report home on crashes, errors, and problems that end users encounter. It could even be argued that some data on user activity is beneficial (provided it was anonymized) to shed light on what features were and weren’t used, and what interface elements were used or avoided. I have a hard time seeing the validity of collecting the depth of information that’s been alleged, though. I guess the old saying about free lunch really is true. Make sure to read that end user agreement page thoroughly- even if it’s free, caveat emptor.