To much fanfare, Windows 10 was released by Microsoft to the public this summer, offering to make needed improvements on previous iterations and include some of the best features of modern operating systems. As it turns out, one of those features is a need to constantly report back to Microsoft. In other words, Windows 10 regularly communicates with Microsoft’s servers, creating a need for the operating system to always use and be connected to the internet. The move struck many as a surprise. While it’s true that competitors, such as Google and Apple, have released software that also need that cloud connection, Microsoft always seemed to pride itself on developing self-contained software that didn’t need a constant internet connection. With the release of Windows 10, those hoping for a cloud-free computing experience were sorely disappointed.
So with Microsoft clearly getting in on the cloud connection, many are wondering if this means the end of cloud-free computing. Concerns were already running rampant before Windows 10 debuted. When news surfaced that Windows 10 would have automatic updates, there was outcry from many corners of the internet. Despite the negative reactions, Microsoft went ahead with the plan, and Windows 10 now communicates with home servers on nearly every action a user takes. In fact, Windows 10 functions much better when it has constant access to Microsoft servers. Not using the cloud doesn’t even appear to have factored into the equation.
Proponents of cloud-free computing have lamented this development. Much of the concern has centered around privacy and security issues. Windows 10’s constant communication with Microsoft means reporting on user activities and actions. The positive aspect of this practice is that it allows Microsoft to see how their customers are actually using the product, in turn helping them to develop improvements and new features. This has been the case with Apple and Google, and in an effort to compete, Microsoft needed to get on board. The downside to this is that it reveals information that some users would rather keep private. Needless to say, knowing almost every click you make is being reported back to the home office doesn’t make for a comfortable setting.
This always-connected feature can be turned off by users in the options and settings menu, but as was discovered by Ars Technica, even when the user requests that this communication stop, Windows 10 continues to do it. While it might not be to the same extent or frequency, communication with Microsoft servers remains a core feature. This cloud computing connection may be necessary for more processing power, data collection, and automatic updates, but the fact that users don’t really have an effective way of working around it breeds frustration. That data collection can also intrude on privacy through targeted advertisements and other features. Without the possibility of turning all of this off, some users find it a bit disingenuous for Microsoft not to be more forthcoming.
If Windows 10 can be accused of anything, it’s merely following the growing trend of including the cloud in anything computer related. While some Microsoft fans likely wanted to see another operating system that was its own self-contained product, the very possibility seems unlikely upon closer examination. By always being connected to the cloud, Windows 10 allows for instant security updates, which creates a safer environment. It also gives developers a better view on how to improve the system. At the same time, it allows Windows 10 to offer more features and better capabilities. Does this mean cloud-free computing is a thing of the past? While it’s certainly too early to say with any definitive degree, Microsoft was the last remaining holdout on the trend. Now it’s clear they’ve embraced the idea and all the benefits (and drawbacks) it offers. While other cloud-free options may be available elsewhere, when it comes to the mainstream products, cloud-free may be done for good.