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Issue #764: March 13-19, 2022

Q: At my age, 78, I have been through the history you described in your article today, Feb. 19 (Geek Note: I.G.T.M Issue #760, February 13-19, 2022).  I have a suggestion and a question in addition. I believe users would be wise to wait, rather than immediately accept the offer of an OS upgrade.  Let good old Microsoft work on its inevitable early bugs. That raises the question. How long does the offer of a free upgrade to Windows 11 last? I personally don’t plan to upgrade until the last few months of the offer. I see only one advantage to a very early upgrade acceptance. That would be as a hobby, for the adventure of participating in the bugs. If a user has that desire, they might want to apply as a possible Beta tester. That can get very interesting as in the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”.

 – Roger H.
Crestview, Florida

A: Well, Roger, with all deference to your 78 years of experience, I have to say that my opinion differs slightly from yours.  But only slightly.  It’s not because your statement is without merit, because it absolutely has merit.  However, what you’re saying seems to presume that the release of a version of Windows goes from the desk of a faceless software architect at Microsoft to their distribution department, where it’s picked up by anyone foolish enough to snap-up one of the first-available copies.

The process is far more involved.  First of all, Windows is not one monolithic entity.  Rather, it is an aggregate of thousands of components, and Microsoft has specialized teams dedicated to developing each one.  The results of their efforts are separately tested to make sure they perform their intended function, and then they are integrated with the other components and re-tested.  Eventually the entire Windows platform emerges.  This is, of course, a gross over-simplification, but the important thing to know in the context of your comments is that all of this happens before the software ever leaves the factory.  The public at large is not subjected to buggy, untested software.  However, it is at this point that the “hobbyist” component that you mentioned comes into play. 

There is a Microsoft activity in which people sign-up to become “Windows Insiders” and only these people get access to the so-called “Beta” versions of the software.  It is the people involved in this program that deal with what you are warning about above, risking having to perform many reinstallations as bugs are discovered and worked out.  Microsoft also uses telemetry – literally “measuring at a distance” to receive automated reports of errors in the field.  With hundreds of thousands of people running the Beta versions, you can believe the software gets a pretty decent workout before reaching actual release status.  This wide-scale testing is a necessary part of readying Windows if for no other reason than the diversity of the testers.  There’s no way that Microsoft could hope to put together even a decent-sized fraction of the possible combinations of hardware and other system factors that Windows will encounter in the wild. 

One thing I wanted to mention about the components that comprise Windows is that many of them aren’t even written by Microsoft.  The drivers that interface hardware devices to the system are usually written by the device manufacturer.  Services that run behind the scenes are written by many different vendors for many purposes.  Microsoft bears no responsibility for testing anything they did not author, short of certifying it as “compliant” with guidelines Microsoft has set forth for whatever the type of component this is. 

Getting back to the subject at hand, Windows 11 is no longer in Beta status, so it has already been through everything mentioned above.  It was, in fact, released to the public at large on October 4, 2021. Like any large complex software, it is not perfect, and there will be updates and patches over time.  However, as of this writing, it is considered to be fully tested and ready for prime time – and not just by “early adopters”.

As for how long the offer to upgrade to Windows 11 for free will last, that’s anybody’s guess.  One need look no further than the Windows 10 upgrade offer for an example.  It was widely advertised as a limited time offer, and actual hard dates were given when the offer was supposed to end.  Those dates came and went, and the free upgrade continued to be available.  Years later, it’s still available, and only Microsoft knows exactly why.  This Geek thinks that the so-called expiration dates were nothing more than a false flag to, shall we say, “encourage” people to do the update. It’s easy to believe that a large percentage of users would have sat on their hands if they knew that the upgrade would be available in perpetuity.  With the lessons of that process, Microsoft might choose to repeat their actions, or they might not.

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