The full-screen Windows 10 update notice says a lot about distracted users

It's big, it's bold, and it's annoying. But there doesn't seem to be any way to get the attention of users anymore.


A new alert appears in older version of Windows, filling the entire screen. It warns users they have until the end of this month to upgrade...or else.

OK, we get it Microsoft. You really want people to upgrade.

This full-screen message appears even in light of a recent lawsuit where Microsoft had to pay a small business owner $10,000 after upgrading to the latest OS and having to then buy a new computer.

You might wonder, why all of the fuss?

For one, Microsoft wants people to upgrade to Windows 10 because that sets off a chain reaction. They buy more apps. They upgrade to the latest version of Office (or pay the online fees). It’s important to the Redmond tech giant to wean people off of the older versions of Windows and move them up the food chain.

For attracting developers to the OS, which is not as dominant as it once was mostly thanks to alternative operating systems like the MacOS and Chrome, the message about “350 million users on Windows 10” is more more appealing than “most of our users refuse to upgrade” by far. Niche works when you’re a startup and you are carving out a market, not as much when you have almost 120,000 employees and total world domination. That’s when leverage matters most.

With great leverage comes great responsibility, mostly to the developer community, and that explains why Microsoft has acted so aggressively of late. It’s a marketing technique. There is an end date to the upgrade, which the company announced long ago. It’s an opportunity for Microsoft to remind users to move up to the latest OS now or...never.

Also, users are way too distracted. The person who won the lawsuit against Microsoft claims to have never heard of Windows 10, which is amazing. Maybe that person is busy running a business. Maybe there are some good distractions.

There are also bad ones. At least once per day I see someone texting and driving. The news feeds are constantly chirping away, interrupting as much as any upgrade message. We all have the attention span of a squirrel these days, so Microsoft is doing what they know will increase revenue, draw in more developers, help the hardware makers, and improve security for users. You might disagree with the practice, and it is aggressive, but there’s also a method to the madness.

What can you do? If you own an older computer running Windows 7 or 8, you can turn off the updates, although that’s a security risk. My advice? If you don’t want to upgrade, when you see what looks like a ploy, remind yourself that it is only business.

Better yet, decide to put down the phone, disable the pop-ups, and even try one of those focus apps that helps you avoid distractions so you can work. I’m as annoyed by all of the upgrade ploys as anyone. (Microsoft has now reminded me that Office is installed on a test laptop about 14 million times.) At the same time, annoyance is not the same as intrusion. When I really need to work without any pop-ups (minus Photoshop and my local files), I use a Chromebook.

Now that is the ultimate expression of free will.

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