Microsoft Must Address Windows’ Pains

Last week in this space, I criticized Microsoft for continuing to burn cycles on superficial add-ons, such as multi-touch support in Windows Seven, while more significant pain points for Windows customers remain under-addressed.

As I see it, Microsoft is busying itself tacking up fanciful moldings around its flagship product while the Windows through which millions of paying customers access their hardware devices and software applications remain smudged and, in some places, cracked.

The best example of this misplaced focus relates to the undisputed No. 1 reason why organizations and individuals continue to choose Windows above all other platforms: access to Windows’ massive software catalog.

If you’ve deemed OS X or Linux unsuitable for your needs, chances are that the root of the misfit is compatibility with software that runs only on Windows. And yet, it’s poor software management that’s at the root of most users’ Windows woes, including the malware issues that keep Windows customers ever on Orange Alert.

The trouble is that the sea of available Windows software contains both beneficial and harmful applications. It’s very easy for users to compromise the security of their systems and of their data by installing malware, or by failing to install security patches.

Since installing applications can broadly impact your Windows system, these rights are reserved for system administrators, who are presumably better qualified to vet applications before installing them, and to ensure that the software stays up to date once they’ve installed it.

However, relatively few Windows users, both in businesses and homes, have access to system administrators, and businesses that do have these IT resources would be much better served turning them on core business needs.

There is no shortage of products and services intended to help fill the software installation and update holes with which Windows is riddled, but if we’re ever to see a fundamental improvement in Windows application management, Microsoft must get involved.

I find it hard to believe that Microsoft views media players and movie editing software important enough to bundle with Windows, and yet the best effort that Microsoft has so far mustered toward improving the state of software management is to throw up a red warning shield if PCs lack anti-virus software.

I’d like to see Microsoft expand Windows update into a service that ISVs can plug into to centralize application updating, and through which customers can benefit from the efforts of application vetting firms such as Bit9.

Rather than vet and update applications one-by-one, users and administrators should be able to select from one or more trusted application vetting services, and configure their Windows systems to enable regular users to install applications and subsequent updates from these pre-vetted catalogs.

Perhaps best of all, a bulked-up Windows software management framework could serve the goals both of improving the experiences of millions of Windows users, and of allowing Microsoft to continue chasing Apple’s iPhone–which is on track to get its own pre-vetted software installation service next month.