The Unintended Impact of Autonomous Software Updates

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This guest post comes from Bill Bradley. Here Bill talks about the havocs autonomous OS updates might have on the business world. Bill then dovetails this with his thoughts on the implications for the POS software industry.

CNET Published an article on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 pointing a little know fact about Windows 10:  It will load Windows updates whenever it wants and their is not a darn thing you can do to stop it!

Read article: Microsoft won’t fix the most frustrating thing about Windows by Sean Hollister.

The article neglected to focus on Retail Automation, Banking and Medical among other business segments that use a Microsoft OS as their foundation.

Microsoft makes substantial revenue selling licensing fees to these market segments to run their OS for their products.

There are thousands of POS Systems, ATM Terminals, Critical Care Equipment that have a Microsoft OS as its foundation.

Historically, these business OS users stay a step behind and may be 1 to 2 years behind as they vet their product on a new Windows OS to validate performance.  However, now Windows 10 is showing up more frequently on business products and systems.

Let’s take a mission-critical POS system as an example: let say NCR’s Aloha POS Product. Aloha depends on a store-based central computer (the server) that manages the POS network.  Let’s say the Aloha Server is running Windows 10 and in the middle of say dinner business on Friday night, it decides to install an update! It has already happened. True, Aloha does have a redundancy mode it can be placed in.  But in the meantime, the business is losing money as the system is “frozen.”

What happened to loading updates when a computer is NOT being used and a business is closed?!  With Windows 7 at least you could tell the PC When to check for and run updates.  That seemed to work OK for everyone.

Let’s look at medical equipment: A patient is in the operating room. One of the pieces of equipment being used is running an application on top of Windows 10. Windows 10 decides to load an update in the middle of the operation. The equipment is offline for however long it takes for the update to complete. Minutes?  Hours?  Does the patient live or die?!

Let’s look at Banking ATM’s:  A person inserts their ATM Card to withdraw cash.  Before the transaction is complete, Windows 10 decides to load an update with the transaction open and the customer’s card still in the ATM Machine.  What does the customer do?  Wait for the update to be complete to get their card back?!  What  happens to the transaction?

IT Departments that manage large groups of business, retail and medical computers are able to determine what updates get downloaded to the computers they are responsible for – and when.  Is Windows 10 taking over their role and saying,  “We don’t care. We are Microsoft and we will tell you when to load an update and what updates to load,”?!

I have had instances in my career where a Windows Update has resulted in the POS product I support to stop working.   The phones start ringing as multiple businesses – all whom have received the same update – start calling for help.

A recent survey shows that 68% of Windows computers are still running Windows 7. The Windows 10 behavior may be one very good reason that is the case.

Microsoft is being presumptuous and short-sighted. They are not listening to ALL of their customers and over-reaching, in my opinion.

For those of you using a Windows OS to run your business and you are on Windows 7, that’s OK.  It is stable and predictable.   If you are using Windows 10, be aware that Microsoft may at any time they choose, shut down your equipment in order to load updates – regardless if you want them or not.  And, if the update happens is not particularly convenient, it is Microsoft “running the show” not the POS, Retail or Banking application you are running on top of it.

If you don’t like this, make your voices heard!

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