Calling Windows 10 Cloud ‘ransomware’ is a bit much, Mr. Sweeney…

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Tim ‘I’m Epic, me’ Sweeney has been on the Microsoft attack calling the unreleased, unannounced Windows 10 Cloud OS "ransomware" for only allowing Universal Windows Platform apps to run on it. 

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To be clear Microsoft haven’t announced anything about Windows 10 Cloud, all we’ve seen about the unreleased OS are a few hands-on impressions from techies who have had a play with a leaked build (one that’s still called Windows 10 Pro) and some further speculation.

Tim Sweeney - Windows Cloud is ransomware

And yet that has been enough for Sweeney to throw a Twitter wobbly claiming “Windows Cloud will steal your Steam PC game library and ransom it back to you… for a price.” His source for that was a Neowin post which explains that you’ll be able to upgrade the Windows 10 Cloud OS to a full version of Windows 10 if you pay for an extra license.

Doesn’t sound like anyone’s stealing your Steam library to me, but I’m not Juliet Bravo, so what would I know?

The expectation for Windows 10 Cloud is that it will work exactly like a traditional version of Windows 10 except you’ll only be able to run UWP programs, purportedly blocking Win32 applications in the name of security. It seems like it's essentially Microsoft’s response to Chrome OS and the rise of the cut-price Chromebook market. They’re creating a cheaper - potentially license-free - version of their operating system to drop onto budget systems or to be used in institutions, like schools, hence the notion of restricting apps to make things easier to manage for security reasons.

These Windows 10 Cloud devices aren’t going to be the ones designed to run most of the games in your Steam library - this isn’t an OS for your powerful gaming rig after all. And Microsoft aren’t going to be forcing you into installing Windows 10 Cloud either. 

I could understand Sweeney’s consternation if Windows 10 Cloud was being designed to replace Windows 10 Home edition, the current cheapest version of Windows 10. But to us it looks more likely to be set a tier lower than that and for a completely different audience. We don’t even know whether Microsoft will be releasing Windows 10 Cloud as an OS consumers will be able to buy themselves or whether it will be an OEM product, baked into low-end systems.

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Microsoft have been a victim of this sort of scaremongering for a while, with most of it centreing around the concern they’re desperate to squeeze Steam out of the PC game, and that restricted operating systems like this are a slippery slope towards completely 'walled gardens' of software compatibility. That worry was one of the key reasons for Steam OS to exist, though all Valve's restricted, free operating system did was make people miss gaming on Windows. 

I’m sure Microsoft would love to be able to replace Steam, and I’m sure they’ve got plans to improve their own game download store. Hell, they need to. With the current state of Windows Store for games it doesn’t look like Steam has anything to worry about. I mean, have you tried buying, installing and managing games on that thing? The hoopy jumps just to play Forza Horizon 3…

While Microsoft’s attempts to make it look like they care for PC gamers seem a bit half-arsed (*cough*Game Mode*cough*) if Windows suddenly turned around and stopped you accessing your Steam account there’d be a whole load of new command-line junkies jumping into Ubuntu. It would also mean the vast back catalogue of PC games suddenly becomes inaccessible, which would cause some serious retro rioting. And Microsoft know that.

And quite aside from gaming there are many businesses out there which operate Windows as standard, and run Win32 applications, coded by their own teams, which are vital to their own company’s operation. That Microsoft would sacrifice such a lucrative market by restricting all versions of Windows to UWP apps just to get one over on Steam is sheer madness.

Sure, you will have to pay for your unrestricted copy of Windows when the Cloud version does appear, but there’s no change there. Complaining that a free version of something is more restricted than the traditional paid-for option seems pretty redundant, doesn’t it? 

But what do you think? Is this Microsoft paving the way to stop people from accessing the vast back catalogue of PC games which makes it the richest gaming platform ever created? Or a lot of conspiracy fuss over nothing?

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monkeyfritz avatarDave James avatarnmwdirt avatarWhiteCrow avatar
monkeyfritz Avatar
106
6 Months ago

This is a very long winded rant about a very short and simple point.

Locking out win32 applications because of "Security" unless you pay a fee to be able to use a real program, is very dirty and anti-consumer. That's not complicated enough to be a "conspiracy".

Far too many users would be duped into getting a "Windows" pc/tablet, only to find out it's not really windows at all, it doesn't even run exe files, which includes everything on steam. There are a lot of games on steam that will run on a potato, but apparently NOT if that potato is running windows cloud.

Equating a very simple rational with lizard men and flat earthers by calling it a conspiracy is the kind of quality journalism I've come to expect from US politics.

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Dave James Avatar
370
6 Months ago

To be fair it was Sweeney who started using emotive terms such "ransomware" and "steal" in reference to MS potentially creating a restricted, license-free version of their OS.

My point is that saying it's being designed to "steal your Steam PC game library and ransom it back to you" is going a bit far.

Freeware is pretty much always restrictive if there's a paid-for version, isn't it?

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monkeyfritz Avatar
106
6 Months ago

Well there is restrictive, and then there is an OS that doesn't allow you to even run software, by design. At the extreme edge of such practices are things that deserve to be called out for being ridiculous. Hyperbole is a relatively common method of accentuating the ridiculous.

It's not much different than Facebook offering free internet to the third world, that violates net neutrality in most first world countries.

Or on the legality front, the grey area war for forcing users to submit to their distribution platform. No one has managed to 'stop' apple, but it is the reason Jailbreaking had to be defined in a court of law as being perfectly legal. The same reason Google never had a leg to stand on to prevent amazon from essentially poaching it's app store revenue.

If this OS does release like this, I would be surprised if it didn't end up in court for trying to monopolize it's user base. The openness of being able to develop and distribute win32 applications has kept windows safe from such claims for a long time. Barely. It would be pushing the boundaries of legality as much as it does decency.

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WhiteCrow Avatar
369
6 Months ago

You make a reasonable point, and for the most part I agree with you. For some bizarre reason this writer has it out for Sweeney, so his opinion is a compromised one.

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Dave James Avatar
370
Dave James replied to WhiteCrow
6 Months ago

I genuinely have no issue with Tim Sweeney at all. My opinion is that talking in such hyperbolic terms about an unreleased, unannounced operating system - which isn't likely to replace anything that's currently available from Microsoft - is over the top.

If Windows Cloud does release restricting usage of Win32 apps (like Win RT before it) then it will be a license-free version for low-end Chromebook style machines and won't impinge on your rights to run Win32 software on your standard version of Windows. This is not going to be taking anything away from you.

And anyways, if it is like RT it's doomed to failure so we won't have to be talking about it in 12 months ;)

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nmwdirt Avatar
1
6 Months ago

Ehhh... You DO realize that this won't replace your current desktop OS, right? So it can't "steal" anything because you're not going to put it on your current machine. It can't "block" anything, because the anything you think it's blocking isn't really there. You will just be restricted on what you can add to it.

And it's already happened. It was called Windows RT. Sure, it failed, but no one called it "ransomware." They just called it a bad idea.

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