Tuesday 10 December 2013

All I Want for Christmas is to Close Skype

This morning I began writing about a subject that has been on my hit list for some time now. I’m referring to those in-your-face applications that are commonly used but have chosen to disregard the common courtesies users should expect.

The two worst offenders these days are Adobe, who have for years been obtrusively nagging us about updates, yet show no hesitation when it comes to trying to sneak Chrome and the Google toolbar onto our systems as part of the update by pre-selecting a tick box that is all too easy to miss as you work your way through the installation.

The other miscreant is Skype which seems to combine universal popularity with universal dislike with its constant version changes (each with a new layout for us to learn), and which this morning was once again asking to be upgraded.

Skype tries to sneak in Bing as my search engine and MSN my home page, which is to my mind a bit like asking me if I really want to set my system clock back to 1993.The MSN homepage is famous for its popularity, but that’s because it has for years been the default home page for Internet Explorer. In all my years of configuring computers for people I’ve never once been asked to set a homepage to MSN, and you can be sure that I unchecked that option as I upgraded Skype.

Just about then Chrome, my browser of choice, crashed and I was forced to kill it through task manager, and when I restarted it I was furious to find that my homepage was now MSN, with Bing as my default search engine. This only takes me a few seconds to change, but then I’m hardly an average user, and I know from experience that fixing this sort of minor change is beyond many of our customers’ abilities, which is when they call us.

Call me cynical but I wonder if this is Microsoft, who own Skype, trying to sabotage my installation  of Chrome, which is owned by Google? Considering that Skype is owned by the same people who wrote Windows, you would also expect Skype to play according to the rules when it comes to usability, yet it absolutely fails to do so unless you open up the bonnet and start tweaking settings to remove it from you task bar when you aren’t using it. You know it’s irritating people when it’s the subject of a Dilbert cartoon.

Another program which users complain about constantly is the McAfee Security Scan which I’m constantly having to remove from PCs – thanks again Adobe, but these days everybody already has antivirus software in place. Running two antivirus scans simultaneously will at best cripple the performance of your computer, and at worst damage system files and render your computer unbootable.

Software vendors need to show a little more respect for their users. Adobe has already created enough enemies with its punitive pricing policies which see UK users paying far more than their American cousins for the same software. Once you lose the respect of the market you become increasingly vulnerable to a challenge by competing products, and there are few people I know who would miss Adobe if this came to pass.

So here’s my Christmas request for the giants of the software industry: It’s time to start showing your customers more respect, so stop trying to trick them into installing software they haven’t asked for as part of an update, and start treating them like people who use your software because they want to, not because they have to.

A very merry Christmas to you all!