A quarter of computer users see no benefit in updating software

Gregg Keizer
24 July, 2012
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In the week that Apple seems likely to go live with its OS X Mountain Lion update via the Mac App Store, several major software companies, including Microsoft and Symantec, today kicked off what they called “International Technology Upgrade Week” in an attempt to persuade users to keep their code current.

Upgrades have been hotly debated of late: Several weeks ago, former Mozilla employer Jono Xia, blasted updates in general and those for Firefox specifically, as productivity sinkholes. Xia called on developers to more heavily weigh users’ concerns about dealing with constantly-changing software before they issued updates. Most of Xia’s criticisms were focused on updates that altered the user interface (UI) of a program or in some other way changed how it operated.

Skype, acquired by Microsoft last year for US$8.5 billion, Symantec and GPS device maker TomTom touted their upgrade week brainstorm in different terms at times, claiming that a poll conducted by Skype showed three-fourths of people surveyed identified security as the reason why they did upgrade software.

But the three companies, along with others who chimed in with support, such as Adobe, also cited the very things that Xia had condemned about updates.

“Only by regularly upgrading, are consumers able to enjoy the benefits of improved voice and video calling quality, longer mobile battery life and bug fixes,” said Skype in a statement.

Users resist updates and upgrades, acknowledged the companies, which pointed to survey results Skype published today.

Those results showed that 25 percent of the respondents declined updates because they saw no benefit in doing so, while 26 percent noted that they didn’t understand what the updates or upgrades were meant to accomplish.

Four out of ten adults admitted that they do not upgrade software when they’re first prompted and of the 75 percent who said they received such prompts, half acknowledged that they needed to see an upgrade notification between three and five times before they downloaded and installed the new code.

Adobe and Symantec both argued that their updates were easier to deal with than in the past. The former has made aggressive moves in the area, in large part because of the target its Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash Player have become to hackers.

Not surprisingly, the companies backing the International Technology Upgrade Week urged users to update their software and computers and those of their friends and family members who relied on them for informal support.

“Take the time during this special week to update your devices,” pleaded Symantec in a blog post. “And go around to all the family computers, tablets, gaming systems and devices and help your family do the same.”


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