Enlarge / Windows 10 during a product launch event in Tokyo in July 2015.Kiyoshi Ota / Bloomberg via Getty Images…
Kiyoshi Ota / Bloomberg via Getty Images
It is fair to say that the update of Windows October 1
0, 2018 has not been Microsoft’s most successful update. Data loss reports occurred quickly and forced Microsoft to cancel the distribution of the update. It has since been fixed and is currently undergoing re-testing pending a new release.
This is not the first update of the Windows feature that has been problematic. We’ve seen things like significant hardware compatibility in previous updates – but it’s probably the worst. While most of us know the theory of having backups, the reality is that much data, especially on home applications, does not have a proper backup. Removing data is so catastrophic.
Microsoft’s ambition with Windows 10 would radically shake up the development of Windows 10. The company would better respond to customer and market needs and to put improved new features into customers’ hands earlier. The core of this was the idea that Windows 10 is the “last” version of Windows. All new development work will be an update to Windows 10, delivered by feature updates several times a year. This new development model was labeled “Windows as a Service”. And after some initial fumbling, Microsoft decided a cadence of two feature updates a year. one in April, one in October.
This effort has not been without its successes. Microsoft has used the new model to deliver useful new features without forcing users to wait three years for a new major version upgrade. For example, there is a smart feature for running Edge seamlessly in a virtual machine to provide better protection against malicious websites. The Windows subsystem for Linux (WSL), which equips Windows systems for running Linux software, has proved a blessing for developers and administrators. The benefits of pure consumers may be a bit more difficult to distinguish, but VR features compatible with SteamVR, enhanced gaming performance and a dark theme have all been nice additions. While the overall improvements are less, the current Windows 10 is certainly better than the one released three years ago.
This is a good thing, and I would even argue that some of it could not have been done (or at least could not have been successful) without Windows as a service. For example, WSL’s development has been governed by user feedback, with WSL users telling Microsoft about incompatibilities that they have found and that help the company prioritize the development of new WSL features. I do not think WSL could have got the move it has without constant updating every six months – no one would like to wait three years just to get a smaller fix so the package they care about is running properly. Regular updates reward people for reporting errors, because they can actually see the bugs being solved on time.
The problem with Windows as a service is quality. Earlier issues with the feature and security updates have already shaken confidence in Microsoft’s Windows 10 update policy. While data are missing, it’s at least a popular perception that the quality of the monthly security updates has taken a dive with Windows 10 and that the installation of the two-year feature updates Once available they are madness. These complaints are also long-term. The unreliable updates have been worrying for a short time after Windows 10 has been released.
The latest issue has taken this with commentators saying two features are updated one year is too many and Redmond is going to cut back to one and that Microsoft needs to stop developing new features and just fixing bugs. Some worry that the company is dangerous near a serious loss of confidence in updates, and for some Windows users, this confidence may already have been broken.
These are not the first requirements for Microsoft to slow down with its feature updates – there has been concern that there is too much churn for both IT and consumer groups to handle, but with the obvious issues with the latest update, takes the call a new haste.
But says that Microsoft would only produce an update a year instead of two or criticize the very idea of Windows as a service missing the point. The problem here is not the release rate. It is Microsoft’s development process.
Why is it the process, and not the timeframe, is that problem? On the release schedule, we can look at any other software to get a feel for what is possible.
Two updates a year are more common than MacOS, iOS and Android, so Microsoft tries to overcome somehow. But it’s not uncommon: Ubuntu views two releases a year, and Google’s Chrome OS, like its Chrome browser, gets updates every six weeks. In addition to the operating system space, Microsoft’s Office Insider application has a monthly channel that delivers new features to Office users every month, and it can handle it without generating too many complaints while still providing a steady drop of new features and fixes. The Visual Studio team similarly produces frequent updates for its development environment and online services. There is apparently a team in Microsoft that has been well-suited to a world where their applications are regularly updated.
Moving beyond the world of local software and to online and cloud services, and both inside and outside Microsoft, increases the assumption of continuous delivery. Each update made to a system is automatically distributed to production servers when it has passed sufficiently automated testing.
True, none of these projects are as complicated in Windows. Ubuntu may contain a more varied amount of packages, but it takes advantage of the fact that many of these packages are developed as independent devices in any case. Windows, of course, contains many individual components, and Microsoft has done a lot of work to select these. But the fact remains that its scale is unusually large and unusually integrated. Windows is also, at least in place, extremely old.
These factors certainly make Windows challenging – but so challenging that they make two editions a year impractical? It is not clear at all. It just needs the right development process.