Is Microsoft over-extending itself with two annual Windows 10 updates?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Microsoft announces a new Windows 10 Update and promises everything, the kitchen sink and a bag of chips to boot. Two months before release, the bag of chips is actually supplied by Walkers and therefore mostly hot-air, and the kitchen sink is actually a bathroom sink and is smaller than was showcased on stage. With the Windows 10 Creators Update, Microsoft announced that it would be pushing out My People, a new people focused look at Windows 10. Users would be able to share directly to other users without needing to go through apps, and it would be a version of Windows that let you put people first. The demo was beautiful, tech sites praised it, and Microsoft didn’t ship it. With the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, where I assume Microsoft is putting all the features that fell out of the Creators Update, the firm also promised a new Timeline feature (among others) that would bridge your smartphone and your PCs. The demo was beautiful. The tech press loved it. Microsoft isn’t shipping it.

Disregarding the firm’s attempt to gaslight us by saying they didn’t announce the timeline feature for the FCU but instead for some unspecified time (watch this video where the words come out of Joe Belfiore’s mouth), this isn’t a very good look for the firm.

The first problem I can see here is that Microsoft promised a feature, and it didn’t deliver it. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal, no one’s really going to use that people bar for more than five minutes anyway. On the other hand, this is a puzzling pattern over promising and under delivering. Microsoft has consistently shown off concepts of beautiful apps, features and updates that are frequently underwhelming when delivered, or delayed until no one cares anymore As normal users really aren’t reading the tech sites to learn what’s new with Windows, the only users who would be affected by those are the techies who spread word of mouth and do pay attention to this stuff. The next time Microsoft announces something, we can’t trust them for multiple reasons. We can’t trust that the images we’re being shown are representative images of what we’ll be seeing. We can’t trust that they’ll arrive in the promised timeline. And now, we can’t trust Microsoft to not pretend that they didn’t announce any timeline of any sort.

In contrast, when Apple announces a feature coming to MacOS. It’s ready to test in the first beta, and is polished and polished till release. That’s a lesson that Microsoft still needs to learn.

The second problem these frequent delays expose is poor planning on the part of Microsoft. There isn’t enough time from announcement to the deadline for Microsoft to deliver the proposed feature, yet what’s really going on here.

What I hypothesise is that many times, Microsoft is padding its press events with features to make each release more attractive from a marketing perspective. Windows 10 is Microsoft’s only consumer-facing OS at the moment, and so the firm needs all the headlines it can get from sites willing to wring out every bit of news coverage they can from said press event (Yes. I know there’s room for self-reflection there.), hence we get briefings on Pick Up Where You Left off, Timeline, My People etcetera and prepare articles on how Microsoft’s new features will change the way we use your computer The problem is, half of these features aren’t ready for prime-time by the time Microsoft announces them, so months later, the firm is left with a new problem. It can’t deliver what it’s promised and has to delay it to the next update. Of course, it can’t announce the same features it announced for the previous updates, so it’ll announce a few more features that won’t make the cut, but don’t worry, the next update will get it. And so on.

This is a problem that doesn’t need to exist as far as I can see. There is no legal force that is compelling Microsoft to push out two updates a year, this is an entirely self-imposed deadline. In addition, while these updates often feature packed, many of the features are irrelevant to the vast majority of users. Let us take the recent Windows 10 Creators Update for example. Looking at Microsoft’s blog post, the firm highlighted the following features.

“New innovations in the Windows 10 Creators Update include 3D in Windows 10, built-in game broadcasting, new tab management features and more in Microsoft Edge, and enhanced security features such as a new Microsoft privacy dashboard.”

The blog post now goes on to spend several words on the benefits of 3D Paint and Remix 3D. Not to belittle the efforts of the Windows team and the upcoming but invisible 3D revolution, there’s most likely nothing in here that couldn’t wait until September.

This isn’t a revolutionary idea, OSes from competitors like iOS, Android, and MacOS only update once a year with huge features. This guarantees stability, as well as general polish of features when released. For Windows users, there’s the added benefit of not having your PC changing under you for at least a year.

Microsoft is, of course, free to push out patches and keep our PCs secure from ransomware and other malware in the meantime.

In a few months, Microsoft will announce a new version of Windows with the usual fanfare. There’ll be features galore, and they’ll aim to change the way you think about your PC – or so the marketing goes. Despite the critical pieces saturating the web at the moment, the firm need not worry, we’ll still have learned nothing by then.