Windows 8.1 Update has barely been out for less than a month and already Microsoft is working on the next major update which will bring a number of features to all platforms, not least of which is the return of the Start Menu on desktop and laptop platforms where the owners elect to use it. Microsoft has not yet announced when this will be released but very early rumors suggest that this next feature update will launch in September of this year – right around the same time that the Xbox One launches in Japan. There’s more to it than that, though, as the rumors suggest a complete shift in the way that Microsoft changes tacks with how it develops Windows as a whole.
CNET’s Mary Jo Foley reports that sources close to the teams inside Microsoft responsible for Windows development have been told to deliver what they can in the next few months and continue the pace from there. Instead of the 2.5-3 year development time, they may now be expected to launch updates to Windows on an almost yearly schedule. This isn’t particularly new news because most people assumed this was happening when Windows 8.1 rolled around the corner just under a year from the launch of Windows 8. A yearly release schedule to update the OS with new features seemed like the most sensible thing in the world particularly because this mimicked the OS rollout models of Apple and most Linux distributions including Canononical’s Ubuntu.
But Foley reports that things inside Microsoft are shifting and changing much more rapidly than anyone had expected when Satya Nadella took over from Steve Ballmer. Her sources say that the development team for the Windows operating system has been asked to do much more than that.
“In part, it’s because the Windows team is attempting to speed up its delivery cadence yet again, my sources say,” Foley writes. “The powers-that-be are encouraging the Windows development team to see how much they can get done within a much shorter timeframe and then plan to deliver whatever is baked in the next few months. That’s a much different way of operating from the carefully (overly?) orchestrated plan/build/test/deliver schedule the team followed in building Windows 7 and Windows 8.”
“The need for speed in ‘fixing’ Windows 8/8.1 is no doubt also spurring OSG. Even with Windows 8.1 Update, which added features that help mouse/keyboard users better navigate Windows 8, many business customers still don’t find Microsoft’s latest version of Windows familiar and compelling enough for mass adoption,” she adds.
Why the dramatic shift in their future plans? Why increase the update cadence when people know perfectly well what happens when Microsoft changes too much in a short amount of time without properly consulting every type of user they’re making the operating system work for (e.g. search in 8.1 is horribly misshapen compared to vanilla Windows 8)? Perhaps it’s a measure to fix the flow of money into Microsoft’s bank account and it may signal a change in how the company will license out the use of its operating system in the future.
CEO Satya Nadella was instrumental in setting up, releasing, targeting and pricing Office 365 and OneDrive to clients who wanted Microsoft to move with the times and match Google’s offerings. It may be that, along with industry giants like Adobe, the company will move to offering software as a service (SAAS) rather than try to recoup development fees with high retail prices and confusingly similar versions of Windows available to consumers.