They don't make Windows like they used to

They don't make Windows like they used to

Summary: Microsoft is making the Windows sausage differently these days. And that impacts everything from how products are tested, to how they're launched and updated.


Microsoft announced on August 14 that it will be launching Windows 8.1 on October 18, 2013.


Note that today's announcement didn't mention RTM (release to manufacturing) or MSDN/TechNet availability. I'm still hearing RTM is still a week-plus away (possibly on or around August 26) and that MSDN/TechNet and volume licensees won't get the RTM bits until October 18.

Why not earlier? In large part it's because Microsoft is making the Windows sausage differently these days.

We are no longer in the world where the Windows team has three years to plan, build, test, modify and then RTM a new version of Windows. Instead, since Windows 8, we've entered a world where Microsoft is giving itself about a year to perform all of those tasks.

Microsoft doesn't need to try to perfect Windows as much as possible before declaring it ready to RTM. The company can RTM Windows and then push patches, fixes and updates to it right up to the time it is generally available -- and continue on a regular basis after that. Supposedly, according to my sources, there will be at least one big batch of updates for Windows 8.1 and the Microsoft-built and bundled apps (like Mail, Xbox Music, the Bing apps, etc.) pushed out shortly before general availability.

Because of OEM requirements, Microsoft still needs to get PC makers the RTM bits a couple of months before they are expected to deliver new devices with those bits preinstalled. That's why Microsoft is RTMing Windows 8.1 in late August; that will give OEMs a couple months to test, optimize, add crapware (sadly), preload and package up those machines.

As things are different now, it's worth asking whether Microsoft will continue its recent practice of launching new flavors of Windows Server and Visual Studio in conjunction with each new release of Windows. Will Windows Server 2012 R2 and Visual Studio 2013 (which recently went to preview) also launch on October 18? The answer, for now, is yes, re: Windows Server, System Center 2012 R2 (and the next version of Windows Intune). No word yet on VS 2013.

Update: While the Windows team isn't confirming that MSDN/TechNet won't get the RTM bits until October 18, the server team is saying this is the case. I asked whether any customers would get the Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 or new Intune bits before October 18 and was told no by a spokesperson. "Customers eligible to download that day are those who have active MSDN or TechNet subscriptions, and those customers that have access to future versions based on their VL use rights will get the products via VLSC downloads" starting October 18, the spokesperson said, via e-mail.

It will be interesting to see if Microsoft continues to keep Windows client and Windows Server in lockstep once the new sausage factory (a k a the reorg'd Microsoft)  takes hold. There's no reason these have to continue to be aligned launch-date-wise. As the Office team already has learned, fewer arbitrary ship schedules need aligning when going cloud-first (which is what Windows Server is now doing)....

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft, Software Development, Windows Server


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • So, I'm guessing...

    There will be an v8.2 pushed out in 2014?
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • maybe

      They said there would be a new windows every 12-18 months. That could push to 2015. I'm guess is someone is already running an early 8.2 build within the secret Microsoft walls.
    • Microsoft - - Dumb and getting Dumber

      Really version X, Y and Z?

      It was self evident that the office platform kind of matured totally at 2003, and from then on everything was just window dressing the cash cow, "This year we will wrap it in tinsel, this year we will wrap it in cellophane, this year we will wrap it in brown paper... etc., etc., etc."

      The Microsoft software is just more and more idiotic management and more and more scummy, incompetent and badly designed software.

      "The Ribbon" in office 2007, was the first large step off the edge...

      Add in the never ending dirty deals and scumbag antics of Corporation USA and it's global surveilance programs - all running through Microsoft, and every PC it was ever installed upon.
      Wroger Wroger
      • Agree 300%

        Office has not improved in any substantial way for most people in many years. MS has made terrible interface decisions that have made their products harder to use and have caused people to stay within what functionality they can figure out from the incredibly bad ribbon concept. And now that MS has endowed Explorer with ribbons, they have polluted what little dignity was left to the Desktop. EPIC FAIL.
        • MS Interface decisions

          I agree that the UIs of MS became less good looking and less user friendly with every new version.

          I do however like the ribbon interface ...
          MS should have given the possibility for customers to "compose" a toolbar of their own choice (the way it was in Office 2003).

          MS used to be "choices" for the customer.
          Nowadays MS forces users to do it the MS way or the highway.
          And that is so wrong !
  • Why delay MSDN?

    I don't get why Microsoft would delay access to their developer community. We need to dev/test/fix apps to ensure they work as designed in 8.1. Doing this while users/customers have broken apps on their start screen is just dumb. Even something as simple as the new font scaling feature could cause grief.
    • MSDN

      My $ is that MSDN will go the way of TechNet.
      • Unlikely

        MSDN subscriptions are pricy. Microsoft makes money at that, and it allows them to tell which developers are committed to the platform.

        No, my thinking here is that MSDN isn't getting the RTM at the moment of launch, because MJF is right. The RTM may still have certain flaws... flaws that an OEM can fix on the fly, but might torpedo your box if you install it.

        As a developer, I can target Win 8.1 by targeting Win 8. There isn't that much that's changing, and if the need does exist, there's the preview.
      • Why would it?

        Microsoft clearly showed their VS business is part of their billion $ club and I think majority of VS business comes from MSDN subscriptions. If they move MSDN out, that would be shooting in the foot, IMO
        Ram U
  • Alienating developers is Microsoft's biggest mistake

    Instead of correcting this, Microsoft is still rubbing more salt into the wounds.

    For the past 2 years, there is no direction (looks like Microsoft doe not have any clue themselves!).

    Once the developers move away from Microsoft on Enterprise development, there is no turning back.

    Does not matter whether the direction is services and devices - without software and tools
    the fall will be steeper.
    • Alienating them how?

      Please, I keep reading here about MS alienating developers all the time and no one cares to give any examples of actions taken by MS that supposedly alienate enterprise developers. I am an enterprise developer myself, relying heavily on VS, .NET, Silverlight, and SQL Server and I just fail to see what you see. So, please, enlighten me. And while you are at it, please suggest a good replacement for VS, .NET and SQL Server.
      • Silverlight?

        As a Silverlight developer, I can't imagine your confusion. Silverlight and WPF have been dropped and are no longer being actively developed beside a few bug fixes. Suddenly, without warning, and all the while claiming their full commitment. Reminds me of the Japanese negotiating for peace up until the day of Pearl Harbor.

        Both these technologies were yanked out from under us developers with NO path forward. HTML/JS is a completely different platform, utterly inferior for enterprise (or any other) development, and WinRT is obviously unusable since it can't be used on the desktop.

        Microsoft has given .Net developers no road forward. They did the same thing with their independent game developers community when they abruptly killed XNA.

        Steve Ballmer once said "Developers! Developers! Developers!" I guess once Bill left what he really believed has come through.
        • Silverlight?

          As I mentioned earlier, I heavily rely on SL and I can't agree with anything you have said about it

          "Suddenly, without warning, and all the while claiming their full commitment."

          10 years is not a long enough advance warning for you? it is for me. I can still use SL, MS still fixes bugs. what's there not to like? the fact that they finally decided to dump it? well, this is fine by me as well. I would have to migrate to HTML5 at some point even if they didn't decide to discontinue SL because there is 0 chance of SL running on iPad or Android, which is something my customers are increasingly asking about. I am glad I have a great stopover technology. thank you Microsoft for giving me that for free

          "HTML/JS is a completely different platform, utterly inferior for enterprise"

          well, this was true 3 years ago. 2 years ago it became obvious that in a few years time HTML/JS will catch up and provide the same productivity level as SL and at the same time will be able to reach a lot more screens. So instead of wasting resources and keeping people's attention on a platform with limited potential MS started investing heavily into HTML/JS tools. And now that vs 2013 is almost out I am glad they did. Performance-wise HTML5 is already on par or faster than SL, now we are getting great tools with that.

          "WPF have been dropped"

          MS has repeated countless times that desktop is not going anywhere. desktop is no longer a glamorous subject it used to be. but nobody is killing it nor they are dumping WPF any time soon

          "Microsoft has given .Net developers no road forward. "

          all i can say to this is what are you smoking? .net is the only platform out there that keeps moving forward by giant leaps. every major release makes everything else out there feel more and more antiquated. take just Linq and Async for example, if this is not showing commitment I don't know what is
  • Why are we waiting?

    Why do existing Windows 8 users have to wait for the hardware manufacturers? It's just a store update? They can still launch it on new PC's and DVD's on October 18th.
    • Oftentimes ...

      ... IHV's & OEM's have to update drivers for current devices as well as tune drivers etc. for devices in the pipeline to ship alongside the GA release of new OS'.

      Microsoft learned (to their cost) the impact of releasing an OS without solid drivers from the likes of ATI, NVidia, HP, etc.

      The last thing you'd want is to try and install 8.1 RTM on your [Acer|Asus|Dell|HP|Sony|Samsung|...] laptop and have it bork because the custom OEM drivers aren't yet available on Windows Update for automatic download.
      • Re: The last thing you'd want

        Microsoft can trivially fix this "flaw" by just designing stable driver APIs that do not change at each release. Then old drivers will work just as well as before, while new drivers with additional functionality will work better.

        I believe Microsoft is still applying this "RTM" scheme, because they extort money from the OEMs for driver certification.
  • Maybe I'm missing something

    So, the code is ready for the PC makers, but Microsoft doesn't want to spoil the "surprise" for admins and planners? Does this really seem like they way to increase Win8 deployments? Very disappointing. If I had the 8.1 RTM in my hands now, I could review it and develop a plan to move users to it, maybe by the end of the year. But if I can't see it until October, year-end tasks (Dec & Jan) will surely push things into April or May. I just don't get what they're hoping to accomplish with this strategy.
  • Windows sausage

    Please can I have that with toast and eggs. One should have a good breakfast to start each day.
    • Yummy, but....

      What would be the "eggs" and "toast" in that analogy?
      • Not So Yummy

        Oh, I thought Windows 8 itself was toast?