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Microsoft set to rapidly update WinRT with feature packs? Sounds familiar..

Blue Update

Windows 8 is done, recently reaching RTM and tomorrow some folks will be lucky enough to get their hands on the final code. Word from a few prominent bloggers is that Microsoft may not quite be finished with WinRT just yet.  Suggestion is that MS maybe moving to update the WinRT environment faster than the current three-year cycle dictates.

If this rumour were true then it would mean a major break with updating policy from Microsoft. WinRT is functionally still a long way from complete, a series of rapid updates could do much to fill in the gaps. Although haven’t we heard the promise of rapid updates somewhere before?

Microsoft are a company with a long tradition of major software releases, Windows normally gets updated roughly every three years. There has only been one instance where Windows received new features, when MS were forced to fix the deep security issues with XP. After that service packs have been just that, a roll up of hotfixes. If Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott are correct then Microsoft could be preparing a series of feature updates, starting under the codename “Blue”. Word is that could arrive by summer 2013, certainly not shockingly rapid but that alone would form a real change in how Windows is moved forward.

Essentials Update

Essentials was also said to get rapid updates...

Quickly updating software has been talked about before, recently I wrote about Windows Essentials 2012, a software suite that was once part of Windows. That was plucked from Vista and made into a standalone package. The intention was of rapidly updating it outside of the normal Windows three-year update cycle. Essentials never really got those quick fire updates, much to the disappointment of many users.  

Tango Update

Windows Phone, inital updates were touted to be rapid fire too..

If you were a customer of Windows Phone from day one then you too might have heard very similar rumblings about regular iterative updates. You know, to bring a new platform up to speed with things like multi-tasking, copy and paste? Well, unfortunately, Windows Phone didn’t quite get those lightning fast updates, but it has been updated more frequently than once every three years. If a Blue feature pack is to arrive next summer then that’s a year after RTM, not bad for Windows but is that quick enough?

The fact remains that WinRT, like Windows Phone 1.0 is not quite complete, Microsoft must move to get this updated quickly. As this OS is very much aimed at consumers, there shouldn’t be any real issues with business complaining about retraining for any new features that are added. Without business pouring cold water on big feature changes, MS could go wild with some fundamental UI re-working. Consumers love seeing new features, they feel it adds value to their purchase over time and makes them much more likely to accept updates. Rapid updates are desirable but for Windows 8 they are essential to ensure that WinRT is up to the job of becoming the only UI users ever need to see and use. Until WinRT offers the same level of control as Windows Explorer, it makes it impossible to move entirely over to the new environment.

Question is, can Microsoft change its spots and get updates out of the door quickly? WinRT currently lacks many of the essential control panel items to allow it to replace the explorer this alone could allow the ditching of the classic desktop. Features such a WinRT multi monitor support would go down well too.

Very interested to know what you guys think. Any features or changes you feel it needs? Have you heard this once too many times from Microsoft? Is it about time Microsoft just switched from the three-year update cycle from Windows? We would love to know, comment bellow.

Source: zdnet

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Reader comments

Microsoft set to rapidly update WinRT with feature packs? Sounds familiar..

45 Comments

They do not. It's rumored they are waiting for Windows Phone 8. I know because I want the app too.

The official answer is that they want to make one and they have one on their short list of apps to make. But they claim that they have limited resources available, so they decided to go after the obvious bigger crowd and first develop for iOS and android. They should have the windows phone version ready by holiday season(hopefully).

I expect it will try and follow the xbox update schedule as well, with two updates a year-one minor and one more major

Yeah, I really like their Xbox dashboard update schedule with one minor update in spring and a feature rich one in autumn/winter. Actually the schedule also applies to Windows Phone. I would love to see updates for Win8 getting released in the same way...

Different topic - so does this article imply that the feature packs won't come to the x86 win8? If yes it totally confuses about my decision to get a SurfacePro. And it doesn't seem logical, why divide the arm and x86 platform. But the faster speed is needed. Win8 is now directly competing with android and ios, and both of them are on a yearly "major" update cycle - so Microsoft has to nock it up a notch as well here.

I was thinking about the same thing.  Yet what features exactly need to be added to Win8?  I thought it's already a full-featured computer OS.  Then, what features are we talking about that RT lacks?

I highly doubt that Windows 8 won't get any Windows RT features - fragmenting the OS right after unification is the least logical thing Microsoft can do.

If these are viewed as more like the current Windows Update updates (so, hotfixes to Office, security packs etc) that are large, then it's a lot more like Microsoft. I can still see Service Packs playing a big part, since they can ship on new devices, and could be rolled out  a lot more easily.

I think we'll see the term "Service Pack" disappear. The WinRT APIs need to be updated at least once a year, to wait any longer is suicide, especially because of how closely related the OS is to Windows Phone 8 and beyond. 

See this is exactly what I commented on Podcast 145, MS have realised they need to bring more weight into their new products this is exactly what I wanted to see from them. Rapid Feature releases is what this is all about we are steaming ahead of the competition and if these rapid feature releases we will stay ahead of the competition. MS are going to drive future innovations by forcing their competition to come up with better things which in return will offer Microsoft different insights into how they can add even further features. This is great news if the rumour turns out to be true.

Having never seen or used WinRT, it's hard to say what it needs or doesn't. Buying the GF a Surface so will play around with it first.

no theyre talking WinRT the API, not just Windows RT devices.  expanding the API would apply to the Metro environment on both x86 and ARM

The wireless carriers have always been the hold up with the WP devices. I think that they made the Surface devices without 3G\LTE on purpose to stop the wireless carriers from interfering with the process.

I think that Microsoft NEEDS to provide more frequent updates like this, yes. Especially to stay competitive with the consumer market. A quarterly or semi-annual update would be ideal, but annual would suffice IF it's worth while. We have, as pointed out in the article, heard this promise before, and it's never really happened. We heard it with Vista Ultimate too, for those who have forgotten. Do I think Microsoft is capable of delivering? YES! Do I hope they will deliver? YES! Do I think they will? I'm skeptical at best.

Semi-annual feature enhancements will be a must to stay in the game, but patches should pushed when ready. But the whole windows line needs to stay in the same version number across all devices(e.g. Windows 9, winrt 9, wp9 releasing at the same time).

Meaning its not ready and won't be ready as MS said? Didn't the Motorola Playbook try this method of selling a tablet like this? Push out a device that you pay full price for, then in 8 months return it to them so it could be upgraded with the things they said it would have when they sold it. I hope this isn't the case.

If you read either supposed source article, you will see that neither state Windows RT is not ready.  One doesn't touch the subject at all and the other refers to the Metro apps as 1.0 apps  and that they will be updated more frequently.  They are obviously 1.0 apps (what else could they be) and will certainly be updated more frequently just as other apps in the marketplace handled.  This is not in any way different from IOS or Android.  Please don't confuse the author's opinions with facts.  The person has as much first hand knowledge as the rest of us but is using two lousy articles to mine other peoples' opinions to prop up his own....

I hope Microsoft will release several feature pack to complete the WinRT pletform and improve funtionality to entire Wiindows 8 like Windows Phone and Xbox cicle.

Surely it will be possible to add new functions, or eliminate the defects which the community considers uncomfortable regarding the UI, and this I hope to happen much earlier than the usual 3 years. Such as the Metro Control Panel should have more and more options like the classic control panel.

 

Microsoft now has entered the tablet market that evolves with greater rapidity than desktop (such as iOS and Android).

 

And this without considering that API's of WinRT (both x 86 and ARM) are very immature.

You make several references to WinRT but what are you referring to? WinRT (the API set aka metro style apps) or Windows RT (Windows 8 on ARM) or Windows 8 (the main OS)? It sounds like the latter.
 
This is a perfect example of the terrible branding that Microsoft has chosen.

I think that they will be trying to have a certain schedule where they will keep releasing updates for all their major properties.

All talk blah blah blah... Release the surface... I have been patiently waiting for the last 4 years for windows 8 tab

I love that they are planning updates. Semi-annual or quarterly are fine. They cannot wait long to keep or perhaps set the pace of iteration for tablets or PC's. Great strategy.

The supposed zdnet source says nothing about Windows RT not being complete.   It simply says that there is a rumored update pack (Blue) scheduled for the summer of 2013 and it is unclear whether it will constitute a service pack, incremental (.x) upgrade, or something else.  Even Thurrott's article (if you want to call it that) refers to Metro apps as 1.0 apps that will updated as things move forward.  What a shock - the first generation apps are 1.0.  Of course, he also acknowledges that no one outside of Microsoft really has a device in hand and evrything is laden with speculation. This also leaves aside the fact that Microsoft has already acknowledged RTwill ship with Office apps (the most important ones for many prospective users). Please cite your sources, or include the data, that demonstrate Windows RT is not feature complete.  Otherwise, all you are doing is spreading misinformation and manipulating other peoples' words to support your own opinions - not facts. 

Hello swtost,

Thanks for taking the time to comment on my post.

I never quoted either Paul or Mary saying anything about Windows RT not being feature complete. I will pull your attention to this though:-

“Speaking of changing Windows 8, one of the dirty little secrets about Microsoft’s next OS is that—surprise—it’s not really done.” – Paul Thurrott

Regardless of what Mary and Paul said, it is my own opinion that Windows RT still has much work ahead to become feature complete as an OS. Enough needs to be done to allow the entire operation of the computer without evoking the old desktop for it to be what I personally deem to be feature complete.

If you have used it and found it to be perfectly complete and faultless in all regards then that would be your opinion. 

If we are to talk about the apps you quoted paul on those 1.0 apps, then I have said previously that the People, Messaging, Mail etc apps are all still very much in flux, MS still has plenty of time between now and release time to get those right. They are WinRT apps and can be updated easilly, anytime through the marketplace. Thats not the focus of the article.

My article is based around the idea that "Blue" could be a feature pack to bring Windows RT up to speed quickly, everything else in there revolves around why I think its needed. I would go on to say that neither Paul nor Mary state these feature packs are a fact. Both of their articles also revolve around rumour.

Thank you for commenting

RB

I've mentioned this when the whole metro name silliness started.
Windows release cycle might have to change.
Apple and Google are releasing new versions once a year (Google finally stopped releasing a new one every two weeks)
Apple started doing that for OSX as well.

Microsoft will need to keep up with that. They always had update tuesday for bugs and somtimes service packs included new features. They even had add-ons before and apps like Extras were kept separate to allow updating more often but new features in the OS were usually left for the next major OS update.

The problem is that these updates are usually not as big. Microsoft releases a new Windows OS every three years. It usually includes a lot of work. Win7 vs Vista was a big change, Win8 vs 7 is a big change. It will be harder to do that with a one year cycle.
There's also the issue of cost. Tablet owners got used to free OS updates. Will Microsoft give the 8.1 8.2 etc for free?

I hope to see some combination of the two approaches. Add new features to keep Win 8/RT up to date and at the same time the Windows 9 team will work on the next version that will include major changes (and I'm ok with the 40$ upgrade prices after 3 years)

Windows Phone isn't even two years old and already got three updates (NoDo, Mango, and Tango) with one more in the pipeline. I'm sure Microsoft will be able to update main OS with the same speed as well.

A lot of people are commenting on Apple's update schedule. Yes, they update yearly, and also to the tune of new hardware. Their OS needs to be updated due to new drivers for that hardware and added API's to utilize the new hardware, too.

Every two years for hardware releases and major OS updates should be the norm with point updates in between. Hotfixes rolled out as needed.

So, this year, windows 8, next year windows 8.1. I mean Apple has been on OS 10 for years now, releasing a point update almost every year. They are on OS10.7, if I remember right, for their pc's and OS5.1 and waiting for 6.0 with the iPhone 5.

The increasing number of random posts on this site that don't contain any actual information and are just "questioning" something in a somewhat trolling fashion is starting to remind me of WMpoweruser. I don't think any explanation is needed as to why that could be a problem.

I think it would make a lot of sense to update major functionality of the default Metr... err... Urban Mass Transit-style hubs/apps like Messaging, Pictures, Xbox, Skydrive etc on fixed schedule so that users can be properly informed that changes are coming. Performance of tablets will increase as well, and optimizing the OS to make use of that seems like an important concern as well. Hopefully there will still be room for smaller updates in-between, for quickly integrating new SNS features as they become available and things like that.

OK, so let me see if I have this right.  Microsoft is yet again, going to put a half completed device out on the market with the intent to update it rapdily once it hits the market.  This, with a system they have, to one degree or another, been working on for as long as they've been working on Windows Phone 7.
 
Why?  Why? WHy? can they not actually finish something before they release it?  Why?  Did all the smart Geeks and Technophiles retire?  Is it supposed to be acceptable to market and sell incomplete items?  Would these same people expect you to buy a car with the promise that you'll get your radio, engine and tires later?  Are they all too busy have group sessions deciding what tofu they are going to eat that day?  Are drugs rampany in Seattle?
 
Why?  It just baffles me with this stuff over the last few years.  I don't get it.

The difference is that the yearly updates in Windows would be driven by Sinofsky--who does not miss a ship date.
If Sinofsky commits to annual updates, you'll see annual updates.  They may not always be flashy, but they'll be solid and consistent.