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Behind the scenes Microsoft is optimizing Windows 10 for faster releases through their dev tools

Microsoft's desire for a Windows as a Service (WaaS) may have been more ambitious than what their dev teams could handle. At least, that is according to a sourced story from the site FraWin, who shed some more light on those "structural improvements to OneCore" that Microsoft's Gabriel Aul refers to in his recent blog post.

OneCore is the heart of Windows 10 and the parts shared across the desktop OS, mobile, Xbox One, HoloLens and IoT.

As Cassim Ketfi points out in the FraWin article, the Windows Insider program was created as a way to evaluate rapid builds of the Windows operating system, something that has never been done before, at least publicly and on a broad scale. But transforming the OS and development cycles from punctuated bi-yearly releases to a faster cadence is not something you just do overnight. There are many structural changes to the OS, the development teams and even the tools needed to make it happen. These changes are an ongoing process spanning months and not done in one fell swoop.

A more concrete example of these obstacles is how Windows is developed – via smaller teams – who then must pool together their code into a larger build. According to FraWin, this process was a "nightmare" early on because it was such a departure from past practices. These issues manifested themselves in 2015 as seemingly random updates to the Insider program, rather than a consistent cadence. FraWin summarizes the issue like this (translated):

"The problem is that Windows development tools have never been thought to develop as fast as new versions…the sharing of source code tools were, for example, overtaken by Microsoft's ambitions. Microsoft is currently reviewing these tools which explains the small slowdown in the development of Windows. However, once this work completed development should be much faster than in the past."

In other words, the reason we do not see any new features in the OS just yet is Microsoft is making a lot of changes to make the WaaS paradigm more efficient for the developers behind the OS. This is what Aul refers to as "code refactoring and other engineering work" in his post. Once this retooling and revamping of their development tools are complete, we can expect more frequent builds because their systems will be better aligned to make that happen.

The old saying is 'Rome wasn't built in a day' and that applies to the Windows as a Service paradigm. While end-users and Insiders just want things better and faster, a company Microsoft's size has a lot of pivoting to do to make that happen. These behind the scenes changes are less interesting to air out in the public, but they do shed some light on the challenges Microsoft is facing to make WaaS a reality.

At the very least, you now have a sense of what is going on at Microsoft to make 2016 the ramp-up year for Windows 10.

Source: FraWin

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

77 Comments
  • Hail MSFT and Win10
  • Mein Windows!
  • +550 Posted via the Windows Central App for Android because the one on my Lumia 550 sucks! :)
  • That's the problem with all of us these days, we can't wait. We expect everything instantly; news, music, communication, game downloads, app installs and that expectation quite often can't be met everywhere. Every update we expect to bring radical fixes and they most often don't, for reasons stated here so we end up living in the limbo between them. Quite often it would have been better to not have an Insider programme, then what we didn't know wouldn't hurt us!
  • Hmm... Agreed
  • That is so true!!! Its all about "now now more faster..."
  • The issue is that Microsoft's competition has been doing that with some success which is changing expectations. Microsoft is an older company and so they have to deal with the legacy part while trying to update with the times. No small task but the public doesn't care. Things like Chrome or Android haven't had to worry about backward compatibility spanning decades.
  • *nods* ​Go to market fast then iterate faster.  
  • I read an article about Google's giving in to Oracle, which means, they have to use Oracle's Java rather than their own implementation and this going to bring a lot of issues for compatibility...
  • What makes you say this? If Google followed Java API and contracts then there will be no compatibility issues. It is a simple fundamental concept of OOP...
  • Agree. But Microsoft must learn to bring problem solving solutions of programs etc made for example the prior OS forward into the new instead of rewriting and entire program  such as "Paint" which I don't like unless it's absolutely necessary. This would save so much time in my opinion. Another problem I don't understand is drivers; why must they change so radically when the majority of devices do the same thing they always have done. Sound cards, printers/combos, cameras they all do common functionality for their design and specialty and nothing major has change.
  • Totaly agree! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Patience is a virtue
  • Nope, it's a curse. You have to deal with all the people who don't have it. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • What he's saying is that people shouldn't complain all the time.
  • Well in a way it is. So many comment sections in so many articles are just people complaining about some features missing or something not being updated fast enough. So this article attempts to shed some light on why things, publicly, seem to be advancing slowly. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • All the blog post titles with Microsoft "finally" did x or "FINALLY" did y, when in actual time it was like a month don't really help matters either!
  • You can't avoid that Microsoft should make sure that every product when go on the market should be perfect, sometimes they look like their not serious about their products, most of the people's complain about app stuck, they don't have officially YouTube, sometimes there is no app for music maybe they don't see this comment even myself am sick about.
  • Well, all I know is once the dev teams really get going we're bound to hear a lot more "seems faster"
  • No, I dont think anyone will appreciate the speed at which there are releases. They will still only talk about bugs in the releases. I feel, currently Windows is the only OS that realeases OS updates every month and thats a very good thing.
  • As long as the competition is able to deliver Microsoft must quit their endless "soon"... And, the Insider program is the only thing that has been (slightly) alive on the phones for the last 1,5 years... Microsoft was "almost hot" on the phones 1,5 years ago but now they are colder than ice.
  • Sorry, but wrong.  My simple view is that how do you build a better app for your copetitor? A simple example is that the Outlook App works better in iOS than Windows Phone, the Health App for the Band2 on iOS works better as well.  How can you release something that is half baked.  The OS was released in hast and now it requires a lot of fixes just to get it on par with 8.1.  The app gap, if your a dev and you see MS making better apps for other platforms why should you care about developing an app for Win 10?  They really need to get their act together.
  • Well, Outlook for iOS and android wasn't actually built by microsoft. They bought accompli, which already had those apps. The WM10 is the only one that's new. How can you release something that's half baked? Ask Apple. They released an iPhone without copy and paste (and took three OS iterations to get there), a half baked watch, etc. It's no excuse for it. but it's not exclusive to MS. That being said, however, MS has long run out of patience with this type of thing though. I wonder how long until everything apple does starts to lose it's lustre with people. I'm starting to hear the same complaints surfacing: "my phone sucks", "apple made my phone slow", "i don't like how this looks", etc.
  • Stil waiting good apps for Windows 8.0, 8.1, 10
  • Funny how the exact way Windows 10 was developed will eventually mean the death of Windows Phone/Mobile.
  • So Dramatic..lol
  • Funny how someone does not know the difference between Windows Phone and  Windows Mobile, but still even thinks he knows something that will happen in the future. You even do not have to wait /s.
  • Lol ya
  • How so?
  • Eventually? Stick a fork in it, it's done man... Game over, man =P
  • LOL WUT
  • "you now* have a sense" in the last paragraph
  • Also "The old*" in the second-to-last.
  • Yes. We humans no longer have the quality called patience
  • We know not even virtue...
  • so "soon" then...
  • Yup, you can't have it all NOW
  • your DP should have steve ballmer's pic, :/
  • Okay. First they will develop the software that develops windows and then they will develop windows on it and then they will develop the software that develops software on windows and then they will develop software for windows. WindowsCeption
  • The most recent XKCD is hilariously relevant here. http://xkcd.com/1629/  
  • Haha.
  • I saw that one today :D xkcd rules :P
  • One would have thought that with their ambitions starting from Windows 8 to 8.1 to 10, with 8 years of development since Windows 7, Microsoft would have done its homework by now. Also, one would think, onecore being part of all devices including phones, IOT, Xbox etc. its scale may not be as massive as traditional Windows for PCs to vindicate such slow development. But then again I don't know how development works, I'm willing to give the benefit of doubt to Microsoft, maybe having onecore, windows runtime framework, UWP development tools and others conform to all sorts of device types and ensuring that the software and UX not only scales well to their output screens and works flawlessly with input methods, but also performs well on devices of different processing powers, power efficiencies, different data handling capacities, different thermal efficiency and requirements- and maybe this is what makes its development difficult and slow. But such is the price of this one windows ambition and I for one am a believer.
  • Think of it is a course correction during a process. No different than how companies have a catch-up meeting, they focus on what they can do better and the implement a plan to fix what employees find is wrong or lacking. Some things you thought would be fine aren't, so you adjust. That's what is going on now.
  • How on earth do you go from improving their internal processes and updating the core of Windows 10 (what the article said) to they are completely scrapping everything and starting over (what you said)?
  • Stop making sense! Microsoft isn't employed by people like you and me. They are all robots who work 24/7 all toward the same goal, can instantly shift to a new strategy/process, and perfectly deliver new features without error weekly to its preview client base who should never expect to see a bug before general consumer release. Seriously, I wonder if most of the people who complain on this forum (especially those who complain that a preview build is buggy) meet every deadline, optimise their jobs, and are perfect. Because that's what they expect of Microsoft. I work at a large bank. We have been working for about 3 years to replace the majority of our systems. And that means buying off-the-shelf systems and customzing them to fit our bank. Yet people expect Microsoft to decide one platform is the way to go and implement it perfectly and fully featured in 18 months. It just blows my mind.
  • It's easy to make judgements about past and saying "they should have known". It's easy for us because we see the outcome. But when decisions were made they didn't have this luxury. They made a decision to use existing tools, it didn't work out, now we know, back then they didn't. it's called Historian's fallacy and Hindsight bias.
  • Think of this more like how Apple sometimes will have "boring" releases of OS X, like 10.6, 10.11. They don't introduce any huge new features, but they do fix a lot of bugs, cut out a lot of old cruft, and optimize the holy living fsck out of the thing. This is something that Windows has needed for a while. Going in and fixing a lot of problems that are deep down inside. Better be prepared for things to start breaking!
  • They just need the marketing team that makes you think that the boring release is still exciting and flock to it en masse!
  • So, does that mean no "resuming" and "loading" in upcoming builds? ;)
  • Get over it, seriously, thats long gone
  • Gone for some phones and configurations, still lurking in others. My Lumia 1020 with the latest update installed still produces loading screens. I cannot recollect seeing the resuming screen, however. I think (?) those issues are gone on my phone. Yes, I know, the phone is well over two years old now, so I expect a few glitches here and there. I am grateful for it supporting Windows 10 at all, and it works really fluently, consistently .. except for Microsoft Edge. It needs a lot of performance optimisations.
  • That depends on how the phone is maintained by the user and how the new builds are installed by the user.
  • No it doesn't. I've done upgrade builds, I've done recovery installs, and I've done hard reset/wipe installs. They ALL result in resuming/loading screens. It's because of the phone not having real multitasking, as soon as the app is out of focus it gets tombstoned to all but the most basic of contracts (for BG audio, etc). Then when you bring it back into focus, it has to reload everything. A fast phone will only minimalize this, but absolutely not get rid of it.
  • I would have liked some builds focusing on fine-tuning and bug fixing before the jump to new Redstone branch with structural changes to the core.
  • Pretty sure they do both. A team is for features, while another works on bugs and fixes. Think of yesterday's. 63 release. That's just bug fixes and patches and will continue as needed for non-Insiders.
  • It will be interesting to see how they will roll out those fixes vs. new features. Maybe even MS doesn't know yet how often they will update non-insiders with new features or will they wait until Redstone is "done"? Can't wait to see how this will shape the future of Windows now that everything is up and running quite well.
  • I'm pretty sure the idea is to roll out new features with each new public release build, so non-Insiders will have to wait until Redstone 1 is ready just as they had to wait for TH2.
  • My friends ask me why i have wp and i reply:
    for windows cental comments section.
  • lol, it's a good reason
  • Haha
  • Me too it's good to read comment from all ovr the world
  • I like that... I really do :D
  • & its a painful process
  • Most ppl talk that iphone is so good well i think its booring and they have a low screen reso, i have had all phones but everytime i come back to windows
  • Yah according to your opinion iPhone is boring but you can't face the problem like window phone don't you see People are complain too much in this windowscentral.com app stuck, no official app music and so on, iPhone they have the best OS compare to other smartphones.
  • Btw i am still on my 950xl update 29 and not having any problems, not switching to insider becose i am hearing that ppl are heaving bugs in it becose its beta
  • Great read. Now give us a new build loljk
  • Nothing ever wrong with a strong foundation, really looking forward to seeing what Microsoft can do with Microsoft 10!
  • Can anyone send a link to that "I'm a Windows Insider" photo? Posted via the Windows Central App for Android because the one on my Lumia 550 sucks! :)
  • One core to rule them all!
  • I'm in no rush! I just want to answer my phone on my PC. I'll be happy to have that!  
  • Very good explanation. However, Insiders are mostly complaining about the fact that there are many performance issues in Windows 10 Mobile, bad drivers leading to wifi,sdcard and bluetooth hicups. No one said that remaking the Core for the OS was an easy task, it is clearly not, but the fact that there was so much mess within the teams, we ended up running a still buggy OS and three new phones launched with a beta product. I think it's more useful to have bug free builds also besides the test ones. Users need now a working OS, the masses,general public.
  • Good to know.
  • Maybe the reason so many MS apps work better on Android is because Android is so dynamic and fluid and Windowa isnt. Microsoft is paying the price for those years of treating WP as an afterthought. Microsoft should have spent another year or so perfecting mobile before merging everything. Well it's an ambitious project so it will take some time to accomplish. If Microsoft' vision is even doable it will be a couple more years before they start taking over the world. Meanwhile..... I still love love this dysfunctional ecosystem.
  • OneCore like OS is something that Apple and Google are currently working on and haven't been successful in making yet. MS has implemented OneCore and now is tweeking it to run even better. The problem is...
  • Thank you for this insightful article. It certainly sheds light on what we've been seeing. On the one hand, I'm still a passionate fan of Windows 10, particularly the vision behind it with the unparalleled ubiquity and fluidity of One Core, WaaS, universal apps, and Continuum, and I'm still absolutely optimistic for the platform in all its proposed glory. In fact, knowing that so much infrastructure tweaking is going on right now only makes me more confident for the future of this singularly ambitious platform and the alleged "2016 ramp up". Totally still a Windows Cheerleader here! On the other hand, I do think it's perfectly fair to raise the criticism: "you'd think they'd have worked this all out BEFORE the rollouts started." I mean, I realize with the "user contribution to design" model they have, you can't have a totally readied product in advance. The 3/4 baked releases we've seen have been in large part due to the user inclusive design process. And it's such a cool approach that I feel the initial hiccups are usually worth it. But geez Louise, get all the infrastructure in place first. Without a working "WaaS", all we have is a beautiful mess. That MS is "having the customer help build the house" is fine - awesome even. But what MS has done here is sorta like building the house BEFORE they run gas, water, and sewer to it. Creates something of a nightmare. Oh well, nothing can be done now but to fix it, which it seems like they are, and then things will be awesome! Party at "the house that everyone built!" :-)