Microsoft aims to match competitors with weekly updates to Office, Outlook and other Windows 8 apps beginning later this year.
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Microsoft announced that it will be offering free weekly updates for Windows 8 users later this year. Its new plan, announced this week at its Build conference, will help Microsoft remain competitive in the rapidly changing tech industry, in which most companies already offer updates on a weekly to daily basis.
For decades, Microsoft has released new versions of its Office software about once every three years -- too slow for today's consumers. In a statement to Bloomberg, IDC analyst Marissa Webster said, "Microsoft, on this every-three-year schedule for the massive wave of new products, looks like a dinosaur. Three years is a lifetime in tech these days."
Microsoft now introduces major software changes with each of these major upgrades, with minor alterations every few months to address bugs and other problems. With weekly updates the company plans to address minor issues in a timelier and more convenient method.
Within the year, Microsoft will provide weekly updates to its Office software, Outlook and other Windows 8 apps. It has already begun addressing issues more frequently in programs such as its cloud-based Office 365 software.
The shift is a major one. Microsoft stands to gain by making weekly software changes, but the plan also presents risks to a company that has long relied on feedback from consumers to inspire its program revisions. When releasing updates every few years, Microsoft took its time to organize, create and test new software to remain glitch-free and popular. People could predict when updates would be released and choose to opt out if they desired.
While Microsoft can continue to gather feedback and address consumers' issues, it will not have the time to consider users' opinions with each weekly update. In addition to user feedback, data will play a major role in determining how the software is being used and which changes should be implemented.
To assist are data scientists that Microsoft gained when it acquired Yammer, which provides updates twice every week and plans to move to continuous updates, Bloomberg reported. Yammer's scientists are helping Microsoft use data to decide which software changes are needed.
As Microsoft prepares for the radical switch from sporadic upgrades to weekly improvements, it will be crucial for it to keep quality in mind. More than one billion people rely on Microsoft Office, and even more use other programs. Many are paying consumers and will not be pleased if the new updates contain features that are not fully developed.
Microsoft seems prepared for the challenge. "A lot of focus is on close to real-time," said Bobby Kishore, an 18-year Microsoft veteran who leads engineering and operations for Office 365, as reported by Bloomberg. "We just can't rely on some focus groups. We have to be led by data. That is a foundational shift that is permeating through the organization."
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