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Microsoft Moves To Weekly Software Updates

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.

[ More frequent updates may be another sign that Microsoft Understands Its Windows 8 Mistakes, Finally . ]

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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User Rank: Apprentice
7/2/2013 | 6:54:40 PM
re: Microsoft Moves To Weekly Software Updates
Well, I hear you about updating problems that occur from time to time. However, contrary to what the OP stated, it's been a very long time since MS released an update that actually bricked a system.
Most of the time that updates fail, it is because of Registry or file access issues. I have much less trouble with updates installing correctly by rebooting the system and logging in as an administrator prior to running the updates. It's not such a big deal since it is generally only once a month. On larger Domain based client's - using WSUS to manage updating generally works well for me. Again, we'll trigger a reboot in the middle of the night prior to running the updates.
I think the OP does have one valid point though. And that is that MS will be under a lot of scrutiny about the quality of their updates as they move to a more fast and furious release cycle. We shall see.
Terabyte Net
Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/1/2013 | 1:16:04 PM
re: Microsoft Moves To Weekly Software Updates
While bricking a cell phone means it cannot be recovered from, MS has certainly released updates that have caused hours upon hours of work to recover from -or- where the system had to be formatted, though for a limited number of users due to the inability to test every possible situation. Here are some basic example of Microsoft Update problems:

Windows 2000 Update Rollup 1 for SP4 caused every system running a Lexmark-based printer (including most of Dell's at the time) to BSOD every time one printed because of the way Lexmark jury-rigged the printing subsystem.

MS has tried to push out video drivers for the wrong video card and currently MS is pushing a driver for a Dell RAID controller as newer than one just released by Dell and yet it's not newer. Incorrect drivers can certainly for a reinstall of Windows.

.Net Framework and Core XML updates constantly fail to properly patch. I have seen systems where it's faster to reinstall Windows than to fool with getting them to install. Microsoft XML Core Services 4.0 SP2 (KB936181) fails to install all the time and it's a pain to fix. There are several other examples.

I have a few Win7 x64 SP1 Pro boxes that have some updates that have failed every month since April and I know others in the same boat and Microsoft's solution is to reinstall. That will become an all-too-often "solution" if their testing doesn't get a whole lot better very fast.

Just about every frekin' time MS pushes an update out for Outlook they violate the law (see consent decree) by making Outlook the default e-mail client. Not all of us use Outlook as our e-mail client. It's a great scheduling tool, but is a horrible e-mail client. It's a royal pain to have to change that every time you patch Office/Outlook.

Anyway, MS has absolutely pushed out bad updates and has misconfigured systems with their updates and while no update has "bricked" a system in the same way a bad hacked ROM update can brick a cell phone, Microsoft will need to get a lot better very fast or this will backfire on Microsoft. I'm all about frequent security updates, but not at the expense of reliability.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/29/2013 | 4:32:28 PM
re: Microsoft Moves To Weekly Software Updates
Quick, name the top five updates that literally bricked a system.
[crickets chirping...]
User Rank: Apprentice
6/29/2013 | 2:02:01 AM
re: Microsoft Moves To Weekly Software Updates
I've already taken to calling the new update system "Microsoft Brick" because one day soon that is exactly what MS will do to their users computer systems with these rushed (and historically poorly designed) updates. It has happened before, and it *WILL* happen again!
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